Ohio Gadfly Daily

Earlier this year, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) published its annual report on charter quality. Their analysis makes an interesting observation: The school-quality distribution across California charters forms a “u-shaped curve.” In contrast, however, when I look at Ohio charters, a different quality distribution emerges. Instead of u-shaped curve, Ohio has a rectangular-looking distribution. So while California charters are more likely to be very high or low quality, Ohio charters seem to be more evenly distributed across the quality spectrum. The shape of the quality “curves” suggests different policy strategies might be needed to lift overall sector quality in Ohio compared to California.

Let us first look at the school-quality data. Chart 1 displays the distribution of charter quality in California, as reported by CCSA. Its analysis uses school-level test and demographic data, along with statistical methods, to calculate a school-quality measure (“predicted API”). The analysis is somewhat akin to the “value-added” analysis used in Ohio, though also cruder since it employs school not student-level data.[1] The analysis divides the quality spectrum into twenty equal intervals and reports the percentage of charters falling into each interval.

When CCSA mapped the quality of California charters, it found a disproportionate number of schools at tails of the distribution. For example, 15 percent of charters fell within the top-five percent of all public schools statewide along its quality measure. At the other end, 9 percent of charters were rated in the bottom-five percent of all schools. (If...

  1. So we noted the AP’s somewhat nonsensical coverage yesterday of the HB 597 committee vote on Common Core repeal, but that wasn’t enough for us. We decided to reach out and try to help clear up misinformation and answer questions. This is the result. Go Aaron! (NewsNet 5, Cleveland) There are at least three dozen other iterations of this AP piece out there, including the Findlay Courier, Zanesville Times Recorder, Port Clinton News Herald, and Pendleton Times Post (Indiana).
     
  2. Meanwhile the Dispatch’s previous coverage of the HB 597 vote, quoting Chad, reached Governing magazine’s website today. (Governing Magazine)
     
  3. Taking a moment out of Common Core coverage: Governing is also talking about Lakewood City Schools in its November issue. Did you know that Lakewood – an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland – is the most densely populated place between Chicago and New York City? Almost all students in Lakewood schools walk. Every day. They own no buses and never have, contracting with a neighboring district for field trips and transportation of students with mobility issues. (Governing Magazine)
     
  4. Back to Common Core to finish up: editors in Cleveland opined in anger today against the HB 597 committee vote. Bottom line: “Forcing an ongoing upheaval in academic standards in Ohio is wrongheaded and in no one's interests.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  1. EdWeek is still talking about charter school closures, and Fordham’s Kathryn Mullen Upton is on hand to not only talk best practices in the event of closure, but also to remind folks that strong application processes for new schools is really the key to mitigating closures: “It's much easier to say no on the front end.” Well said. (EdWeek)
     
  2. So, you may have heard that the stacked deck on the House Rules Committee voted yesterday to refer the Common Core repeal bill to the full House 7-2. Not a surprise, really. Media coverage of the vote – and of the bill’s uncertain future in the House – came in two flavors. First up, the clear and concise pieces, all of which quoted Fordham’s Chad Aldis on the consequences of Common Core repeal. You can check out the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch for the big-city take, and also for some choice quotes from House Education Committee Chair Gerald Stebelton. For the statewide take, check out Gongwer Ohio.  And of course there’s the national take from PoliticoPro.
     
  3. The second flavor of media coverage of the House Rules Committee vote was pretty much nonsensical. The Associated Press’s story ran in a number of papers, including the Akron Beacon Journal yesterday. Honestly, if anyone can tell me what is being said in those last two paragraphs, I’ll give you a lollipop. Props to journalist Ben Lanka for making  the trip all the way
  4. ...
  1. Before we talk election results, let’s note that editors in Columbus opine today on Ohio’s parent trigger law. They are not really fans, but do recognize the need for change in chronically underperforming schools. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Also before we talk election results, let’s note that no decision was made during Monday’s Monroe school board meeting in regard to their mothballed high school. All bids for a sale/swap were rejected, making this at least the third rejection of an offer by a local church to buy the building. Lots of interests at play here, very few of them having to do with the students in the district. (Middletown Journal News)
     
  3. NOW we’ll talk election results. Lots of seats on the state board of ed up for votes yesterday. The good folks at StateImpact Ohio keep the overview short and sweet. Most incumbents running for reelection won. The Toledo Blade notes that their district’s incumbent – a Republican – beat out two challengers including another Republican. The Middletown Journal-News focuses on the Common Core angle, noting that both the District 3 incumbent winner and the District 4 newcomer winner are both supporters of Common Core. And the Canton Repository keeps it local, noting (somewhat huffily) that no Stark County resident will sit on the board for the first time in over a decade after an incumbent and a local challenger were defeated in Districts 5 and 8, respectively.
     
  4. The Ledgemont schools property-tax
  5. ...
  1. At the end of the last House Rules Committee hearing on Common Core repeal, the chair halted testimony late in the evening saying that the next witness (a supporter of the bill) was so important that more committee members should be here to hear her. Well, the heck with that. Supposedly, there’s going to be a Rules Committee hearing tomorrow with no further testimony and a possible vote on the bill. Why the change of tack? The chair now double-negatively says, “I'm not sure that at this point that we haven't heard what everybody possibly has to say." And the bill’s co-sponsor says, "I was ready to vote it out a while ago.” Hmmmm... We shall see. Link (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Back in the real world, the state superintendent has approved an updated academic recovery plan for Youngstown City Schools, which gives more authority to the academic distress commission over the school board. It also limits the number of school board meetings to two per month. How’s that for intestinal fortitude? Oh, and it also sets some very concrete goals for both the short- and the long-term to improve the district’s academic performance. Not exactly the state takeover the Vindy’s editors were asking for a few months ago, but they’ve got to be pretty OK with this as a compromise.  (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  3. Our friends at Learn to Earn Dayton are helping to spearhead a new push to get high school seniors into and through college.
  4. ...

Over the last five years, prodded by the feds, states have adopted teacher evaluation systems. According to a recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, forty-one states, including Ohio, now require evaluations that include objective measures of student achievement. These aren’t the meat-axe assessments of yesteryear, though. These next-generation teacher evaluations combine classroom observations using new prescriptive protocols with quantitative evidence of learning gains on state tests (or another form of assessment) to determine each teacher’s effectiveness.

The national focus on teacher evaluations raises a couple of questions. First, why have states chosen to focus on teacher evaluations (i.e. what’s the problem that policymakers are trying to solve)? Second, are the new evaluations proving effective in solving the problem?

Let’s start with the why. Recall all the evidence that the single most important in-school factor for student achievement is teacher quality. If we know that good teachers make a difference, it's not surprising that we've focused on evaluating them. Such evaluations hold the potential to identify great teachers whom we can reward, retain, and/or hold up as models, struggling or developing teachers whom we can help to improve, and ineffective teachers who should be removed from the classroom. In other words, evaluations are intended to boost the effectiveness of teachers whom our children learn from.

That’s really only part of the answer, though. Even before there was a law mandating it, principals have long conducted teacher evaluations. Yet those traditional evaluations, typically based solely upon classroom...

In January, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education (ED) issued a joint “Dear Colleague” letter to K–12 schools. The letter calls into question whether minority children are punished more harshly than white children for the same infractions. The letter notes that schools could be guilty of discrimination in one of two ways: If a student is treated differently because of his or her race, or if a neutral policy has a “disparate impact.”

While the first method of determining discrimination is clear and fair, the second method is far more open to interpretation.  The letter explains that “examples of policies that can raise disparate impact concerns include policies that impose mandatory suspension, expulsion, or citation upon any student who commits a specified offense.” What the departments are suggesting here is that zero-tolerance policies, which impose a specific penalty for a specific offense, could have a disparate impact on minority students and may be discriminatory.

The disparate impact analysis forces the DOJ and ED into the murky water of differentiating between strict enforcement of zero-tolerance policies that are necessary to meeting educational goals and selective enforcement of policies that aren’t. Take, for example, what’s happening in Akron Public Schools (APS). The Akron Beacon Journal recently discovered that students in APS who commit egregious acts (like assaulting a teacher or bringing a weapon to school) have historically been immediately transferred to a different school—a...

The information yielded by standardized tests—and the analyses based on test results, like value-added—should form the basis for tough decisions regarding which schools (charter and district) or entire school systems require intervention. Parents need information about school quality, and taxpayers ought to know whether their resources are being put to good use. But at the same time, parents and policymakers alike have valid concerns about “overtesting” students, and how high-stakes tests change how schools behave.

Over the past decade, Ohio has tested social studies and science unevenly, and will continue to do so under the new assessment program set to begin in spring 2015. Under the old system, the state administered science tests in just grades 5 and 8, while math and English language arts (ELA) were assessed in all grades 3–8. Social studies was tested for just three years (2006–07 to 2008–09) in grades 5 and 8, but it was “suspended” effective fall 2009. The new state testing program continues science assessments in grades 5 and 8 and resurrects social studies testing in grades 4 and 6.

Should Ohio test in science and social studies, in addition to ELA and math assessments? And if so, how often? With that in mind, let’s look at the case to test and not to test in social studies and science—and then consider some policy options. 

The case against testing in social studies and science

The case against social studies and science rests on this premise: The incremental...

The Carnegie Science Center recently published a multi-faceted look at STEM education in a seventeen-county area encompassing parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The impetus of the study was a perceived "STEM gap"—employers in the region report having difficulty finding individuals with the requisite technical skills to fill vacant positions. Campos Research Strategy conducted in-depth interviews with educators and business leaders, surveyed nearly 1000 parents of school-age children in the region, held “family dialogues,” and conducted an online survey of one hundred middle and high school students. Efforts were made to balance participants among the counties and between rural and urban areas. Despite high hopes for STEM education among business, industry, and education leaders, the study found that parents’ and students’ awareness and understanding of what STEM is and how it might benefit them or their children is low. Awareness of STEM seems highest in urban areas in the region, but parents’ interest in STEM-related fields for their children is lowest in those same places. A majority of parents participating in the study indicated that their underlying attitudes toward education and careers aligned with many STEM fundamentals, but the typical language of STEM education and careers did not resonate with them. Anecdotes given by educators indicate that adults who had never participated in “engaging, hands-on activities” during their K–12 schooling were mistrustful of such education methods—seen as key components of the type of STEM education most needed in the area—and were a barrier to participation in them for...

The facility arrangements of one Ohio charter school recently came under fire in a Columbus Dispatch exposé. An investigation discovered that roughly half of the school’s budget was dedicated to rental payments, potentially shortchanging teaching and learning. But this episode isn’t an isolated case; many Buckeye charters have struggled to secure adequate facilities. How can Ohio policymakers and school leaders better ensure that charters have the facilities they need at a reasonable cost? First, they should consult this new report from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which contains a wealth of information on charter-school facilities funding from both private and public sources. The report includes descriptions of the key nonprofits in charter-facilities financing, including the Charter School Growth Fund, Capital Impact Partners, Low Income Investment Fund, and LISC. These nonprofits—twenty in all—have provided an impressive $2 billion in direct financing for charter facilities (e.g., loans and grants). When it comes to state support for charter facilities, Ohio has been woefully stingy. The state provided, for the first time in 2013, per-pupil funding to support the facility costs of brick-and-mortar charters (up to $100 per-pupil). But other jurisdictions are far less tightfisted. For example, Washington, D.C., Arizona, and Minnesota provide more than $1,000 per-pupil for facilities; four other states provide between $250 and $1,000 per pupil. To make matters worse, Ohio has not appropriated any funds to support its charter school loan program and provides no charter-facilities grants. Again, other jurisdictions do much...

Pages