Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Weekly Reader 5

I’m a buried in work work, volunteer work and house work. I am, really, working on my thoughts about the Tom Sawyer MTB, but it’s not going well. My Always Delayed, but Rarely Missed "Weekly Reader" post will have to do for now. I’ll be away from the blogosphere for most of the day, so discuss among yourselves.

Vouch for This

The expansion of Ohio’s voucher program is now law. Students from Academic Watch schools can now participate as well. It’s easy to take a wait-and-see attitude since no Akron schools are affected. If anything, it may give families an alternative to charter schools that aren’t really an alternative.

Failure to Educate

If you wondered what I meant in the previous post about Oplinger and Willard’s ability to make school policy understandable, check out this AP story for a counterexample. The article makes it sound like the scores of minority students are not reported at all, are not considered at all in determining whether a school or district meets AYP. Not so. But there is a population requirement before a school is judged separately on whether it fails a subgroup.

The idea is to make sure you have a valid sample size. As the article notes, the size varies from state to state. You can quibble about the population cut-off in Ohio, but it’s wrong to use words like “excluded.” The scores of minority students are never excluded. They just might not count as a separate criterion. If you say “excluded,” you are misleading readers; if you mislead readers, you aren’t a very good reporter.

More Diners, Same Pie

A Central Ohio news service ran a happy talk piece on home-schoolers taking advantage of e-schools. I get the argument that folks to homeschool pay taxes, that they should be able to take advantage, blah blah. But the argument ignores the financial tension brought on by this development. While it may be advantageous to provide taxpayer-supported help to everyone, it’s also more expensive. The General Assembly has been expanding the number of students served by the public school system, has been doing it in a way that does not create economies of scale, and has not been providing the funds to make up the difference.

Support or Oppose? Rosa Won't TEL

Today’s Plain Dealer has a piece on Rosa Blackwell’s roaring silence about the prospective impact of TEL on schools. Rosa is the Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools and the wife of candidate and TEL pusher J. Ken Blackwell. Given how evil Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson think public schools are, does it give them pause to support the husband of such a person? Yet another question unasked.

Room to Teach

A Dispatch editorial on Columbus Public sponsored charters gives some glimpse of the non-evil, non-profit motive for supporting charter schools – cutting through the bureaucracy caused by union-negotiated work rules. I don’t hate the teachers unions and I don’t believe teachers are overpaid. But pretty much everyone hates the ever-thickening layers of work rules. If charters and vouchers can give the push needed for schools – and unions – to free themselves of the work rules morass, they aren’t all bad.

A Better Yardstick

Last Week the US Ed. Department signed off on a number of state growth model pilot programs. “Growth Model” is the name given to a testing regime under No Child Left Behind that would follow children and measure their progress, rather than base a school’s success or failure on the snapshot results of each class. It’s a clunky term, but superior to last year’s iteration – Value Added Testing, which described school children in the same terms as, say, a ton of bauxite. Ed Week has details on the latest moves nationally.

Ohio has been putting together a pilot proposal, but I can’t find anything on the status. The issue came up when we interviewed Tom Sawyer. He criticized NCLB for the snapshot approach, but he didn’t know about the growth model pilots. It’s a somewhat arcane issue, but it just goes to show one of two things: 1) Reading Pho’s Akron Pages is essential to anyone running for office, or 2) Pho is just such a weinee.

How to Pick and Keep Teachers

The education world has been buzzing lately over a paper by the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project on teacher quality. The basic themes of the paper are 1) that credentials are a poor measure of teacher quality, 2) student test scores are a better measure and 3) the best policy is to delay tenure to allow schools to evaluate teachers and don’t allow schools to tenure teachers whose classes score poorly.

Policy watchers on the Right are giddy that someone from the Left is talking in these terms. Many of us on the Left are breathing a sigh of relief that we are able to.


Jill said...

Hi Pho -

1. Rosa Blackwell - I couldn't help but picture Ken secretly hynotizing his wife at night with the Stone's Under My Thumb. Has much - has anything - been written about this woman? What's the deal??

2. Battelle for Kids' Project SOAR might be what you're thinking of. It's been piloting the "as a kid advances, so we should follow the grades" thing. Try this link.


Anonymous said...

Battelle for Kids is a pretty evil organization that didn't have any experience in education until Bob Taft decided to appoint them to his Governor's Roundtable on Education. They are in the science industry and are known for radioactive testing on chimps in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This whole new way that we are going to begin measuring schools on the state report card "value added" was their invention. Wouldn't you know, all training to be done for this has to go through them and will make millions for this "non-profit".

Anonymous said...

One thing I forgot to mention in the above post is that if you look at major political contributions to the Republican party of Ohio in the past few years, many of Battelle's chiefs/ceo's, etc. all have given the maximum (2000 or 2500).

Jill said...

You sure you're not confusing? There is a Battelle, but it's not Battelle for Kids. Also, there's an Ohio Roundtable that is evil, but it's not the Ohio Business Roundtable.

I could be wrong. Got some links?

Anonymous said...

They are the same. I will post links later that our union president shared with us.

Jill said...

Which they are the same - Battelle for Kids and Battelle, or Ohio Roundtable and Ohio Business Roundtable?

I've interviewed B for Kids before and I have to tell you, evil or not, they've been doing something and funding something that NCLB should have done from the start: following kids from grade to grade and measuring each kid's AYP, as opposed to comparing 2004's fourth grade to 2005's fourth grade to 2006's fourth grade. Not that that latter measure isn't helpful, but if you're not working with the same cohort of kids, how the hell you can measure progress of the kids, to see that they are LEARNING from year to year?

Battelle for Kids is the only entity in the state that took that on.

If it's a nonprofit, by the way, and it takes in millions, the money is made for anyone - it has to go back into the entity.

You need to be more specific and with citations when you allege this stuff - not that it's not true, but please, provide citations, ok?

Anonymous said...

I would love to provide citations, however, the link that our union president showed us has "disappeared". Perhaps the website went down. However, Battelle for Kids and Battelle or indeed the same company. If one goes on Battelle's website, you will find references to their new educational interests in Battelle for Kids.