Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. A frankly brilliant summary of the saga of VLT Academy in Cincinnati – a charter school who had no sponsor until a judge forced ODE to take it on – comes from the pen of Patrick O’Donnell today. Fordham’s Kathryn Mullen Upton is quoted throughout, spelling out the vital issues on the line for sponsor oversight in Ohio resulting from whatever is the final outcome of the pending legal case. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. In a companion piece to the above, O’Donnell interviews Alex Medler of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to talk about the “wild west” situation among charter school authorizing in Ohio. Excellent work and important insight. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. You might have heard there was a press conference late yesterday to announce the impending arrival of another bill to repeal Common Core in Ohio. If you’re brave, you can watch the whole “creepy” press conference here. If not, here is a sampling of coverage from around the state: Gongwer is here, Columbus Dispatch is here, Toledo Blade is here, and Cincinnati Enquirer is here.
     
  4. In case you despair after reading that collection, take heart that some small pieces of education reform are working in Ohio. The originally-maligned Straight-A Fund has apparently become a source of pride for some communities, both in the winning and in the innovations themselves. Round 2 appropriations cleared the controlling board yesterday, releasing $144.7 million in grants to districts, ESCs, charter schools, consortia,
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Daniel Navin

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post was first published on the United States Chamber of Commerce’s website on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

Ohio has had statewide learning standards in mathematics and English Language Arts in the past, but these standards were not rigorous and not aligned with the demands of college and the workplace. The outcome was low academic expectations which resulted in too many students not being college ready, and a short supply of graduates with the basic abilities needed for success in the workplace, including critical thinking and problem solving skills.

The dismal statistics below underscore to a significant extent the reality of the “quality of education” in Ohio:

  • Just 27% of Ohio fourth graders were proficient in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, compared to 83% who were deemed proficient on the state’s reading exam;
  • 31% of Ohio’s 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT exam met none of the college-ready benchmarks;
  • 41% of Ohio public high school students entering college must take at least one remedial course in English or math; and,
  • Nationally, more than 1 in 5 high school graduates do not meet the meet the minimum academic standards required for Army enlistment, as measured by the Armed Forces Qualification Test.

With the intent of reversing those trends of mediocrity (or worse), Ohio passed House Bill 1, which directed the State Board...

  1. There’s a lot to unpack here in this Q&A with the five current members of the Stark County ESC governing board. Why now? Why those 3 specific questions? Why not ask about career tech or internet connectivity or inner-city vs. suburban vs. rural? Why not ask about the powerful effect of demographic changes in Stark County since these long-timers first took office? Two of these folks have been on the governing board since the George H.W. Bush administration. I’m all for “institutional memory” but are the voters of Stark County really sure that this group is truly representative of their interests? I think even a quick read reveals an antiquated mindset mired in the status quo of the late 20th Century unsuited to the real-world needs of today’s families and students. But that’s just me. (Canton Repository)
     
  2. There’s not much new here, but at least the Dayton Daily News investigation of the allegations against Horizon/Concept schools 1) sticks to facts and 2) keeps in mind the hometown connection to the Dayton-area schools specifically in question in most of the allegations. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. We have featured the SPARK program in these clips before, but this is a really nice feature on how it actually works – in-home pre-K prep for kids in Columbus, funded mainly by philanthropy. This story is especially interesting and timely given the high-profile bipartisan state/city push for more institutional-type pre-K seats in the city. This mom tried but couldn’t get her
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  1. It was announced yesterday that term-limited state Representative Bob Hagan filed to run for the state board of education this fall. Today, he explains why: he intends “to make some waves”. I am sad to admit I was wrong in expecting him to have it in for Common Core, but blanket destruction of all charter schools seems a pretty sizeable goal for the guy as well. Good luck, Bob.  (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Appointed state board member Ron Rudduck filed to run to retain his seat. I am not sure at all why this news was in a California newspaper, but I’d be happy to travel out there to talk to them about Ohio education issues any time.  (Ventura County Star)
     
  3. How highly-charged is the media reporting around charter schools in Ohio these days? So much so that a story that is ostensibly about a properly-functioning charter marketplace (low performance and availability of preferable choices lead to student exodus; student exodus leads to money woes; and money woes lead to belt-tightening, layoffs, and retrenching) runs with a headline that implies it’s a shame that the school didn’t just roll over and die. The same process is happening in Akron City Schools and elsewhere every year and no reporter would suggest that perhaps a low-rated and half-capacity elementary school should simply not “reopen” next year. In fact, district building closures for these same reasons are strongly resisted with calls to neighborhood and nostalgia, or simply with calls for
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Peet’s Coffee and Tea: We hardly knew you. According to the Columbus DispatchPeet’s coffee shop in downtown Columbus will close after less than a year of operation. (The shop is near where I work.) To quote the company’s spokesperson, the reason for closing the store is “to focus on our top-performing locations.”

If only Ohio’s policymakers, district leaders, and charter-school authorizers just as aggressively closed persistently underperforming schools, and instead directed resources to grow top-performing ones or those demonstrating promise, or to start new schools from scratch. (Of course, there has to be an orderly and responsible process to closing schools.) Rather, too many low-rated public schools, both district and charter, limp along year-after-year, depriving students of a great education on the taxpayers’ dime.

In the business realm, unprofitable entities are shuttered, sold off, or merged to allow the larger organization to thrive. Yet in public education it seems like bad schools are immortal—and that’s not good policy.

  1. Chad appeared on All Sides with Ann Fisher yesterday morning – along with several other guests – talking about charter school oversight and accountability in Ohio in the wake of the allegations against Horizon/Concept schools in the state. The full audio is here. Chad comes in at about the 15 minute mark. (WOSU-FM, Columbus)
     
  2. The Dispatch lays out the state of play with regard to Common Core in the Ohio General Assembly. The state of play is “contentious”. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Speaking of Common Core, my good friends at Lake Local Schools in Northwest Ohio followed up last month’s resolution against the “Common Core curriculum” [sic] with some predictable backpedaling at this month’s meeting. To wit: "[W]e did want to express our concerns and opposition to it," said the board prez. "This is the law. We would just like to get rid of it if we can." Sounds like it could be a letter to the editor, doesn’t it? But it seems that another reality of education reform also caught the board’s attention: the end of “Count Week” in Ohio and the instatement of daily student attendance counts and reporting for districts. Less “contentious” than Common Core, sure, but still worthy of a quotable quote: "It will be interesting to see how this year goes." Indeed. Luckily Lake had plenty of money to hire a staffer to do only that
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  1. I’m a bit late in highlighting this, but it’s worth noting that United Schools Network’s Joe Baszynski was named as one of the “40 Under 40” movers and shakers to watch in Columbus. Nice interview here. (Columbus Business First)
     
  2. Lots of heated rhetoric around the Horizon/Concept Schools investigation by the FBI. Here’s some actual news, detailing what evidence was sought and what was found by the FBI, all relating to the federal E-rate program. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. One of those companies connected to the FBI investigation of Concept’s E-rate program is based in Northeast Ohio. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. As predicted, not much will be done to crack down on the Kingdom of the Bus Drivers in Columbus. This is all acceptable behavior. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. Dual enrollment in both high school and community college in one Dayton-area suburb means two diplomas at once for these students, all for free. The sky is the limit for these two young people. Best wishes to them both! (Dayton Daily News)
     
  6. As noted a week or so ago, some districts are staffing up their assistant principal ranks because they feel their principals will not have enough time to properly evaluate all teachers next year as required by OTES. Mansfield City Schools did the same yesterday, approving up to 3 new assistant principals for evaluation duties (although one hopes there are other productive things they’ll be doing as well). Additionally, the board approved hiring another second
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“In those days…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Words penned millennia ago couldn’t be more relevant today. In the education-policy world, I sense it in the growing antagonism toward external forms of accountability for schools’ (and their students’) performance. I get it: accountability regimes, particularly of the state-driven sort, can be perceived as harsh, punishing, and damaging to professionalism, local control, and school specialization. Others perceive standards and accountability as impinging upon individual liberties around parental control.

Yet looming behind this unrest is the specter of mediocrity and a lack of urgency among Ohio’s K–12 schools—an environment ultimately ill-suited for student success. The zeitgeist has worked its way into state law, as policymakers have begun to yield to the cries of those who would prefer to be judged by standards of their own preference or design—or none at all. As evidence, consider the proliferation of alternative accountability (and assessment) systems that are cropping up in state policy. Three examples come to mind.

Third-grade reading

Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee—a needed initiative to lift early literacy—has a loophole the size of Texas. Seemingly everyone in the state is aware that third graders are now required to pass the reading portion of the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) or else face grade retention. This is tough stuff on the surface—but wait. In a lesser-known provision, the state has also allowed schools to administer any one of three alternative reading assessments. If a student who has failed...

The Hispanic population in the United States continues to grow, with Hispanics making up nearly 17 percent of the total population. This population is young (33 percent is of school age) and is changing the demographics of schools in many states, Ohio among them. From 2000–10, the Hispanic population in Ohio grew to approximately 350,000 individuals, representing 3 percent of the state’s total population. That’s obviously smaller than in, say, Texas, but the number is rising.

Unfortunately, Hispanic students in Ohio schools are struggling. On the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA), administered in May 2013, Hispanic children scored lower than the state average in both reading and mathematics at every grade level tested. Similarly, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2013, Hispanic students in Ohio scored, on average, seventeen points lower than their white peers in fourth-grade reading and fifteen points lower in fourth-grade math. Further, only 66 percent of Hispanic students in Ohio graduate from high school, compared to 80 percent for all students. These results indicate that the achievement gap remains wide in Ohio, and with the population of minority students growing , the education challenge is only going to intensify. Demographics ought not dictate destiny.

Which brings us to early literacy. Myriad reports have been conducted on the subject, including a recent study by...

EDITOR’S NOTE: An edited version of this piece appeared as a letter to the editor in the Columbus Dispatch on Saturday, July 19, 2014.

School choice often engenders controversy. From districts arguing amongst themselves about the impact of open enrollment to charter schools and districts squabbling over funding and facilities, the Buckeye state—a national leader in providing education options to parents—is no stranger to the debates that arise about school choice.

In a July 8 editorial (“The law is the law”), the Columbus Dispatch called out two Ohio districts for allegedly circumventing public-records laws in order to prevent families from knowing about their school-choice options. The editorial drew attention to a current lawsuit brought by School Choice Ohio (SCO) against Cincinnati Public Schools and Springfield City Schools. Dispatch editors wrote, “Public schools understandably want to avoid this [losing students to private schools], but they should fight against it by making their schools safer and more effective—not by scheming to prevent families from knowing about their options. Scheming in defiance of state law would be even worse.”

That sums it up quite nicely. The legal and ethical implications of Cincinnati’s and Springfield’s actions are clear: hiding voucher eligibility from students and their families, many of whom are stuck in failing schools, isn’t just dishonest, unfair, and shameful—it’s also illegal. But the most compelling part of the Dispatch’s argument is that if public schools don’t want to lose students to other schools, they must...

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