Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Advocacy request

Date: February 14, 2012 7:07:47 AM EST
Subject: Gifted Action Alert -- Action Needed Today on ODE ESEA Waiver Application
Advocacy Alert – 02.14.12 – Action Needed Today on the ODE ESEA/NCLB Waiver  -- Late last week, ODE put out a draft of the state waiver application to the federal ESEA (or NCLB) act. While in general, the application appears to make things easier for Ohio’s districts to achieve high ratings, OAGC has specific issues with four areas. ODE will be collecting feedback on the waiver until 5:00 pm tonight (02.14.12).  It is important that gifted advocates respond to the application. Numbers of responses may matter in this case.  Colleen Grady and I will be providing testimony to the state board this morning regarding our concerns. That testimony can be accessed at . In the meantime, here is a summary of the talking points for you. In your own words, please at least address the first issue about the missing gifted performance indicator phase-in. It would be wonderful if you could address all of the issues. The email address to provide feedback is .

OAGC Requests for Changes to the Ohio Department of Education ESEA Waiver

In Order of Priority:

Issue  1 – Page 41 and 42 – The waiver inaccurately reflects the state board of education resolution on the addition of the gifted performance indicator in the unified accountability system. 

OAGC Request:  The following language change should be included in the waiver to accurately reflect the State Board of Education’s Gifted Performance Indicator: “The indicator will be incorporated into building and district ratings by the 2014-2015 school year and will include measures of student achievement growth of identified gifted students and other relevant measures from the gifted education dashboard as developed in 2013-2014.”  The chart on page 42 of the waiver should be similarly modified.  Also, as a minor point of clarification, the resolution was adopted by the board in December, 2011 not November, 2011 as indicated in the application.

Explanation:  The ODE ESEA waiver application states  “New Indicators on Gifted Performance: In November 2011, the Ohio State Board of Education, in compliance with state law, adopted a resolution to create a report card indicator reflecting services to and performance of students identified as gifted. The indicator will include three components: percentage of students that have been identified as gifted; the percentage of students receiving gifted services; and the performance of identified students in mathematics and reading on statewide tests. These indicators will be included for the first time on the 2012-2013 Local Report Card.”

In fact, this statement only reflects the first year of the phase-in of the gifted performance indicator.  The chart on page 42 only reflects phase I as well.  The full phase-in requires that the state develop a measure an indicator that goes much further than this.  The application needs to reflect the full extent of the resolution which ultimately includes a value-added growth measure, a gifted dashboard, and which by 2014-2015 will contribute the district’s rating – not merely serve as a report only measure. OAGC worked in good faith with both the State Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education on this resolution. Without the full extent of what is required added to the application, it sends the message to districts, the Ohio General Assembly and the USDOE, that the indicator is report only and of no consequence. The lack of accountability (and funding) for gifted students has led to a near catastrophic decline in services to gifted students over the last few years.

Issue 2 -- Page 38 and 39 – The waiver speaks to the possibility of increasing weights for accelerated and advanced levels which could lead to unintended consequences.

OAGC Request: Until such time as the OAA and OGT cut scores are raised and the assessments are sufficiently rigorous, the language to increase the weights for accelerated and advanced levels should be removed from the application.

Explanation: The application indicates that, “[I]n order to focus greater attention on preparing students to be college and career ready and internationally competitive, Ohio may change the point value assigned to each test performance level to add more weight to the highest categories, currently Advanced and Accelerated.” As OAGC has shared with ODE staff many times, there are unintended consequences of having increased weights on the advanced and accelerated categories. Districts often wishing to increase their performance index are loath to accelerate gifted students in the belief that their OAA and OGT scores will decline. Gifted students are often not allowed to go beyond the curriculum at all in order to ensure that they get the highest OAA scores possible.  Research shows that acceleration is one of the most educationally effective and economically efficient ways to serve gifted children. Despite this research, based on the latest data from ODE from 2010/2011, fewer than 600 students are accelerated in approximately 100 districts state-wide. 

The fact is that the cut scores for accelerated and in some areas even advanced levels are very low. Despite Superintendent Heffner’s acknowledgment of this fact, there is nothing in the application that indicates that the scores will be raised.  Should ODE increase the reward to districts for students who are deemed “accelerated” based on a test score of 58%? It would be better to reward districts who are accelerating gifted students with additional weights rather than giving additional weights on tests that many gifted students could pass the first week of the school year. Any new accountability system should provide incentives to accelerate gifted students rather than provide artificial barriers that serve as disincentives for districts to do the right thing for students.

Issue 3 – The application does not reflect the State Board of Education ESEA platform request to allow for above-grade level state assessments.

Request -- OAGC requests that ODE staff incorporates the request to allow students to be assessed using above grade level assessments in the waiver application.

Explanation: The gifted community has long sought the ability to allow for above-grade level assessment for those students who are accelerated or whose growth is poorly reflected due to ceiling effects of the state assessments. The State Board added this request in the ESEA platform in December, 2011. If the Ohio Department of Education truly wishes to accurately measure the progress of gifted students in the accountability system, flexibility around the assessment of these students is a critical aspect. The state already allows students from STEM schools to access the OGT as they are ready, so it makes no sense that students in non-STEM schools do not have the same flexibility.

Issue 4 -- Page 25 – The application contains inaccuracies in the description of curricula supports for diverse learners including gifted. 

Request – OAGC requests that the language should be changed to properly reflect that the supports for gifted are not developed yet. 

Explanation: While the application indicates that 774 curricula model units have been developed and that “[e]very model curricula unit contains strategies and resources for educators who support students with disabilities, students identified as gifted and English Language Learners.”  In fact, each unit provides a link to the same 1.5 page document providing generic advice on how lessons can be differentiated for gifted students with absolutely no support on how to implement the strategies for the specific lesson.  The document includes such support as “[P]rovide options for resources in addition to textbooks. Gifted students often have broad knowledge and a desire to learn in great depth.” Each unit also provides links to UDL (Universal Design for Learning) and CAST learning model sites, which do nothing to support gifted student differentiation. In effect, the “supports” for the model curriculum for gifted are akin to telling a new swimmer to read a diagram about how to do a swimming stroke and telling them to jump in the water.  OAGC is concerned that districts and policymakers will interpret the description of support for gifted students in this application as evidence that fewer resources for gifted are needed, when in fact the opposite is true.  

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