Ohio Gadfly Daily

Fordham, which sponsors (a.k.a. authorizes) eleven charter schools across the state, is proud to see two of its Columbus-area schools and their leaders featured in the news recently.

United Preparatory Academy

Columbus Alive, a weekly alternative paper focused on arts, culture, and entertainment, gave credit to United Schools Network for its work in revitalizing Franklinton, one of the city’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods. Even cooler than the artist lofts, tattoo shops, and hipster-filled farmers’ markets (and arguably more critical to the community’s long-term health), United Schools is providing a high-quality educational option for families living there. United Preparatory Academy (UPrep) opened in 2014 and serves students from kindergarten to second grade, one-quarter of whom come directly from the neighborhood. Columbus Collegiate West—a replication of United’s award-winning Columbus Collegiate Academy, located on the city’s east side—opened in the same building in 2012 and serves students from grades six through eight. UPrep will continue adding a grade each year until meeting up with Columbus Collegiate West to create a K–8 building.

United Schools Founder and Chief Executive Officer Andy Boy recognizes United’s role in long-term community transformation, as the Franklinton Development Association recruits homeowners who are...

The Akron Beacon Journal recently reported on the struggles of Next Frontier Academy, a charter school whose failures have included incomplete student records, missing funds, inflated enrollment figures, an inability to make payroll and rent, and student-on-student (and student-on-staff) violence that went unreported to the police. This type of educational malpractice ought to make everyone angry—especially charter school supporters and allies. Mercifully—for its forty students and Ohio’s taxpayers alike—the school closed this summer.

The closure isn’t an anomaly in the Buckeye State. Since the charter school movement’s inception in 1997, over two hundred schools have shut their doors. According to the Beacon Journal, “more charter schools closed last year than at any point in the industry’s seventeen-year history in Ohio.”

Closure isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. It certainly isn’t proof that the movement has failed, as some critics suggest. Charter schools that are under-enrolled, financially unstable, or academically deficient should be closed. This feature sets them apart from traditional public schools that stay open forever regardless of performance, and it should be embraced. Moreover, evidence suggests that students are the winners when low-performing schools are closed, despite the initial disruption and inconvenience that may occur. A Fordham...

  1. I know that almost no one gets tired of hearing from State Auditor Dave Yost (!) – especially not me. What does the state auditor think of the recent $71 million grant award Ohio won from the U.S. Department of Education to help beef up its charter school sector? He is “shocked” to learn that we were ever in contention for federal funds, let alone able to win. But that boat has already left the dock and more important is what he and his office plan to do once the money hits Ohio’s coffers: “My concern is that it is well-spent with proper monitoring. We’re going to haul out the microscope on this. We’re going to have active observation.” Yep. Classic Yost. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/3/15)
  2. What do editors in Akron think of the recent $71 million grant award Ohio won from the U.S. Department of Education to help beef up its charter school sector? “The grant award clashes with what Ohioans know about the sorry state of charter schools here.” Yep. Classic ABJ. (Akron Beacon Journal, 10/2/15)
  3. Here is an interesting story about a potential new charter school in Cincinnati – a second location for
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  1. In case you missed it, HB 2 – the charter law reform bill everyone’s been begging for – was sent to conference committee by the Ohio House on Wednesday. As Peggy Lehner, the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill says: “I’m not sensing any great desire by House or Senate leadership to take a step backwards,” and she expects “just clarifying and strengthening amendments.” Sounds good to me. How about you, Ohio media outlets? (Columbus Dispatch, 10/1/15)
  2. Like young Joey in the movie Shane, editors in Youngstown today call wistfully for Governor Kasich to come back and visit them again. They seem to have some questions to put to him about the Youngstown Plan which he promised them a year ago and subsequently delivered on. But “Shane” Kasich just rode on out past the graveyard and into the sunset somewhere near Dubuque. (Youngstown Vindicator, 10/2/15)
  3. Back in the real world, here’s a nice look at some ongoing team teaching efforts in some Dayton area schools. (Dayton Daily News, 9/29/15)

Researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research recently examined whether financial incentives can increase parental involvement in children’s education and subsequently raise cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. The analysts conduct a randomized field experiment during the 2011–12 school year in Chicago Heights, a low-performing urban school district where 90 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch. The 257 parent participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a treatment group in which parents were paid immediately, a second treatment group in which parents were paid via deposits into a trust fund that could only be accessed when their children enrolled in college, and a control group which received no payment. Parents in both treatment groups could earn up to $7,000 per year for their attendance at parent academy sessions (eighteen sessions, each lasting ninety minutes, that taught parents how to help children build cognitive and non-cognitive skills), proof of parental homework completion, and the performance of their child on benchmark assessments.   

To measure cognitive outcomes, the analysts averaged results along the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and the Woodcock Johnson III Test of Achievement; to measure non-cognitive outcomes, they averaged results from the Blair and Willoughby Measures...

A blended Advanced Placement (AP) pilot program unfolding in Cincinnati shows tremendous promise. It provides students in poverty with in-person and virtual access to AP instruction and—if successful—could help make the case for why Ohio should provide free and universal access to online courses.

Over the years, Advanced Placement (AP) courses have been one of the most effective ways to prepare high school students for college and make it more affordable—a double win. However, there are enormous discrepancies in students’ access to AP programs based on geographic location, race, and poverty levels. The very academic programs that can help first-generation college goers and those typically underrepresented in higher education tend to be less available to them. Admittedly, some progress has been made: between 2003 and 2013, the number of students taking and scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam almost doubled nationally. But Ohio continues to lag, not just in overall access to AP, but in successful course completion. The state falls considerably below the national average: 14.8 percent of 2013 Ohio graduates scored a 3 or higher on the AP exam, compared to 20.1 percent nationally.

That’s why an AP program piloted by Cincinnati...

  1. Part 2 of the Plain Dealer’s dig into the Ohio Department of Education’s email trove goes further into the issue of highly-mobile students. The story is mainly about e-schools, whose percentage of highly-mobile students is predictably high, but our own Aaron Churchill is quoted here with the proper sentiment: "To say these kids shouldn't count is not good policy." A link to Aaron’s recent blog post on the subject is also included. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/28/15)
  2. In between parts 1 and 2 of the PD’s series, editors there opined – as if on repeat – in favor of the passage of HB 2 now. There was also a bit about fracking, something else upon which Aaron has recently blogged. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/28/15) Editors in Akron also opined on charter schools this week, although I think reform is the last thing they really want. Interesting political history lesson, though, something upon which Aaron has yet to blog. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/28/15)
  3. Speaking of charter law reform, the Ohio House of Representatives is back in session today after summer break and one of the first pieces of legislation they will take up is
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As Ohio lawmakers return to Columbus, a debate is brewing about how to measure the effectiveness of e-schools. At issue is the fact that a large fraction of their students are mobile—for example, our 2012 student mobility report found that less than half of online students stay for more than a couple years.  Some e-schools assert that it’s unfair to hold them accountable for raising the achievement of children who spend such a brief time under their supervision.

Are they right? How should we think about accountability for e-schools, or other schools with a highly mobile population? (Our mobility study revealed that urban schools also experience high rates of mobility.) Should state policymakers make accommodations for schools with a more transient student body? Or should they stand firm on accountability, regardless of the challenges of serving a mobile population?

To be sure, these are tough issues, but policymakers can look towards a few guiding principles.

First, all kids count. Every student deserves an excellent education, regardless of whether she’s brand-new to a school or has been enrolled for several years. Think of it this way: when a fourth grade student moves from one school to another, shouldn’t the...

In Eastern Ohio and elsewhere across the nation, fracking has had a profound effect on economic activity and labor markets. But has it had an impact on education? According to a new study by Dartmouth economists, the answer is yes: The proliferation of fracking has increased high-school dropout rates—and not surprisingly, among adolescent males specifically. They estimate that each percentage point increase in local oil and gas employment—an indicator of fracking intensity—increased the dropout rates of teenage males by 1.5–2.5 percentage points.

The analysts identify 553 local labor markets—“commuter zones,” or CZs—in states with fracking activity, including Ohio. For each CZ, they overlay Census data spanning from 2000 to 2013 on employment and high school dropouts (i.e., 15–18 year olds not enrolled and without a diploma). The study then exploits the “shock” of fracking—it picked up significantly in 2006—while also analyzing the trend in dropouts. Prior to 2006, dropout rates were falling for both males and females; post-2006, dropout rates for males shot up in CZs with greater fracking activity. (Female dropout rates continued to decline.) Using statistical analyses, the researchers tie the increase in male dropout rates directly to the fracking boom.

This study raises important issues about...

  1. There is confusion and concern in Lorain City Schools at the moment, the only other district currently under the aegis of an old-style Academic Distress Commission. The confusion is whether their unique ADC status will lead to Lorain being exempted from new “safe harbor” provisions based on PARCC test scores. The concern is one of possible unfairness: it could turn out that Lorain is the only district in the state to which PARCC “safe harbor” does not apply. It’s complicated and even the Ohio Department of Education boffins quoted in this piece are unsure. Could be moot if the lawsuit from Youngstown succeeds, but fascinating to see the nuances of district turnaround in action. Or perhaps inaction could be more accurate. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 9/25/15)
  2. Former Toledo school teacher, current ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, and longtime charter school critic Teresa Fedor opined in a guest commentary this weekend in favor of a far-reaching investigation of the Ohio Department of Education in regard to the rescinded sponsor evaluations done earlier this year. (Toledo Blade, 9/27/15) Perhaps not coincidentally at all, editors in Toledo opined – as if on repeat – in favor of
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