Ohio Gadfly Daily

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) undoubtedly increased the federal footprint in education. As Congress debates how to rewrite the law, a new analysis from Bellwether Education Partners couldn’t be timelier.

The report starts with a look at the history of federal involvement in K–12 education and how NCLB tilted the balance of power toward Uncle Sam. Although NCLB started as a bipartisan bill with broad support, critics multiplied as the deadline for universal proficiency approached, interventions for low-performing schools mounted, and conditional waivers from the law were granted by the Department of Education. Among its shortfalls, NCLB included “over-prescriptive” provisions that mandate how a state education system should be run and a misguided one-size-fits-all approach.

But the law wasn’t all bad. Evidence suggests that NCLB’s accountability measures were effective in improving schools and student performance. These improvements were particularly evident among black and Hispanic students. The authors of this report applaud a requirement that states break down testing data into disadvantaged subgroups, thereby shining a light on students who are most at risk.

So how can policymakers keep the good (transparency and accountability) while ditching the bad (micromanagement)? The Bellwether analysts turn to the charter concept and argue...

On June 30, Governor John Kasich vetoed forty-four items in the budget  and signed the rest into law. Among the provisions that survived is an extension of “safe harbor” as Ohio continues its transition to new standards and assessments. Last year, lawmakers created this “safe harbor” policy for students, schools, and teachers; it pertains to certain test-based accountability provisions for 2014–15. With the 2015 budget bill, they’ve extended it by two more years (2015–16 and 2016–17).

The safe harbor provisions for students and teachers are pretty straightforward. For students, test scores from the 2014–15, 2015–16, or 2016–17 school years cannot be used “as a factor in any decision to promote or to deny the student promotion to a higher grade level or in any decision to grant course credit.” While not explicitly mentioned, this means that failed End of Course exams won’t equate to lost course credit or failure to graduate.  

For teachers, safe harbor means that the “value-added progress dimension rating” determined by state tests administered in 2014–15 and 2015–16 cannot be used for “assessing student academic growth” for teacher evaluations, or “when making decisions regarding the dismissal, retention, tenure, or compensation” of teachers. There is,...

Charter schools joined the usual suspects—tax reform, school funding, and Medicaid—as one of the most debated and well-publicized issues of this spring’s legislative session. If you’ve followed the issue, that probably doesn’t surprise you. After all, Governor Kasich, President Faber, and Speaker Rosenberger all announced their intentions early in the year to tackle charter school reform. The result was three strong pieces of legislation (House Bill 64, House Bill 2, and Senate Bill 148) that sought to improve the charter sector. When the legislature recessed for the summer, only HB 64, the state’s biennial budget bill, had passed. (HB 2 and SB 148 won’t be analyzed here, as they’re still pending in the legislature.)

When Governor Kasich’s team rolled out HB 64, it contained a host of charter school reforms. The focus was on strengthening the Ohio Department of Education’s ability to oversee charter school sponsors. It built on the department’s recently implemented sponsor evaluation system and instituted a series of sanctions and incentives for sponsors in an effort to drive improved student achievement at the school level. The proposal also included a series...

Trailing only Medicaid, school spending is the second-largest public expenditure in Ohio’s $65 billion annual budget. Over the next biennium, the state is slated to spend $12 billion per year on education (including $2 billion per year in federal funds administered by the state), on top of $8 billion per year raised via local property taxes. Altogether, annual education expenditures will clock in at around $11,000 per student.

The bulk of state education spending—$7.4 billion in fiscal year 2016 (FY 16) and $7.7 billion in fiscal year 2017 (FY 17)—is sent to districts via block grants, meaning that districts can allocate funds as they choose. The value of the block grant is determined by a funding formula. FY 16’s formula aid represents an increase of 4.9 percent relative to FY 15, and the amount in FY 17 adds another 4.2 percent on top of that. These are generous increases, especially since statewide enrollment is slightly declining; they also exceed the recent rate of inflation.

Without a doubt, Ohio taxpayers are making big financial contributions to education. But one of the perennial (and perplexing) questions is whether taxpayer dollars are being properly allocated. Oftentimes—and this spring was...

Nominally, private schools (or “chartered nonpublic schools,” as they are known in the Ohio Revised Code) operate with a minimal amount of state oversight. Practically, however, there is a long history of state involvement with them. In exchange for added oversight, private schools receive transportation services for students (or parents can receive payment in lieu of transportation) through the district in which they are located; they can also seek state reimbursement, also passing through the district, for costs like textbook purchasing and school administration. Since Ohio began voucher programs in 1996, the bond has become even stronger.

On June 30, 2015, Governor John Kasich signed into law the new biennial budget (House Bill 64), which included a number of provisions impacting private schools. Here is a review of the most significant provisions.

Auxiliary Services (AS) and Administrative Cost Reimbursement (ACR)

As boring as their names may sound, these budget line items are the primary mechanism by which the state and private schools interact. Chartered nonpublic schools can request and receive reimbursements for textbooks, diagnostic/therapeutic/remedial personnel services, and “educational equipment” through the AS process. Transportation services provided to private school students are also funded via the AS...

  1. The California “similar students” measure of achievement – as proposed for charter schools in the currently-stalled House Bill 2 – gets another bashing in the media. Our own Aaron Churchill is quoted here, in favor of sticking with value added measures. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/25/15)
     
  2. Like it or not, Ohio is living in a “post-5-of-8 world”. The state board of education earlier this year removed a decades-old support staffing requirement for districts. Instead of mandating specific numbers of librarians, art and music teachers, and counselors based on student population, districts can now decide their staffing needs on their own. It’s probably a bit too soon to tell for sure, but the media says that either the sky is already falling (librarians are going the way of the printed book, says the Columbus Dispatch, 7/27/15)….or it’s not (art and music teachers seem safe…for now, says the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, 7/26/15).
     
  3. As you all may know, Ohio’s Straight A Fund survived the state budget process, but at a level much reduced from the last biennium. The governing board of the fund – designed to reward educational innovation – was last week mulling how best to proceed and get
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  1. The state legislature is largely adjourned for the summer, but that’s not stopping folks who are interested in the issue of charter schools from reporting and opining about legislation left on the table. You can read about the opining below, but here are two pieces of journalism to start with. First up is a look at what is called the California "Similar Students" measure of school performance, essentially a replacement for value-added measures, which is proposed in the currently-stalled House Bill 2. The piece links to Ohio Gadfly Daily posts by our own Aaron Churchill and guest blogger Vladimir Kogan of Ohio State University, both denouncing the proposed switch. Kogan calls the California Model “the poor-man’s value-added.” Yowch. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/22/15)  But the PD’s Patrick O’Donnell is a true journalist and wants to hear every side of the story. A companion piece to the above digs deep into the who and the why of the California “Similar Students” model push in Ohio. The model, supporters say, adjusts school evaluations based on percentages of students with disabilities, economic disadvantages, limited English proficiency, and students in their current school for less than one year. It is, they say, a
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It feels like we’ve been talking about charter sponsor evaluations and the Youngstown Plan for so long that there hasn’t been room to report on much else. Today, we leave both of those elephants back in their rooms and look at what else is happening in education news…at least in the northern part of Ohio:

  1. What’s a school district to do when it surveys the community and gets double the number of expected responses? Ask for even more. That is the situation in Orange City Schools in Pepper Pike, Ohio. While they were pleased with the large response, they felt that a broader segment of the community was not represented, specifically families of color, senior citizens, and private school families who many never have even stepped foot into an Orange district school. And they are going all out to engage those folks because “a healthy school system contributes to a healthy community”. For everyone. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/21/15)
  2. Here’s another interesting story about school districts with shrinking enrollment numbers. It seems to be
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  1. Following last week’s firestorm over its charter school sponsor review process, ODE on Friday rescinded all previously-announced sponsor rankings, including the “exemplary” rating earned by Fordham. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/17/15) This turn of events was also covered by the Beacon Journal, and included a quote from a blog post by our own Aaron Churchill on a different but related subject. To call the ABJ story “wide-ranging” would be an understatement. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/17/15)
     
  2. The fallout continued over the weekend as the leader of the school choice section of ODE resigned in the wake of the controversy over the sponsor review process. Coverage of the resignation was widespread and included the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/19/15), the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/20/15), and various other outlets via the Associated Press (Columbus Dispatch via AP, 7/19/15)
     
  3. Even before the resignation was announced, the editorializing had begun. First up, editors in Akron opined in favor of immediate investigation of ODE, preferably by the state auditor (I know) in regard to the sponsor review process. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/18/15). Same goes for editors in Cleveland, although they went ahead and updated their opinion in light
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  1. As we told you already, the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school sponsor review process came under fire in the State Board of Education earlier this week. The piling on has begun, but obviously when State Auditor Dave Yost (I know!) weighs in, folks listen. Fordham’s VP for Sponsorship Kathryn Mullen Upton is quoted in the Dispatch’s piece, stressing once again the importance of proper sponsor reviews: “ ‘We’ve got a real quality issue with charter schools in Ohio,’ she said. And sponsors play a role in that… ‘They’re the ones that can let a bad school go on indefinitely.’” Well said. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/15/15)
     
  2. Additional coverage of the sponsor review brouhaha can be found in various outlets via the Associated Press (AP, 7/16/15), the Beacon Journal (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/16/15), and the Plain Dealer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/16/15)
     
  3. The Dispatch also touches on the charter sponsor review situation while opining – again – in favor of swift charter law reform. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/17/15)
     
  4. I’m not sure whether this qualifies as irony or satire, but teachers at three charter schools in Youngstown voted to unionize this week. Yep. That should take
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