Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. The Dispatch today published an op ed by our own Chad Aldis, reinforcing the call for a common-sense overhaul of Ohio’s charter school law. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Editors in Akron today published their own editorial on the same subject. They are a bit more pessimistic about both recommendations and determination on the part of Ohio’s elected leaders than Chad is, but they seem generally supportive of the Fordham-sponsored research that has led up to the overhaul effort. Nice. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. I mentioned that yesterday’s StateImpact story on the “American Graduate” project seemed to be missing something. Specifically, it seemed to lack any tie-in to real efforts going on in Cleveland to help students with difficult family and life circumstances to stay in school and graduate. Thus I was hopeful that this follow-up story talking more deeply about the specific struggles faced by several of the college students on the Cleveland panel would help to provide more insight. I was wrong. Sorry folks: “Just Don’t Not Achieve, No Matter What” is not a helpful message for kids in the real world. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. We’ll end on a bit of good news. We told you several weeks ago that the Parma school district was simultaneously negotiating with both teaching and non-teaching staff unions and that a recent round of talks led to speculation about what could have been a double-whammy strike.  Well, it now seems like the longest-simmering of these negotiations – with the non-teaching
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  1. As we approach the end of the year, expect a lot of “looking back” articles from reporters across the state. Usually there’s not a lot new in these pieces – making life difficult for clipsters like myself – but here’s an interesting one. The former chair of the academic distress commission overseeing Youngstown City Schools looks back on her time in the (very) hot seat and on what’s happened in the six months since she left the commission. Not much has changed for the district academically – for which the former chair seems to blame the “shifting target” of success indicators – but the commission itself has taken some serious steps to curb the influence of the Board of Education since she left. Fascinating, and a bit sad. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  2. The president and CEO of Innovation Ohio has a guest commentary in the Blade today, ostensibly rebutting the pro-charter school commentary from the president of the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools published two weeks ago. But honestly, after the last two weeks of high-quality data, specific recommendations, media attention, and political support for real change in Ohio’s charter sector, this piece just comes off as tired, slanted, and behind the times. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. Perhaps I’m missing something here? Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate program pulled into Cleveland last week and held what is presented in this piece as a “pep rally” for a group of eighth graders from a low-income neighborhood in the city. It
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It’s been a busy month in the world of Ohio charter schools.

First, on December 9, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a report on Charter School Performance in Ohio, supported by Fordham-Ohio. Using test data from 2007–08 through 2012–13, CREDO concluded that Buckeye charters produce mediocre results that haven’t improved much in recent years. In fact, the low academic performance of Ohio charter students is estimated to be the equivalent of fourteen fewer days of learning in reading and forty-three fewer days in math each year compared to traditional district students. Our summary of the findings spelled out the good news and the bad, but more importantly focused on the direction that Ohio’s charter sector needs to take in order to improve. We weren’t the only ones to take this tack.  

The Plain Dealer published two pieces on the CREDO report; the first largely focused on the “big picture” data points as noted above. In the second piece, education reporter Patrick O’Donnell noted that the "grim" results underscore an immediate need to improve charter quality. But he also pointed out that, unlike other areas of the state, Cleveland charters showed positive results—the equivalent of fourteen additional days of learning in both reading and math. The Plain Dealer also noted that CREDO’s research shows equivalent percentages of special education students and English language learners in charters and traditional districts—an important rebuke to charter critics’ claim that the percentage of such students is...

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice recently released the latest in its School Survey Series—this installment features data compiled on Ohio’s private schools. Because private schools are less regulated than public schools, there’s a dearth of information available. What does exist is largely demographic in nature or the result of surveys voluntarily completed by school leaders. The Friedman report uses a combination of data from the U.S. Department of Education (survey) and the Ohio Department of Education (demographic), most of it presented in terms of percentages. While there are some differences between the two sets of numbers, no matter how you slice it, the numbers of private schools and students have declined over the years. The annual federal surveys show average enrollment in private schools was 245 students in 2011–12, down from a peak of 272 students in the 1995–96 school year. And the demographic makeup of private schools is shifting as well. From 2005–06 to 2011–12, the number of black private school students increased by 3 percent, while their share of the public school population moved downward—likely a result of the state’s myriad voucher initiatives. In 2014–15, nearly half of Ohio’s private schools are registered to accept students in the largest voucher program, the EdChoice Scholarship. However, many of those schools report to ODE that they are not operating at full capacity, and author Andrew Catt’s analysis of the self-reported numbers suggests that as many as 36,794 currently open seats could theoretically be filled with scholarship...

The 2014 version of the State Teacher Policy Yearbook from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) focuses heavily on the “critical issue” of teacher preparation. And in the glare of that spotlight, NCTQ finds that, while the average state grade for teacher preparation policies has improved from a D in 2011 to a C in 2014, there is still far more work to be done to ensure that new teachers are prepared to help students meet the demands of college and career-ready standards. Three states—Florida, Indiana, and Rhode Island—are ahead of the pack and earned grades of B+. Two states (Alaska and Montana) earned dismal F grades. Ohio falls into the middle of the pack with a grade of C, but this “average” grade hides several troubling truths about Ohio’s teacher preparation practices. For example, in Ohio, only fourth- and fifth-grade elementary teachers are required to pass adequately rigorous content tests. In fact, the Buckeye State is one of only four states in the nation that doesn’t require all elementary teachers to pass a content test prior to licensure. Ohio’s middle school teacher preparation policy is better, since teachers must pass an appropriate content test in every core subject they are licensed to teach. The same is true at the high school level, but the tests have significant loopholes for science and social studies teacher candidates. These candidates, who often specialize in certain disciplines (think chemistry vs. biology; American history vs. world history), are permitted to take content tests...

  1. Editors at the Dispatch opined on the need to fix charter school law in Ohio – now. Due is given to the recent CREDO and Bellwether reports on the charter school sector in Ohio, to Fordham’s role in getting those reports done and out in the world, and to Governor Kasich’s pledge to make change happen next year. Now the hard work begins.  (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Lots of Ohio news outlets are looking back on the 130th General Assembly now that it is over; mostly in large-scale wrap up pieces. Journalist Ben Lanka however is focused specifically on the legislative challenge to Ohio’s Learning Standards (including Common Core). Chad is quoted in this story, which notes the failure to repeal Ohio’s Learning Standards this time around, and assuring us that the legislative fight isn’t over yet. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  3. Like a fun-house-mirror image of item 1 above, editors in Youngstown opined on the need to fix charter school law in Ohio – now. However, there is no mention of the CREDO and Bellwether reports, the Vindy claims credit themselves for shining light on the need for action, and their suggestion for action is a bipartisan commission outside of elected officials. Weird. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. Like a mirror-image of item 2 above, the Dayton Daily News also talked about the fate of Common Core repeal legislation in the 130th General Assembly. They seem a lot more pessimistic about the effort’s ability to reconstitute next year, and about
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Just when we thought the week couldn’t get any better, Governor John Kasich gave all of Ohio’s   education reform groups an early Christmas present, pledging to “fix the lack of regulation on charter schools.” Nice! There was quite a bit of coverage of this pledge across the state, in three distinct flavors:

  1. First were the reports that explicitly linked Kasich’s comments to the two reports (CREDO and Bellwether) which Fordham commissioned and released in the last two weeks. Best examples are Gongwer Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch (who first broke the story), and the Cincinnati Enquirer. The latter piece also ran in other outlets in their network. 
     
  2. Next up are the folks who trumpet the good news from the governor and reference “recent reports” without talking directly about Fordham. These are the Cleveland Plain Dealer (not namechecking CREDO or Bellwether either for that matter) and the Canton Repository. But good news is good news, so let’s not quibble.
     
  3. And then there’s the Youngstown Vindicator, whose version of the story is a) self-contained and b) devoid of mention of any catalyzing event. You know what? We’ll take that too.
     
  4. The Beacon Journal was conspicuously silent on the governor’s comments yesterday – about charter schools or anything else. What were they talking about instead? A “mass exodus” of teachers in Ohio due to changes in pension rules a couple of years back.  It’s an
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  1. I guess every day of news clips can’t focus on Fordham. *Sigh* The folks at StateImpact took a look at Innovation Ohio’s latest report on charter school funding, which was released the same day as our Bellwether report. In fact, that report is mentioned obliquely here, along with the CREDO report on Ohio charter school performance released last week. (And not in a nice way, but what’s new?) The usual “us vs. them” rhetoric is trotted out in this brief story, but it ends on a positive note: charter opponents “want state lawmakers to take up the school funding issue during the next session.” We’re with you. Let’s do it. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  2. The 130th Ohio General Assembly has pretty much ridden off into the sunset, but not before a final flurry of lame duck legislation as the night was falling yesterday. And it’s fascinating what can find its way into bills in the twilight hours. To wit: a provision added to HB178 allows, for the first time, certain students eligible for the Cleveland Scholarship Program to use their vouchers in a private school just outside the city limits of Cleveland. We applaud this small but significant move and are glad that these few Cleveland families are truly able to choose the school they want for their children, regardless of geographic boundaries. How about we blow that up big and allow it for everyone? (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  3. During the debate around possible elimination Ohio’s so-called “5 of 8”
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NOTE: On December 16, 2014, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a report researched and written by Bellwether Education Partners with the aim of providing a strong roadmap to guide charter school advocates and policymakers in Ohio when moving forward with a broad rewrite of the state's charter school law. This is the Foreword to that report. The full report can be found here.

This fall, the editorial boards of two Ohio newspapers issued stinging missives urging legislators to make sweeping changes to the state’s charter-school law. In September, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer opined that lawmakers should “work together on a bill to improve charter schools.” One month later, in light of revelations about a questionable charter-facilities deal, the Columbus Dispatch argued that charter reform “should address lease deals along with other loopholes, conflicts and oversights in Ohio’s charter-school system.”

They’re absolutely right: 120,000 Buckeye charter students deserve to attend a school governed by a great charter law—a law that puts the interests of children first. But at the present time, Ohio’s charter law too often fails to protect these students’ best interests; instead, in too many ways, it protects powerful vested interests, smothers schools with red tape, starves even the best schools, and tolerates academic mediocrity.

Predictably, overall charter-school performance in Ohio has been lackluster. In the two most extensive evaluations of Ohio charter performance in 2009 and 2014, Stanford University’s Center for Research on...

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