Ohio Gadfly Daily

  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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While plenty of folks seem to think that getting rid of Common Core would be good for schools, the standards remain largely intact in most states across the nation, including here in Ohio. Before supporters start congratulating each other on victory, however, they would be wise to recognize that the real battle for Common Core has just begun. As my colleague Robert Pondiscio points out, “far too little attention has been paid to the heavy lift being asked of America’s teachers—and the conditions under which they are being asked to change familiar, well-established teaching methods.”

This heavy lifting includes selecting curricula to teach the standards (because the standards aren't a curriculum—districts choose their own). The lift gets Atlas-like when one considers the poor alignment of the curricula from which districts and teachers can choose. Since last summer, researchers have called out textbook publishers’ misleading claims of alignment with words like “sham,” “buyer beware,” “disgrace,” and “snake oil.” Slapping “shiny new stickers on the same books they’ve been selling for years” has probably lined some pockets, but it’s also left teachers high and dry—and still hefting the weight of ensuring that students master...

  1. An interesting discussion of Ohio’s teacher evaluation system includes comments from Innovation Ohio’s Steve Dyer ("It's a very subjective thing, teaching."), Fordham’s Aaron Churchill ("It's a move toward results-oriented, performance-based education, and that's a huge step forward.”), and the late Albert Einstein (“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted."). I’m with Aaron. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 9/24/15)
  2. Loyal readers know that I love me some Yost (I know!). But I do hope that the Auditor of State never decides to buy me a present, because he’s got a different definition of “surprise” than I do. Case in point: the big announcement of impending “surprise” visits to both charter and district schools for a new round of attendance spot-checks, among other things. This is important stuff for the auditor to stay on top of – attendance is, sadly, an inexact science most everywhere – but secret visits should be secret. Shouldn’t they? Just sayin’. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/25/15)
  3. As you no doubt recall, the first batch of charter sponsor ratings were rescinded earlier this year over the exclusion of some low grades for Ohio’s e-schools from a portion of the ratings process. A
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  1. Fordham’s Aaron Churchill is one of the critics referenced in the headline of this piece, reporting on the state board of education’s recent setting of PARCC cut scores for Ohio. Too low, say the critics, including Aaron. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/23/15)
  2. Meanwhile, Chad Aldis is quoted in this Dispatch piece speculating on whether HB 2 – the currently-stalled charter law reform bill – would already or could with some tweaks address any of the issues raised in last week’s Ohio Supreme Court decision. You remember the one: is it charter governance or contract law? Important discussion here, especially since lawmakers are due to return to Columbus in a week, and a lot has happened in the charter school realm over the summer. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/23/15)
  3. They are arguing on process, but are using that argument to attempt to on reverse the actual decision. What am I talking about? No, not the creation of the Youngstown Plan but the scrapping of those magnet school campouts in Cincinnati in favor of a lottery. It’s a small but vocal group and they are fighting to the end for the return of the campouts. Guess those tents must be non-returnable.
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