Thursday, September 13, 2018

ECOT gets an A in Achievement because kids weren't chronically absent. Huh?

The new state report cards just came out with overall grades being issued for the first time. And outside of telling us what every report card has told us over the years -- namely that Ohio's school districts and buildings perform far better overall on state report card measures than charter schools -- there's an interesting outcome for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).

ECOT has never done well on the state report card. Of the 53 possible grades it could have received through the 2016-2017 report card, it got 46 Fs. It was especially bad in the components that make up the overall achievement component. The overall grade is determined by merging the six categorical grades (Achievement, Growth, Graduation, Cap Closing, Improving at-risk K-3 Readers, and Prepared for Success).

This year, ECOT got an A in the Achievement Component.

How can this be when ECOT has historically been the worst performing school in the state? The answer lies in the fact that ECOT closed half way through the year. So the school did not get graded on several components that it traditionally bombed. The only Achievement category indicator it was graded on was meeting state indicators -- raw test score information. Schools can be graded on up to 26 different indicators, depending on how many students the schools tested that are in each category. For example, if a school doesn't have high school students, it won't be graded on the performance of high school students.

Last year, ECOT met 0 of the 23 indicators it was measured on. This year it met one indicator. And it was only measured based on one indicator. What was that indicator?

I kid you not. It was chronic absenteeism.

Last year, 13.5% of ECOT's kids were listed as chronically absent. This year, it was 7.5%, which met the indicator and qualified as an A.

That's right. The school that ripped off taxpayers by at least $200 million because it charged for kids who were never there, or were absent for whole months and seasons of time got an A from the Ohio Department of Education because kids weren't chronically absent.

Absolutely incredible.

So when you see that ECOT got an A in Achievement on the state report card, let's perhaps take that with a grain of salt.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

DeWine-Husted Education Plan: We'll Fix our Failures. Trust Us.

Mike DeWine and Jon Husted have had a heavy hand in determining the Ohio's current state of public education policy.

DeWine was on the conference committee that determined what the final version of the No Child Left Behind Act would look like in 2001. That law ended up creating the high-stakes testing structure we have in place and has received a lot of recent pushback from nearly everyone in the education community as incentivizing test taking over critical thinking.

Likewise, in 2001, then state Rep. Jon Husted served as the Vice Chairman of the Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee on the House Finance and Appropriations Committee -- the most important committee of any sort at that time. In 2003, he became chairman of that subcommittee -- a position I would hold 6 years later.

When Husted was Vice Chair, the P&S subcommittee was the most important committee of any type in the legislature because it was the committee handling school funding. At the time, the Ohio Supreme Court had ruled twice that the way the state funded schools was unconstitutional because it didn't equitably or adequately provide a thorough and efficient education for our children. After Husted's attempts to fix the system during the 2001 biennial budget, the Court ruled not one, but two more times that the way Husted's system provided funding for students was unconstitutional.

So it was kind of surprising to me to read DeWine and Husted's education plan, which was just released today as part of their gubernatorial campaign. In it, DeWine and Husted said they want to reduce testing and find an equitable funding system.

Here's what it said about testing: "Standardized tests are limiting educator’s creativity and forcing them to a teach to a test."

Here's what it said about Ohio's school funding system: They "will create a more equitable funding system that directs state resources toward supportive services for children most in need."

So, the architects of the nation's high-stakes testing regime and Ohio's unconstitutional funding systems want to fix their previous failures.

I swear.

That's what they're saying.

Not only that, but there is almost zero detail about how they plan on doing this. On the testing, the Ohio Department of Education and State Board of Education have presented a promising change in Ohio's report card system that would de-emphasize testing. Are DeWine and Husted saying they want to do that? Will they get rid of certain tests? Will they eliminate the test-dependent accountability system?

Who knows?

On funding, it looks like they will be putting more money into support services for economically disadvantaged students. But will that be additional revenue? Or will it be taking money from somewhere else to fulfill that obligation? Will this be additional money for wraparound services? Or will it mean more teachers and smaller classes? Will it mean a dedicated element of the school funding formula dedicated to psychologists or other support staff?

Again, who knows?

But I find it awfully interesting that one of the key architects of the law that created our high-stakes testing system now wants to de-emphasize tests (as opponents of NCLB have said for years). And the architect of our unconstitutional funding system now wants more equity in the funding system (using the same language I and others have used for years).

I'm glad that these two men are now acknowledging that the last 17 years in which they have led Ohio and America down their education policy paths has essentially failed. But it sure seems like they're saying, "I know we tried this before and screwed it up, but trust us, we won't screw it up again."

Fool me once...