Ohio Gadfly Daily

Ohio’s recent win of federal Charter School Program (CSP) funds has garnered much backlash. Former Governor Ted Strickland went so far as to send a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requesting that he reconsider giving Ohio the grant. All five Democrats in Ohio’s congressional delegation sent their own letter to Duncan asking questions about the conditions of the grant and whether it will be used to help charter oversight.  

Two facts are overlooked by critics in the midst of the naysaying: 1) the overall track record of CSP grant recipients in our state is solid (as we’ll see below), and 2) by infusing much-needed resources into Ohio’s charter sector, the program enables the best schools to replicate, could draw in top-notch charter school models from other states, and might even crowd out the state’s worst schools—both of the district and charter variety.

The calls to delay or rescind the money are absurd. Most of those speaking out publicly have clear political agendas. Ohio certainly needs to restore public confidence in its charter sector, and the legislature’s bipartisan passage of comprehensive charter school reform is a good start. A...

Since last December, charter schools have been a hot topic in Ohio. Because of scandals in the Ohio Department of Education and the missteps of some Ohio charter schools, many folks in Ohio have a negative view of the entire sector. Fortunately, there are several networks across the nation that challenge the assertion that charters are mismanaged, failed experiments. Even better, recent developments in the Ohio charter sector—including better laws, better funding, and new grant money—increase the possibility that Ohio could woo some of these high-performing charter networks to the Buckeye State. Let’s examine a few of the networks that Ohio should consider recruiting.

Noble Network of Charter Schools

Who they are: The Noble Network operates seventeen schools in Chicago (sixteen high schools and one middle school) and serves approximately eleven thousand students from more than seventy Chicago communities. The first Noble school was opened in 1999 by two Chicago Public Schools teachers. The network’s mission is to prepare low-income students for college and life; the student population is 98 percent minority and 89 percent low-income. Noble uses extended school days (and years) and offers athletics and arts programs. Its...

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Seventy Four; that one also lambasted Arkansas for backpedaling on its cut scores. Since then, Arkansas acknowledged that it had erred in how it described the state’s performance levels and clarified that it would use the rigorous standards suggested by PARCC.

Way back in 2007, we at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a landmark study with experts from the Northwest Evaluation Association: The Proficiency Illusion. It found that state definitions for reading and math “proficiency” were all over the map—and shockingly subpar almost everywhere. In Wisconsin, for instance, eighth graders could be reading at the fourteenth percentile nationally and still be considered proficient.

This was a big problem—not just the inconsistency, though that surely made it harder to compare schools across state lines. Mostly, we worried about the signals that low proficiency standards sent to parents: the false positives indicating that their kids were on track for success when they actually weren’t. How were parents in Madison or Duluth supposed to know that their “proficient” son was really far below grade level, not to mention way off track for success in...

In December 2014, Ohio Governor John Kasich promised wholesale charter school reform in the new year. “We are going to fix the lack of regulation on charter schools,” Kasich remarked. Now, thanks to the fearless leadership of the governor and members of the legislature, Ohio has revamped its charter law. Most impressively, the charter legislation that overwhelmingly passed last week drew bipartisan support and praise from editorial boards across the state.

It’s been a long road to comprehensive charter reform in Ohio. When the Buckeye State enacted its charter law in 1997, it became a national pioneer in charter quantity. Disappointingly, it has not been a leader on quality. To be sure, there are examples of phenomenal charter schools. Yet too many have struggled, and a surprising number of Ohio charters have failed altogether. The predictable result is that on average, Ohio charter school students have fallen behind academically. A 2014 study by CREDO found Buckeye charter students losing forty-three days of learning in math and fourteen days of learning in reading relative to their district peers.

As regular Gadfly readers know, we at Fordham have consistently voiced concerns about our home state’s ailing charter sector. In our view, many of these...

  1. Editors in Columbus opined happily over the weekend in regard to the passage of HB 2. They seem to agree with our own Chad Aldis that the bill strikes an important balance: [It] “significantly strengthens the accountability structures…without compromising the school-level autonomy…” Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/15)
     
  2. Meanwhile, folks far and wide were interested in talking about Ohio’s win of a $71 million grant from the USDOE’s Community School Program. To wit: two heavy-hitters from the Dispatch cover a variety of perspectives on the grant, including that of Chad Aldis. Says Chad, “Recruiting charter schools is much like attracting business to the state. They will look to bring in groups known to raise student performance.” He tells the formerly-Big D that a rigorous application will be key. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/15) The folks at EdDive also were talking with Chad about CSP last week. He points out that “low performing charters are just about as likely to replicate and expand as the high performers” in Ohio. He is hopeful that the CSP grant can be used  to change that woeful dynamic. (Education Dive, 10/12/15)
     
  3. Two other outlets covered the passage of HB 2 this week. First up,
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Kelly Robson

Ohio’s charter school sector has been a thorn in the side of the Buckeye State for far too long. The Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) has documented that, on average, students in Ohio’s charter schools achieve fourteen fewer days of learning in reading and forty-three fewer days of learning in math than their traditional public school peers. The proliferation of authorizers has led to low-quality, sometimes questionable authorizing practices that allow persistently low-performing schools to remain open. And State Auditor David Yost has harshly criticized the charter school sector for misspending public tax dollars.

But at last, there may be a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Yesterday, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 2 by an overwhelming majority (91-6 in the House and 32-0 in the Senate). The bill is designed to remedy many of the incoherent policies and loopholes in the current law, which my colleagues and I documented last December in our report, “The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio’s Charter School Sector.”

The legislation follows our recommendations quite closely, making considerable changes that will strengthen authorizer oversight, governing board independence, and school operator transparency. The...

  1. Anyone got more bandwidth for reading about HB 2? Yep, me too! Editors in Cleveland opine today – not on repeat this time – in praise of the bipartisan, bicameral effort that led to the passage of a strong bill earlier this week. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/9/15) The Enquirer ran a guest column from the new CEO of the Accelerate Great Schools project in the Queen City, also in support of HB2’s reforms. Awesome and welcome input from a great new partner on the education reform scene in Ohio. Now, about your website, Patrick… (Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/8/15)
     
  2. Lest you think that everyone is holding hands and singing round the same campfire regarding charter schools in Ohio, that is not so. Case in point, a tussle has arisen between the State Auditor (I know!) and the President of the state Board of Education regarding some documents that the auditor would like and which the board president says are protected by attorney-client privilege and would show no more than has already been admitted to by the board on the topic. That topic is the rescinded charter sponsor evaluations conducted by the Ohio Department of Education earlier this year.
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In case you’ve been hibernating away from news lately, the Ohio General Assembly passed landmark charter school law reform legislation yesterday. HB 2 had a long gestation and filled up a lot of news coverage over that time. The clearing of the final hurdle did not disappoint in terms of additional coverage. Here’s a selection:

  1. To many observers, the biggest hurdle was not the floor votes in the House and Senate, but the conference committee that took up the Senate changes to the original House bill. The concern was that the bill would come out of committee “watered down” or compromised in its efforts to strengthen accountability and transparency for charter schools and their sponsors and operators. In the end, it came out of conference on Tuesday unscathed and with bicameral and bipartisan support. As Fordham’s Chad Aldis said, “It contains provisions that charter advocates and opponents alike have urged for a decade.” Whew. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/6/15)
     
  2. The AP also covered the favorable report of HB2 out of the conference committee. As Chad told them, “This won't
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The Ohio House and Senate each voted overwhelmingly this afternoon (October 7, 2015) to approve the report of the Conference Committee on House Bill 2 (HB 2). This action sends HB 2, a comprehensive effort to reform Ohio’s much-criticized charter school sector, to Governor Kasich for his signature. Today’s vote follows nine months of hearings and public debate on how to improve charter schools in the Buckeye State.

“It’s amazing what can be accomplished in nine months,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  “The reforms in House Bill 2 have the potential to give new life to Ohio’s charter school sector. By holding accountable the entities that regulate, oversee, and manage charter schools, we can create an environment where high performing charter schools grow and prosper and low performers are shuttered.”

After facing heavy criticism the past few months for not passing charter legislation before the summer recess, approval of the conference committee report comes just one week after the House sent the...

On October 7, 2015, the Ohio legislature overwhelmingly passed House Bill 2 (HB 2). The bill significantly strengthens the accountability structures that govern Ohio’s charter sector without compromising the school level autonomy that is critical to the charter school model. If implemented with fidelity, the bill’s provisions hold the promise of dramatically improving the educational outcomes for the 120,000 students who attend more than 350 Ohio charter schools. This landmark reform legislation has had months of public hearings and debate, and it won bi-partisan support in both the Senate and the House. The key areas of reform are as follows:

1. Strengthening State Oversight of Sponsors[1]

As the entities responsible for opening schools and holding them accountable for performance, sponsors are the gatekeepers of overall charter-sector quality. HB 2 ensures that only high-quality sponsors are allowed to authorize schools by requiring sponsors to obtain state approval before sponsoring schools and by strengthening the sponsor-evaluation system.

A. State approval of sponsors

  • Requires all new and existing sponsors (except two[2]) to enter into a contract with ODE in order to sponsor schools.
  • Requires such contracts to include stipulations on when ODE can intervene or
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