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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Better communication for student success

Licking Valley High School hosts parent-teacher conferences on November 8th and November 16th. Along with our September Open House, which many parents attended, brief conference-night conversations can be the key to turning students' learning experience from a passive one to a purposeful one. Purposeful learning = success!

Here are three great ways to make the most of the opportunity:

Ask about the standards that were assessed in the first quarter, and which ones were areas of strength and weakness for your student. Use the JumpRope report that came home Friday as a topic of conversation, first with your student, then with your student's teacher. You don't have to be an expert in the standards; just put a star beside the ones about which you have questions. If there are standards your student can't explain clearly to you, verbally... start with those!
LVHS standards-based report card
Talk to your student about missing work noted on their missing work report, if they received one in their report card envelope. There's a reason for every late assignment, and asking your student about them gives you starting point for discussion with a teacher. Rarely are work habit struggles completely separate from academic struggles -- they are more-often related!

LVHS missing / late work report
Ask the teacher to share with you a rubric from an upcoming assessment: Seeing the way your student's teacher designs learning from standard >> assessment >> instruction can give you the information you need to have the daily conversation with your student that results in academic success.


Whether or not teachers have requested a conference with you, call us at (740) 763-3721 to schedule a quick meeting on conference night. If you can't make it during that time, we'll put you in touch with one or more teachers in a way that meets your needs. You are an important key to your child's success!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

State board, legislature to get proposal to help class of 2018

********UPDATE********

In the space below is my summary of legislative action taken on this issue since the state board approved the working group's recommendations last month:



********END OF UPDATE*********

The state board of education's graduation requirements working committee recently finished its work and will forward a helpful resolution to the state board.

The committee decided on resolution language and created a comprehensive high school proposal and a career-tech proposal that provide alternative pathways to graduation. They considered a bigger, more ambitious plan that would reduce the reliance on standardized testing for graduation requireements and decided to direct the department to collect data on it, over the next few months, as the state board’s “assessment committee” and a possible future version of the “graduation committee” had a conversation about how to broaden the ways a student can demonstrate proficiency in the core areas and in the “soft skills.”

With the board and legislature poised to consider what action to take, it appears we have again reached a phase of the process in which student, parent, educator and community member voices should be heard!

For me, the committee's conversation about the 'bigger picture' was most impressive. Freed from the paradigm of 'standardized tests' as the only legitimate measure of student performance, Ohio schools could innovate to create a better system that puts Ohio on a higher plane, in terms of graduate quality.

Licking Valley High School is well-positioned to pivot to a more reasonable set of graduation standards that recognize kids' unique abilities and desires for education after high school. Our academic majors program for juniors and seniors respects all forms of post-secondary education and training and acknowledges a four-year college degree is highly desirable but not the pathway for all students.

Additionally, the longer-term plan for recognizing the importance of the 'soft skills' in employment and college is welcomed. At LVHS, we feel those soft skills are important enough that we created a school-wide set of standards around four such skills and we report student performance within those areas. Our elementary and middle schools are working toward the same goal: This draft version of such standards for the middle school is excellent!

We welcome any apparent move away from paper-and-pencil tests as a sole determinant of student proficiency. Our grading system is calibrated to influence teachers to move toward other, alternative forms of assessment because they are better. While this journey is just beginning, we're making progress. For example, we're currently considering our first set of weighted, school-wide standards for student presentations, as this draft shows.

As for the present, the committee's resolution is a welcome development. What follows is information about the proposed pathway that I think most helps our students. As always, if you have questions about this post, contact me!

All students in the class of 2018 who don’t meet one of the three graduation pathways must do the following to get a diploma.
·         Complete all required high school courses
·         Take all  ‘required’  end of course exams; retake once any ELA or Math test for which student scored a “1”
·         Meet  two of the following six conditions:
Attendance rate during senior year – 93%
2.5 GPA for senior year courses with a minimum of 4 courses
Complete a capstone senior project as defined by the district
Complete 120 hours work experience including, but not limited to internship, co-op, apprenticeship,  work study or community service during the senior year as defined by district
 Successfully have  ‘earned the credits’ (at any time during the student’s high school experience) for a College Credit Plus course (3 credits or more)
Successfully complete an International Baccalaureate, or Advanced Placement course and earn a score on the respective exam that would earn college credit (4 on IB higher exam, 3 on AP exam) - (through 1st Semester of Sr. year for IB and AP).

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A quest for graduation requirements that make sense

Not too long ago, I wrote about the Ohio State Board of Education's working group, conceived with the charge of recommending how to mitigate the impending disaster that awaits the class of 2018.

With Fall re-test scores coming out this week (we'll communicate them to students and parents on Tuesday), it seemed a good time to recap the working group's activities and update the status of our juniors.

First, the hoped-for surge in test passage rates isn't materializing, at least not at Licking Valley High School. (I'll update this post on Tuesday if I get more information from other Licking County schools).

Before Fall re-tests, 95 LVHS juniors were on-track to graduate, in a class of 169. After Fall re-tests, that tally is 101, or 60% of the class. Even with the generous interpretation of "on-track" offered by the Ohio Department of Education, and allowing for exemptions for students with disabilities, the total is 70%.

Not that we're surprised. After all, the pathetic number of released test items and total lack of school-based item analysis virtually ensures that the kind of high-quality feedback necessary for improvement isn't available.

The state board's working group's first three meetings featured presentations from the Ohio Department of Education that were intended to justify the 'rigor' of the tests and present a clear picture of the situation. See notes here:
Meeting 1 notes
Meeting 2 notes
Meeting 3 notes

In the fourth meeting, group members came ready to discuss some proposed solutions and add their own. In small groups, they listed pros and cons of various plans and came back together to report out.

What happened was in a word, remarkable.

All four groups, with access to an infinite number of choices, came back with solutions that followed the same general theme: we need a system that allows for more than standardized test scores. Board / committee member Peggy Lehner, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said "Only one (solution) comes close to what we currently require."

All four groups offered similar solutions for the class of 2018 -- some sort of 'safe harbor' provision that exempts them from the consequences of not achieving 18 points. Beyond that, it was evident the group members wanted a "re-do" for the overall  system. "This should be a caution," Senator Lehner remarked. "Because this group appears to desire something different."

To applause from most in the room, group member and high school student Jessica Frey summed it up: "I'm advocating for not looking at students through one set of guidelines. There should be multiple options."

The working group, with representatives from Ohio businesses, colleges, communities and schools, is indicating they want to do more than craft a narrow, short-term solution for the class of 2018. Whether or not their work has a bigger reach is up to the state board and department of education.

Here's hoping they heed the group's message!

Keep your eye on... 

(my personal take on political elements of the process)

Who thinks the tests are a good  idea?
The comments of a working group member from Akron Public Schools (an Assistant Superintendent standing in for the district Superintendent) gave voice to a recurring doubt that has been gnawing at me for months: Who in the business community, exactly, thinks these tests are a good idea? If career and workforce readiness is at the reason for their existence, then who is demanding them?

The only indications from this working group seem to point toward this emperor not having any clothes. First, the department's speaker from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce trumpeted college and career readiness, but used slides from a presentation that also showed the kind of 'routine cognitive tasks' like the ones on EOCs are decreasing precipitously in workplace applicability.

Second, the Chamber of  Commerce member of the working group, Tom Zaino, has expressed the need for educated employees in Ohio. But he has also appeared skeptical of the narrow band of skills measured on the test and the wisdom of use of the tests as a sole determiner of graduation. For example, he asked, "Why can you not just have a non-college-ready diploma?"

Last week, the Akron Public Schools rep reported she had convened a group of 50 top business leaders to create a 'graduate profile' -- what they'd like to see students have upon graduation. In groups, they reported out their 'wish list.' The result? "Not one mentioned a specific academic standard."

What is the state legislature prepared to do to remedy the situation?
Senator Lehner has continually voiced a willingness to fix the problem in the legislature if the state board can't or won't, and she speaks emphatically on this point. Her comments above are in line with previous ones in that they seem to indicate legislative action might be imminent. With the state budget bill currently in progress and due to be done by June, and Ohio's ESSA draft plan due soon (the state could delay submission until later in the summer if it wants), it makes me wonder if a series of events might bring the whole testing system down in a crumbling heap by the beginning of the next school year. It seems a long shot, but I continue to maintain that any legislator measuring the will of his or her constituents via polling or other means cannot possibly maintain all this testing is needed or desirable.

Will the Department of Education be able to continue to defend the tests?
At every working group meeting, someone in the room has pinned down State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria on what I think are vitally-important issues: First, what evidence does the department have to demonstrate the validity and reliability of the tests? Second, when are schools and districts going to get detailed item analysis from the tests?

I can empathize with Dr. DeMaria and the department on the latter -- I'm pretty sure it is up to the legislature to pony up enough money to make full item release / item analysis possible, and he has stated it is a matter of money, in the meetings. In my humble opinion, I think a straight "up or down" vote among the state board members would reveal a near-unanimous consensus that schools need and deserve the data. If what the board needs is a resolution from the Superintendent, through a member... will they get it?

On the former, I'm not a psychometric expert, so when such information becomes available it will take me some time to digest. (In meeting 4, Findlay High School Principal Craig Kupferburg repeated another member's previous request for data indicating validity and reliability from the department.) What I do know is that our teachers are teaching to the right standards, and the test-performance history of the class of 2018 -- statewide --  speaks for itself. What I do know is that we have ample data that suggests the online test(s) were more difficult than the pencil-and-paper ones. And what I do know is that the progression from PARCC test items / platform to AIR platform -- combined items to AIR platform / Ohio items is a textbook case of putting a 'moving target' in front of kids, then comparing the performance data in an apples-to-oranges manner. 

What I don't know is how long the experts in the big building in downtown Columbus can continue to maintain the tests are fair, with the defenses they've mounted to this point, and all in the name of 'rigor.' I think it is time to level with everyone about the tests' limitations, and deal with the consequences.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Will the working group work?

I've written before that new End of Course tests and state graduation requirements have combined to create a perfect storm for current high school students.

Around the state, a large percentage of current juniors aren't on track to graduate; that number is 40%+ at Licking Valley High School.

As the stress and frustration around this mess of a system mounts among parents, students and educators, the State Board of Education considered -- and rejected -- short-term fixes at its December meeting, instead creating a working group to study the problem.

The Ohio State Board of Education's Graduation Requirement Workgroup convened last week with the charge from Chair Jana Fornario to create a resolution to present to the Standards and Graduation Requirements Committee by April's board meeting.

Such a resolution -- according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paulo DeMaria -- will address the impending graduation problem for the class of 2018, but the related topics of assessments and standards are outside the group's scope of work.

That's disappointing.

The main problems with the system have less to with the graduation point system and more to do with the tests that are at its core. Its problems are well-documented. First, the tests are shrouded in secrecy. Department of Education staff and state board members say educators having knowledge of the standards is enough to prepare students for the tests, but they are wrong: the new tests purported to test the standards in new and different ways from the beginning, and they have. Our kids can tell you these tests are a brand-new experience.

Because the test software is proprietary, we can't even emulate the "unique item types" (the phrase comes from the original PARCC news release) that students see on the test.

At Licking Valley High School, our team of experienced Mathematics teachers have  been particularly frustrated. They've worked tirelessly to implement curriculum based on new standards, but as Algebra teacher Beverly Stuckwisch explains in her blog post, the tests measure student knowledge and skills in unfair ways.

Second, from the beginning test results have shown  a marked difference between online and paper/pencil tests... a serious flaw given schools all over the state have been using both formats. In a cycle has now been repeated several times in the last three years, the department of education minimized the problem, in this case appealing to the written finding of a Technical Advisory Committee to bolster the credibility of its stance.

But if the TAC didn't recommend adjusting cut scores to account for differences between paper and online test versions, its conclusions are hardly a ringing endorsement for their equivalence:

"First, the TAC strongly recommends that Ohio move as quickly as possible to having a single online mode. Second, the TAC recommends that a mode correction constant estimated from one year not be used for adjustment in another year. Third, the TAC recommends that the DOE pull together a statement of what it is doing to get all students ready for taking assessments online." 

Finally, schools have received precious-little student performance data from the tests, despite the fact such detailed feedback is an important part of systemic improvement and student remediation. The state legislature has yet to appropriate funds sufficient to provide for such feedback, because the Ohio Department of Education has yet to ask for it, to my knowledge.

Releasing the items from the 2016 Spring test, in fact, will be strung out until 2019, and even then, the department won't release item analysis. Such item analysis was a key feature of schools' systemic improvement efforts under the OGT testing scheme, but more importantly it was a key factor in helping with remediation.

Last week's working group meeting featured a presentation from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce and input from members, the subject of a future blog post. Ohio Senate education committee chair Peggy Lehner again stated her willingness to address the issue confronting the class of 2018 with legislation if needed.

I feel the best course of action for teachers, parents and students is to reach out to legislators and express your opinion about the testing / graduation points scheme as a whole, along with the need for immediate action for the freshmen, sophomores and especially juniors in high school right now.

In all my conversations with voting-age adults in Ohio, I have heard few citizens express affection for our current system of testing. Among those with high-school-age children, the percentage expressing support for the system is even more miniscule, with most reactions ranging from "ire" to "vehement disgust." I can't help but think that the will of the people, expressed in a timely fashion to our elected representatives, would have the effect of changing the system.

Below are the elected officials who represent the citizens of our school district; if you are from another part of Ohio, your representatives' and senators' contact information can be found easily online.

Our local elected state board representative: 
Stephanie Dodd
256 Wilshire Drive Hebron, OH 43025 
Phone: (740) 629-1333
Stephanie.Dodd@education.ohio.gov

Ohio Senate representative:
Jay Hottinger
Senate Building 
1 Capitol Square, Ground Floor Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-5838


Ohio House representative:
Larry Householder
77 S. High St. 13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-2500

Ohio House representative:
Representative Scott K. Ryan
District 71
77 S. High St 
13th Floor 
Columbus, OH 43215 
Phone (614) 466-1482 
Fax      (614) 719-3971 
Email: http://www.ohiohouse.gov/scott-k-ryan/contact

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

First-quarter academic awards announced

We've got a great group of academically-talented, motivated, hard-working students here at Licking Valley High School and our first-quarter academic awards list is indicative of that.

At LVHS, we use our Jostens Renaissance incentive program to reward students who excel and a great number of kids earn those incentives every quarter. Platinum card holders have a current GPA of 4.0 or above, red card holders achieve a 3.5 GPA or greater, and blue card holders earn a 3.0 GPA or higher.

The lists for the first quarter are below. Great job!

Seniors - Platinum
Seniors - Red
Seniors - Blue

Juniors - Platinum
Juniors - Red
Juniors - Blue

Sophomores - Platinum
Sophomores - Red
Sophomores - Blue

Freshmen - Platinum
Freshmen - Red
Freshmen - Blue

Sunday, November 20, 2016

State board considers changes to faulty graduation point system

In the state of Ohio, the classes of 2018 and beyond have new graduation requirements demanded by the legislature, created by the Ohio State Board of Education, and implemented by the Ohio Department of Education. I've taken issue with these requirements and their flawed implementation.

Eighteen months from graduation, a significant number of those students probably aren't going to graduate because:
  • Only one of the three graduation pathways is truly accessible to all students.
  • That pathway is based on scores on End-of-Course Tests.
  • Those tests measure standards in ways never used before, at levels not tested before, using an online platform that was new to students, via question types not made available to educators, and they are a moving target because the Spring 2017 test will be their third version in three years.
  • The results from those tests (and potentially valuable feedback for improvement) have only been provided with the lowest level of detail and are thus, useless.
Last month, Superintendent Dave Hile and I detailed this problem for the state board in the "Public Comments" portion of its meeting, saying that 56% of LVHS juniors were on track to graduate. The board asked ODE to collect data about the state's juniors to ascertain what the numbers looked like, statewide, and several members indicated a willingness to address the problem, as did Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner of Dayton.


The good news is the majority of the board seemed to be concerned with this situation and discussion turned to possible solutions. A resolution was introduced that would temporarily reduce the number of points required for graduation from 18 to 15, then ramp the requirement back up to 18 over four years. See below for the proposal:

Class of 2018: 15 points required
Class of 2019: 15 points required
Class of 2020: 16 points required
Class of 2021: 17 points required
Class of 2022: 18 points required
**In addition to the reduction in total points required, the resolution also includes the temporary elimination of the subtotals presently in the system (minimum of 4 in Math, 4 in ELA, 6 in Science / Social Studies).**

As I told staff and the board in an e-mail this week, this has a major impact on the 'graduation-ready' picture for our current juniors.

If the board approves this resolution in its current form, the class of 2018 will benefit. If the board goes farther and directs the department of education to immediately begin releasing 100% of test items for every future test, then the classes of the future will benefit and could conceivably be working within a fair system, even if it is still flawed.

The department indicated in its testimony this week that it intends to release 40% of the Spring 2017 EOC test items, with item analysis.

Of  course, if the legislature does what it should do and gets rid of most of  the whole standardized test mess they've created and implement federal minimum testing requirements, everyone will benefit. Hey, we can dream.

In December, the state board will reconvene to approve / modify / reject the resolution and the legislature stands ready to act in lame-duck session, all to fix a system that was botched from the beginning.

This week, in one of our regular student focus group conversations at LVHS, the subject of the current testing system came up. When I explained the current state board proposal for phasing in 18 points, a student instantly replied "That's what they should have done in the first place!"

I hope our students get the Christmas present of a fair graduation system. They deserve it!


Monday, October 24, 2016

Graduation standards re-examined? The time for your voice is now!

My last post generated more than 1,800 views; Ohioans are ready to talk about the present graduation points system that endangers the classes of 2018-2020.

Let's hope their elected officials on the state board of education and in the state legislature are ready to do the same. On Tuesday, LV Superintendent Dave Hile and I testified before the state board. We informed them that hundreds of Licking County students are in danger of not graduating.

That's not hyperbole. I called it a "...disaster of epic proportions," and it is.

At Licking Valley, those students make up 44% of the class of 2018. Four other Licking County schools have an even bigger percentage of students who are at-risk. Four others are within a few percentage points of LVHS. I can't help but feel it is the same around the state.

Many of the members of the state board, including Senate Education Committee chairperson Peggy Lehner, were not only ready to listen -- they were ready to talk about solutions. We discussed our need for data from the Ohio Department of Education, with Superintendent of Public Instruction Paulo DeMaria hearing our concerns.

Our bottom line: we can help kids meet high standards, if we have the feedback -- in the form of released tests and item analysis -- that help us help them, and better align our teaching and assessing to the new assessments so future students will succeed.

To date, we've gotten neither. And now the state board of education knows this.

ODE representatives emphasized that their release of SOME test items this Fall and in January should be sufficient. That's not anywhere near sufficient, and I think most of the board members felt the same way.

We hammered home the point that ODE is nowhere near being able to provide this detailed feedback now and in the near future, so our juniors are the first of three classes at LVHS who are going to be 'left hanging.' That's a lot of kids: our kids. We have little capacity to help them, and they deserve better.

Now is the time for parents of affected LVHS students -- and parents of all students -- to speak out, if you feel so inclined. The state board and legislature answers to you. You alone have the ability to influence them to be fair.

Let's make sure that representatives and senators hear from us, via phone, e-mail or other means. With a lame-duck session of the General Assembly upcoming, the opportunity exists to create a fair system for present and future students. This needs to happen!

When they realize the people of Ohio -- whether parents of high school students or not -- won't rest until a change happens, then and only then will something change

FINAL NOTE: I'm a part of two other ongoing efforts to paint a picture of the current situation for policy-makers and propose solutions to people who have the power to enact them as law or binding policy for schools. I will update those efforts on my blog when it is appropriate.