Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. The Auditor of State released an audit of one of Ohio’s largest online schools. There were some findings regarding inappropriate travel reimbursement. Two staffers have already reimbursed the school. Why is this news? It’s not. But that doesn’t stop the Big D’s Education Insider team from wringing it for all its worth, with a heaping helping of unnecessary smarm. (Columbus Dispatch) The more matter-of-fact version can be found in Gongwer. Meanwhile, in a small school district near Springfield, actual crime appears to have occurred. Do take note of how the local press is handling that story, which has been developing for a week or so. (Springfield News Sun)
     
  2. Speaking of money, here’s something that any number of schools (district, charter, STEM, private, whatever) might want to take note of. The board of Granville Schools recently passed a resolution establishing “cash balance guidelines” for the district that set a cash reserve target of no less than 10 percent of annual revenue. Any time balances go below that level for two consecutive months, the treasurer must prepare a report as to why and include options for cuts to offset. Nice. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. I have now twice
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  1. Who’s a holiday curmudgeon, then? The Superintendent of Federal Hocking Schools, that’s who. Check out his pessimistic guest commentary on charter school law fixes today. It all comes down to money for him. Of course the irony is lost that money is just what district school folks argue makes all the difference for them: “their money” is “stolen” by charter schools, which equates to the low performance rates in districts where charter schools are located (not, I think, in tiny Federal Hocking though). The argument is that with more money, those public districts will flourish, ignoring the fact that charter schools operate with far less funds than most districts. So why wouldn’t more money solve charter schools’ performance problems too? All of these issues will clearly be front and center in 2015. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Generous souls will call this story “wonky”. Less-generous ones will call it snooze-worthy. For my part, I find it an interesting look at what happens after all the bright lights and hubbub of lawmaking are over. New rules were discussed this week regarding mandated changes to Ohio’s College Credit Plus program. The lawmaking efforts focused on expansion of
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  1. It took a little while, but editors in Toledo have weighed in on the topic of charter school law reform. They are all for it, not surprisingly, but skeptical of political will. Fordham and Stanford are namechecked. (Toledo Blade)
     
  2. Speaking of editorials, the Repository strongly encourages legislators to forget about Common Core repeal in next General Assembly. Can't argue with that. (Canton Repository)
     
  3. Speaking of Common Core, here’s a nice piece from suburban Cleveland news outlet West Life. The piece is new, although the event it covers happened last month. Char Shryock, director of curriculum and instruction for high-flying Bay Village Schools (and a tireless supporter of Common Core across the state), gave a presentation on Ohio’s New Learning Standards in which she laid out (probably for the 200th time) the benefits of the standards, which include Common Core standards in math and English language arts. She also discussed the new tests which go along with the new standards – very much an issue that will be relevant in the new year. She spelled out that PARCC, the testing consortium to which Ohio belongs, had input from teachers, including many from Ohio. “PARRC is not
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  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
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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,
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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...

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...

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...

  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
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