Ohio Gadfly Daily

It may not be obvious at first blush, but the political fight happening in New York right now over teacher evaluations has implications for Ohio. Governor Cuomo has proposed increasing the weight of a student’s test scores to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, made possible by a proposed decrease in the weight of a principal’s observations. Ohio Governor John Kasich hasn’t proposed any significant changes to teacher evaluations this year, but consider this: both Ohio and New York do a poor job of objectively evaluating teachers  who don’t have grade- and subject-specific assessments, both states allow the unfair option of shared attribution, and stakeholders in each are questioning whether teacher evaluations give rise to extra hours of assessments that aren’t meaningful for students. This leads to a big question: Is there a way to fix these problems?    

Enter Educators 4 Excellence  (E4E) and their alternative teacher evaluation framework. E4E is an organization comprised of former and current teachers. Its mission is to magnify teacher voices in policy and legislative arenas where educator views are often overlooked—despite the fact that ensuing decisions significantly impact the day-to-day lives of teachers. E4E supports teacher evaluations that are “fair and rigorous,” and the organization published a paper in 2013 that made suggestions for how to improve the evaluation system in New York. In light of Governor Cuomo’s proposed reforms, they’ve recommended an alternative framework—which just so happens to solve most of the issues with...

  1. There was some opining on House Bill 2 this weekend. That’s the first of the charter law reform bills introduced in the 131st General Assembly, which passed both the education committee and the full House last week. Editors in Akron opined on changes to the “sponsor-hopping” provisions this weekend, provisions which were altered from introduction to passage. (Akron Beacon Journal, 3/28/15)
     
  2. Meanwhile, editors in Chillicothe seemed more bullish as they opine on the reforms in HB 2, and the bipartisan support for charter reform that helped initiate the bill in the first place. (Chillicothe Gazette, 3/28/15)
     
  3. We close out with more editorializing. Editors in Columbus opine this morning against testing opt-outs in Columbus and elsewhere. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/30/15)

In Ohio and across the nation, charters have struggled to obtain adequate, appropriate space in which to operate. As competitors, districts have been reluctant to allow charters to operate in buildings that they own, whether through co-location in an open district school or taking residence in a shuttered school. But according to the latest report from the National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC), a few states and cities have been proactive in helping charters access district facilities. The report, using charter survey data across fourteen states from 2007 to 2014, reveals that charters in California and New York—New York City, in particular—were most likely to operate in district-owned space. In California, nearly half (45 percent) of charters operated in district facilities, while 31 percent of New York charters did so. In New York City, 62 percent of the city’s charters operated in a district facility, undoubtedly encouraged by the $1 rental fee that the district was permitted to charge charters (an innovation of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s). The study also reported some variation in the financial arrangements between districts and charters: Of the charters that operated in a district-owned facility, 46 percent of them reported paying no fee to the district, 41 percent reported paying the district an amount equivalent to the cost of operating the building (a median facility cost of $118,500), and 13 percent reported paying the district an amount above the cost of maintaining the building (a median cost of $540,068). Ohio is not included in...

  1. Busy end to the week around here. First up, House Bill 2 passed out of the education committee on a party line vote on Wednesday. Despite those last amendments we told you about earlier, this is still a huge step forward for charter law in Ohio. Chad is quoted saying just that in the following coverage:  The Alliance Review, 3/26/15, others via AP, and Gongwer Ohio (3/25/15)
     
  2. Also on Wednesday, Senate Bill 3 – the education deregulation bill – passed the full senate on a vote of 24-9. As it stands now, 125 districts would qualify. The Dispatch piece names names of those districts in Franklin and Delaware County. None are surprising. Now, on to the House. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/25/15)
     
  3. Ahead of a full House vote on HB 2, editors in Columbus opined that while “significant”, the bill still wasn’t the best it could be, especially with regards to what didn’t make it in to the bill in committee. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/26/15)
     
  4. The House vote on HB 2 took place yesterday morning. Some discussion was had on the floor on what did and didn’t make it into the bill, but in the end the vote was 70-25. Upon passage, Chad reiterated his support for the bill as “strong legislation that brought together legislators from both parties to do what's right for kids who attend charter schools." On the Senate. Coverage from the Columbus Dispatch (3/26/15), Gongwer Ohio (3/26/15), and WKSU-FM,
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  1. In case you missed it yesterday, HB 2 – the standalone charter law reform bill in the House – received a couple of amendments. Here are two reports on that, both from yesterday afternoon and both quoting Chad.  In the Columbus Dispatch piece, Chad finds the watering-down of anti-sponsor-hopping language to be “a head-scratcher”. In the WKSU-FM radio piece, he opines in more detail, noting that unchecked sponsor-hopping can lead to something of a race to the bottom in terms of school quality.
     
  2. The Plain Dealer looked more closely at what’s NOT in HB 2 as it headed for a committee vote today: specifically, a provision to require wide open books for private entities running schools. In-depth piece on the issue from the perspective of one of the bill’s co-sponsor and the usual “sunshine advocates”. Not a word from charter school advocates in there though. Perhaps they were busy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/24/15)
     
  3. As we have noted more than once, charter law reform is on the minds of many across Ohio. Case in point, editors at the Findlay Courier who opined yesterday on the vital need for charter reform. And they only have one small district-run (and apparently successful) online charter in the town and not another one for 40 miles in any direction! (Findlay Courier, 3/24/15)
     
  4. As also noted previously, charter law reform efforts are coming from everywhere in state government. Much of the attention now is focused on HB 2 –
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Since its birth in 1990, Teach For America (TFA) has been one of the most scrutinized education reform programs on record. Not without reason: TFA takes a bold, innovative approach to teacher selection and preparation. Instead of having aspiring teachers slog through the conventional education school coursework before setting foot in a classroom, TFA recruits young people from selective universities, provides a five-week training program, and places them in high-need schools, including in Northeast and Southwest Ohio. The research evidence on TFA teachers’ impact has been mainly positive—particularly in math in the higher grades. But somewhat less known is the impact of TFA in the earlier grades. This study analyzes TFA teachers’ effectiveness in grades PK–5, employing “gold standard,” random-assignment methodology. Researchers randomly assigned 2,153 students to 156 teachers—sixty-six TFA and ninety comparison teachers—in thirty-six high-poverty schools, most of which were located in the urban South. The study compares students’ reading and math outcomes from the 2012–13 school year along the Woodcock-Johnson III achievement test for grades PK–2 and state tests for grades 3–5. The main finding: Across grades PK–5, no differences in average math and reading outcomes were detected between students taught by a TFA versus non-TFA instructor. In other words, elementary TFA teachers were just as effective as their traditionally trained counterparts, who had an average of about fourteen years of classroom experience. But when the researchers broke down the research results, they discovered that PK–2 TFA instructors had a positive impact on...

The National Conference of State Legislatures has put together a nice primer on accountability for private school choice programs. Twenty-three states, one Colorado school district, and the District of Columbia presently have such programs, including “traditional” tuition vouchers, education savings accounts, scholarship tax credits, and personal tax credits or deductions. Accountability requirements for schools participating in such programs vary. Most states require: 1) a measure of school quality (whether via student assessment data or outside accreditation), 2) determination of financial strength and sustainability, and 3) meeting minimum seat-time requirements. Once private schools are permitted to accept voucher students and public dollars begins to flow, the gamut of accountability measures—and the consequences of failing to meet them—broadens. Programs can differ by testing requirements for students (same-state assessments as their public school peers or tests of their own choosing), how and to whom test results are reported, whether outside accreditation can substitute for testing, and the level and timing of sanctions related to low performance. NCSL’s report provides an overview of the varying ways these accountability measures function in Louisiana, Indiana, and Wisconsin. While Ohio is not spotlighted, it could have been. Ohio law has some meaningful accountability built into its private school choice programs. For example, in the EdChoice and Cleveland Scholarships, the state requires private schools taking voucher students to have completed the state’s rigorous chartering process and requires voucher students to take the state assessment. Those test results are reported at a school level, but private schools do not...

Discussion of charter schools is everywhere in the Ohio news. Everyone has an angle, including a few unexpected ones:

  • The Ohio Federation of Teachers is actively trying to unionize a number of charters around the state. They are having some success, like at Franklinton Preparatory Academy in Columbus. But don’t misunderstand the effort. “Although we believe that all teachers should have the right to organize,” clarifies OFT President Melissa Cropper in the Akron Beacon-Journal, “we don’t feel right organizing teachers in a school we are trying to shut down.”
  • The Ohio Newspaper Association is using charter schools as a springboard to push its open-records “sunshine disinfectant” agenda anew.
  • Journalists in Columbus and Toledo are questioning the appropriate amount for a charter school to spend on advertising. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), a statewide online charter, spends somewhere around 2 percent of its budget (over $2 million) on advertising to recruit students.
  • State Auditor Dave Yost seems to find the in-depth charter school debate a useful one for focusing attention on the challenges of public/private hybrid entities—a particular bane for auditors, to be sure—of which charters are just one example.
  • In Akron City Schools, the loss of students (and money) to online charter schools has hit so hard that they have decided to start up a new e-school program of their own, effective immediately. Its stated intention: bringing into the district elementary students who are enrolled in charters or homeschooled and retaining
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Lots to cover since our last publication date, so let’s get to it.

  1. In case you missed it last week, the Ohio Department of Education released its first report on charter school sponsors rankings in the state last week, focusing on the two entities that earned “exemplary” ratings. Those were The Ohio Council of Community Schools and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Kudos to OCCS and to our Dayton staff for this achievement. We know it is hard but important work they do every day. Coverage of the announcement was perhaps a bit more subdued than you might think – it was covered in a Columbus Dispatch blog on 3/19 and in Gongwer Ohio on 3/20. I wonder if the announcements of lower rankings will get more coverage? NOTE: The Gongwer piece also mentions CREDO’s latest report on charter school performance and includes a quote from our own Aaron Churchill.
     
  2. Gongwer also covered education-related testimony on the state budget bill (HB 64) last week. Lots of topics covered, including charter law reform. Chad’s testimony is highlighted, but mostly on topics other than charter law reform. Like I said, lots going on around here these days! (Gongwer Ohio, 3/18/15)
     
  3. An in-depth story on charter law reform efforts afoot in the legislature – including quotes from Chad and a recognition of DECA and DECA Prep in Dayton as the awesome schools that they are. (Dayton Daily News, 3/22/15)
     
  4. On to other topics. Former Ohio Governor
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NOTE: Below is the text of a press release issued by Fordham today.

The Ohio Department of Education has awarded the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s sponsorship operation a rating of “Exemplary,” the state’s highest mark, for our work sponsoring charter schools.

On a zero-to-100 scale, our scores are as follows:

  • Quality Practices: 97.4
  • Student Academic Outcomes: 100
  • Compliance: 100
  • Overall Score: 99.1

“This recognition would not be possible without the hard work of the schools with whom we work,” said Kathryn Mullen Upton, Vice President for Sponsorship and Dayton Initiatives “We look forward to continuing to improve our efforts to positively impact outcomes for the children in the schools that we serve.”

The Department evaluates sponsors in three critical areas: quality practices, student academic outcomes, and compliance. Quality practices includes all areas of a sponsor’s day-to-day work: review of proposed school applications, contracts, monitoring and oversight, renewal, school closure, technical assistance, and agency commitment. Student academic outcomes are evaluated based on learning gains made by students at different levels of proficiency. Compliance focuses on the extent to which a sponsor monitors the health and safety of children and staff. More information about the Quality Sponsor Practices Review is available here.

“We’re thrilled to have earned an exemplary rating,” said Michael J. Petrilli, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. “More importantly,...

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