Ohio Gadfly Daily

Not much going on in education new at the end of the week, and what there is is all about charter schools:

  1. In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced legislation intended to reform charter school laws across the nation, but especially in Ohio. Coverage begins with the Beacon Journal, which quotes our own Chad Aldis in response to Sen. Brown’s plan to curb “fraud, abuse, waste, mismanagement and misconduct”. Federal legislation of this type “misses the mark,” says Chad, and should be left to individual states. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/8/15)
     
  2. This was followed by the Repository, which simply summarized Chad’s statement into the word “overkill” while discussing the new bill, which seems like “underkill” to me. (Canton Repository, 7/9/15)
     
  3. As usual, the PD goes in depth, noting among other things that Sen. Brown’s bill announcement included reference to the Stanford/CREDO study of charter school performance in Ohio released in December and that Ohio’s currently-stalled charter reform bill addresses many of the issues about which Sen. Brown is concerned. Heck, they even solicited reaction from the senator to Chad’s comments. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/10/15)
     
  4. The Blade dispenses with the journalism
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U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has introduced the Charter School Accountability Act. In making his case for charter school reform, Senator Brown cites a recent study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) showing Ohio charter students lagging their peers in traditional public schools on state assessments.

“While presumably well intentioned, Senator Brown’s effort to scale up federal involvement in public charter schools nationwide based upon a situation in Ohio misses the mark,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Making matters worse, it seemingly ignores the tremendous state work undertaken over the last six months by Governor Kasich and the Ohio legislature to craft the most comprehensive charter school reform legislation in the state’s history—a version of which has already passed both the Ohio House and Senate.”

Senator Brown has also offered the bill language as an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act currently under consideration. Announcement of the legislation was met with strong support from both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

“Unfortunately, Senator Brown’s proposal goes well beyond simply strengthening accountability and transparency,” Aldis added. “The inclusion...

  1. A rally was held yesterday in Youngstown by folks opposed to the so-called “Youngstown Plan”, which is really a sharpening of the Academic Distress Commission protocols in Ohio…although targeted fairly specifically at Youngstown. Hundreds turned out, many not from Youngstown it seems, and a public meeting was announced for Monday in which some alternative to the Youngstown Plan will begin to be discussed. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/8/15)
     
  2. Speaking of city-based education plans in Ohio, here’s an update on the Cleveland Plan, which is a bit twisty. One of the main goals of the Cleveland Plan in 2012 was to triple the number of students attending high-performing schools. Changes in Ohio’s report card system for schools since 2012 have altered the depth at which schools’ performance is tracked and measured. This has led the mayor, the CEO, and the Transformation Alliance to rethink their own definition of “high-performing” schools and, in fact, to craft their own. Applying this new criteria lowers the baseline number of students who, in 2012, were in high-performing schools to begin with. Depending on your perspective, this either means they’ve moved the bar lower for their own success (tripling 3,568 is easier than tripling 11,466)
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Vladimir Kogan

The dire findings on the performance of Ohio’s charter schools published by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) have provided the badly needed political impetus to reform the state’s charter school laws. Now, however, it appears that not only are these reforms at risk, but lawmakers are actually considering steps to weaken one of the few aspects of the existing accountability system that works.

If existing measures show that charter schools are underperforming, it seems that some charter operators have decided that it would be easier to change the yardstick used to assess them than to improve student achievement.

As the Columbus Dispatch reported recently, at least one charter school operator is pushing Ohio lawmakers to replace the state’s current “value-added” accountability framework with a “Similar Students Measure” (SSM), similar to metrics used in California. Doing so would be a gigantic step back in accountability and would make charter school student achievement look better than it really is.

Here is some background: The state of California ...

  1. It’s been a long time since we last did a roundup of education news in Ohio, and we seem to have left things at a critical juncture. In case you missed it, the state legislature – with the governor’s help – last week made it illegal for Ohio to spend money buying tests from the PARCC consortium, ending many years of prep and one year of actual testing in the Buckeye State. Very quickly, state supe Dick Ross announced that AIR would take up the reins of math and ELA testing next year. Here is coverage of that announcement. Columbus Dispatch (7/1/15), Dayton Daily News (7/1/15), Toledo Blade (7/3/15), and Cleveland Plain Dealer (7/1/15)
     
  2. The PD ended its first AIR piece with the phrase, “We'll have more to add here soon,” and journalist Patrick O’Donnell was true to his word. Here are two further stories. First up is a look at AIR’s track record with math and ELA tests in other states, as well as discussion of how they did with Ohio’s science and social studies tests this year. I think the term is “mixed bag”. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/2/15). Second is a look
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Passed by the Ohio House and Senate, House Bill 70 sharpens the powers and duties of “academic distress commissions” (ADCs) in Ohio and now awaits the signature of Governor Kasich.

Academic distress commissions were added to state law in 2007 as a way for the state to intervene in districts that consistently fail to meet standards. Two districts (Youngstown and Lorain) currently operate under the auspices of an ADC, but the new bill only applies to the former (as the latter’s commission is too new) and to any future districts which fall into academic distress after the bill’s effective date. Despite being nicknamed the “Youngstown Plan,” HB 70 doesn’t specifically mention Youngstown; on the contrary, it applies statewide and significantly alters the way any ADC—whether already existing or established in the future—is run. Moving forward, a new ADC will be established if a district receives an overall F grade on its state report card for three consecutive years. As for districts already under an ADC (Youngstown and Lorain), the structure of their ADCs will change on the bill’s effective date of compliance.

Let’s examine four of HB 70’s biggest changes...

Many would argue that the media doesn’t give education the ink or airtime it deserves. But surprisingly, a new publication suggests that—at least at the local, state, and regional levels—K–12 issues receive a fair amount of attention.

In this study, policy strategist Andrew Campanella used the NewsBank database to search for key education terms in headlines and ledes. In total, he compiled stories from more than five thousand news sources and filtered out results about higher education. He found that education coverage was up 7.7 percent in 2014 relative to the twenty-five year trend, and also discovered that local, state, and regional outlets featured K–12 education in about 6.8 percent of stories. That’s a decent proportion of stories when considering the various topics covered by media outlets. In contrast, national media was about three times less likely than local media to feature education.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it isn’t education policy driving the news coverage in local outlets. Sports were by far the most covered “education” topic, appearing in 13.6 percent of state, local, and regional education stories. Special events like pep rallies and field trips were a distant second at 5.1 percent. When policy was covered, the study found...

  1. Chad is quoted in a story on the stall in charter law reform in Ohio. The bill that was oh-so-close to passage earlier this week now appears to be delayed until at least September. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/1/15)
     
  2. With a stroke of his pen last night – well, actually a stroke not taken – Governor Kasich outlawed PARCC tests in Ohio. The full piece from the PD also includes other testing-related details included in the new state budget. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/30/15)
     
  3. More opining on the so-called “Youngstown Plan” this week, which is really a strengthening of Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission protocols, still awaiting Governor Kasich’s aforementioned pen stroke. Here’s what editors in Akron had to say. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/30/15) And here’s what editors in Canton had to say. (Canton Repository, 6/29/15)
     
  4. Speaking of Canton, here is an update on a charter school whose sponsor – the Ohio Department of Education – intends to suspend its operations due to, among other things, poor academic performance. What’s the update? The school’s operator sued to put a hold on the suspension and to try and get the closure process stopped. They lost the first
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In the reauthorization debate, civil rights groups are pressing to have ESEA force states to "do something" in schools where students as a whole are making good progress but at-risk subgroups are falling behind. Their concerns are not unreasonable, to be sure. Schools should ensure that all students, especially those who are struggling academically, are making learning gains.

Yet it’s not clear how often otherwise good schools fail to contribute gains for their low-achievers. Is it widespread problem or fairly isolated? Just how many schools display strong overall results, but weak performance with at-risk subgroups?

To shine light on this question, we turn to Ohio. The Buckeye State’s accountability system has a unique feature: Not only does it report student growth results—i.e., “value added”—for a school as a whole, but also for certain subgroups. Herein we focus on schools’ results for their low-achieving subgroups—pupils whose achievement is in the bottom 20 percent statewide—since this group likely consists of a number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, including from minority groups.

(The other subgroups with growth results are gifted and special needs students, who may not be as likely to come from disadvantaged families or communities. The state does not disaggregate...

It wasn’t that long ago when you could go from one end of your K–12 education to the other without even laying eyes on a student with a disability. “In the early 1970s, these youths were marginalized both in school and in life, with only one-fifth of children with disabilities even enrolled in public schools,” notes Education Week, whose tenth annual “Diplomas Count” report focuses this year on students with disabilities. Today, nearly six million such students are enrolled in U.S. public schools, with the vast majority studying alongside non-disabled peers. They are “coming of age at a time when they, like all high school students, are increasingly expected to perform to high academic standards and to prepare for further education or training and a productive role in the workplace,” the authors observe.

How are they doing? Eighty-one percent of our public high schools students can now expect to march across stage and be handed a diploma within four years; that’s both a historic high and the headline finding of “Diplomas Count 2015.” However, the graduation rate among students with disabilities is 62 percent—a figure that masks wild (and somewhat suspicious) variations from state to state: from a low of...

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