Ohio Gadfly Daily

Last week, Ohio policymakers took a bold step toward strengthening education in persistently low-performing districts. House Bill 70, which passed both legislative chambers, grants significant new powers and responsibilities to the state’s academic distress commissions. Among the key provisions is a call for an appointed chief executive officer who would lead each district’s reform efforts.

Created by the state in 2007, academic distress commissions are triggered when districts fail to meet basic academic standards. Presently, two districts—Youngstown and Lorain—are overseen by separate commissions. These are the key features of the commission, as specified under present but now soon-to-be retired state law:

  • They are directed to assist the district.
  • They consist of three members appointed by the state superintendent and two appointed by the president of the district board; the state superintendent designates the chair.
  • They must adopt an academic recovery plan for the district, to be updated annually;
  • They are vested with certain managerial rights, such as appointing and reassigning school administrators, terminating contracts, and creating a budget; however, state law does not require a commission to exercise these rights.

Unfortunately, these arrangements were largely toothless. The commission existed only to assist the district and to draw recovery plans—not...

  1. The new editor of the Columbus Dispatch opined today in support of continuing PARCC testing in Ohio, using some pretty strong language. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/24/15)
     
  2. The defunding of PARCC in Ohio is one of many items being discussed by a small group of legislators as the new state budget grinds its way through House/Senate Conference committee. Another issue is the K-12 education funding formula. Two editorial boards have opined on this topic in the last few days. Editors in Akron opined against the Senate’s plan in favor of the House’s, likely a difficult position for them to be in, akin to choosing the lesser of two evils. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/22/15). Meanwhile, editors in Toledo opine in against both legislative plans, opting instead to tout the governor’s original school funding changes, which I KNOW can’t have been easy for anyone there to write. (Toledo Blade, 6/24/15)
     
  3. Speaking of legislators, the Youngstown School Board president spoke to the media yesterday, saying she thought something was afoot in the legislature with regard to her district. She called for a meeting with state officials – and all their lawyers. (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/23/15) Today, it seems there
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  1. The Cleveland Transformation Alliance has released its school chooser guide – a best and worst listing of local schools for parents – in both print and online versions. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/20/15) There is also a companion piece showing how the rankings were calculated. For the skeptics, probably. What’s new? A single rating that combines Performance Index, Value-added, and graduation rate info. Simple, yes, but maybe too simple. Worth a look. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/20/15)
     
  2. This is twisty, so stay with me. Given the amount of vitriol that school district officials and their known associates routinely level at charter schools, it may surprise you to know that a number of school districts sponsor their own charters. These are often “dropout-recovery” schools for students at risk of failing and are often partially or wholly online models. As we have seen, online schools in Ohio have had some troubles accounting for student attendance and work time, resulting in audit findings for recovery of funds. But what happens when the same trouble occurs in a district-sponsored school? An audit finding for recovery that results in the sponsor (London City Schools in this case) perhaps being asked to give back
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In the midst of debates about whether school is the best place to combat the effects of poverty, several educational institutions have taken it upon themselves to integrate non-academic poverty-relief supports into their academic programs. According to a new report from the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, these schools offer unique on-the-ground efforts to support high-need students above and beyond the traditional academic model. They include KIPP, SEED schools, the Harlem Children's Zone, and community-based schools like those found in Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).

Each organization offers its own take on anti-poverty programming. KIPP focuses on extended school days and years, character education, and initiatives like KIPP Through College, which includes step-by-step assistance in the college admission process as well as after-school tutoring and counseling. These are services that other high-poverty schools struggle to offer. KIPP is also extending its services in specific locations; KIPP Houston, for instance, features a school-based health clinic called KIPP Care. The SEED schools, meanwhile, take efforts even further with a one-of-a-kind public boarding school model: Those enrolled live on campus five days a week, then head home for the weekend. Students, many of whom come from...

  1. In case you missed it, our own Chad Aldis had an op ed published in the Enquirer late on Wednesday. In it, he talked about the findings of our recent report on education deregulation in Ohio and urged the Buckeye State to “go big” on deregulation to spur innovation, excellence. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/17/15)
     
  2. Some folks were caught a bit flat-footed by the PD piece earlier in the week which asked some tough questions about the state’s new-ish charter sponsor rating system. Here is round 2. Chad is quoted extensively here, but his bottom line is clear and concise: "Making sure we have it right is pretty important." Very true. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/17/15)
     
  3. But the PD is not done yet. In Cleveland, charter schools can partner with the district and get some perks – including access to local funding – but only if those schools are “high quality”. The PD asserts that the district’s criteria for high quality are more rigorous than the state’s. Probably a different way of looking at it (school vs. sponsor), but interesting nonetheless. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/18/15)
     
  4. Pretty big bombshell late yesterday – state Board of Ed member
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A push by some charter advocates resulted in a last-minute amendment to House Bill 2 which may introduce the “California Similar Students Measures” (CSSM) into Ohio’s school-accountability system. This is an entirely unnecessary effort, and CSSM should not be implemented in the Buckeye State.

The California Charter Schools Association developed CSSM, a simple regression model that uses school-level data, to approximate a value-added student growth model. The reason: California does not have an official student growth measure. CCSM is an improvement over using only a school’s raw proficiency results to evaluate schools, and the organization deserves credit for implementing it in California. However, a CSSM-like analysis should only be used in the absence of a proper student growth measure—and as such, it has no place in Ohio.

Ohio legislators should read very carefully CCSA’s own caveat emptor (emphasis added):

While CCSA believes these metrics [CSSMs] are an improvement on the existing measures in law for charter renewal, longitudinally linked, individual student growth data is the ideal source for most appropriately assessing a school’s performance. Because the Similar Students Measure is calculated with aggregate school-level data, it is an approximation of value-added modeling. True value-added modeling requires individual student data connected to the schools...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis had a commentary piece published in the PD this morning, urging the General Assembly to stay the course on charter law reform. You’re so close, gang! And a tiny rap on the knuckles to the PD editorial board – on behalf of our awesome Dayton team – for use of the term “manage” in reference to their sponsorship work.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/17/15)
     
  2. The editorial board of the Dispatch have no trouble with the term “sponsor”, as evidenced by today’s opinion piece lauding Ohio’s newish sponsor rating process. Fordham is namechecked here as one of the sponsors rated “exemplary”. Dispatch defends exemplary sponsors. Link (Columbus Dispatch, 6/17/15)
     
  3. Well, strike me pink! The folks at the Think Twice project of the National Education Policy Center looked at Fordham Ohio’s recent “blockbuster” report on school closures and student achievement…and chose not to destroy it. In fact, even the caveats they put forward are ones discussed during our panel event upon release. All worthy of further research, as the Think Twice gang say. I can’t even words right now. (PR Web, 6/16/15) via Seattle PI and other outlets
     
  4. Speaking of Fordham’s reports
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Over the past year, Ohio legislators have been focusing on the state’s need to deregulate its education system. The Ohio Senate recently passed Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), legislation focused on deregulation and flexibility for high-performing districts. Governor Kasich has also brought up the subject. But what exactly does deregulation mean? How can the state and local districts deregulate without sacrificing accountability, and which areas are ready to be cut free from red tape?

To answer these questions, Fordham commissioned its newest publication, Getting Out of the Way: Education Flexibility to Boost Innovation and Improvement in Ohio. This report highlights the key issues policymakers need to consider when loosening the regulatory grip on public schools, and also offers several recommendations for local and state leaders.

One of the report’s authors, Education First’s Paolo DeMaria, presented the findings and recommendations at a breakfast event on June 11. DeMaria began his presentation by explaining why deregulation matters and why this is an ideal moment to pursue deregulation. (For news coverage of the event, see here and here.) After summarizing how some Ohio districts already utilize deregulation to innovate, DeMaria outlined his recommendations. (For more on the...

  1. Patrick O’Donnell tried to get to the bottom of just what the Ohio Department of Education’s new and evolving charter sponsor evaluation framework is – noting that two sponsors have been announced as “ineffective" and three have been announced as “exemplary” (including Fordham) using the framework so far. This is a well-done piece – a tour-de-force of journalism really – that gets at the heart of Ohio’s efforts to improve its charter school sector. And it draws some very stark differences between sponsor-based accountability and school-based accountability. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/14/15)
     
  2. Speaking of charter schools, late breaking news from Friday seems to indicate that White Hat Management is indeed selling off management of a group of its schools to a Virginia-based company. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/12/15)
     
  3. Staying in Akron for a moment, the Beacon Journal’s editorial page editor opined this weekend against caps and guarantees in school funding. He seems skeptical that any version of the new state budget gets it entirely right, but he’s sure that what we’ve got isn’t right. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/13/15)
     
  4. We end with another opinion piece, this one from Cincinnati, in which editors there opine in praise
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  1. Not to toot our own horn, but…TOOT! Fordham Ohio’s latest report, Getting Out of the Way: Education Flexibility to Boost Innovation and Improvement in Ohio, was released yesterday and we held a launch event in Columbus. Report and event generated some great response. Check out the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/11/15, plus other Gannett outlets) for quotes from Aaron Churchill and a response from something called the Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition. Check out the (still, for now) Big D (Columbus Dispatch, 6/11/15) for a nice summary of some key points from the morning’s panel discussion and a response from the state teacher’s union that goes in something of an unexpected direction. That same line of thinking is followed by public media’s StateImpact (StateImpact Ohio, 6/11/15), who quote Aaron and then look to the State Senate for a response. The Dayton Daily News’ Jeremy Kelley made the early morning trek to Columbus for the event and produced a wide-ranging piece (Dayton Daily News, 6/11/15, plus a few other outlets in the publishing group) that covered a number of other issues besides teacher licensure and tenure. Thanks to the good folks at Education First, our intrepid panelists, and
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