Ohio Gadfly Daily

Research Bites: Education in Ohio’s State of the State cities

Last week, Governor John Kasich announced that Wilmington will host his 2015 State of the State address. While Ohio governors have traditionally given their State of the State at the capitol, the address has been held outside of Columbus since 2012. This led me to wonder about education in the cities that have hosted the address ever since Governor Kasich has taken it on the road. The cities are Steubenville (2012), Lima (2013), Medina (2014), and Wilmington (2015). Here’s a quick look at the education in these four Ohio towns, district only, since just Lima has brick-and-mortar charters (two of them). As you’ll notice, Medina and Steubenville have relatively strong student achievement, while Lima lags behind. Given the sluggish student performance in Lima, it is of particular concern that the district does not have a single A-rated school along the Ohio’s value-added measure, which estimates the academic impact of schools measured as achievement gains tracked over time.

Student Enrollment (left) and % Economic Disadvantage (right), 2013-14

Medina City Schools is by far the largest and most affluent of these school districts. Lima and Steubenville are of similar size and...

  1. Editors in Toledo opined on HB 2 – the charter school law reform bill – citing Fordham’s recent reports  while doing so. (Toledo Blade)
     
  2. HB 2 is not the only mechanism by which charter school quality can be improved. The new state budget – to be unveiled later today – will include a number of proposals designed to do just that via funding mechanisms, including facilities funding and access to local funding for operations for the first time. But with those new sources of funding would come increased accountability, especially for sponsors. Bellwether Education Partners’ recent policy recommendations – a report sponsored by Fordham – are cited as part of the basis for these budget proposals. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. School districts may be in line for some funding changes as well in the governor’s new budget. The Big D takes a look at this among other items in their budget preview. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Lest you think that improving charter sponsor quality is a new endeavor for the state of Ohio, this story should be a good reminder of the work that the Ohio Department of Education is already undertaking in this regard. The Portage
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  1. With typical diligence, Patrick O’Donnell took his time in covering the introduction of HB 2 – the charter reform bill. His piece came out late yesterday, including an interview with our own Chad Aldis on the significance of the bill and of the high-level media coverage that preceded its introduction. "I think they got a lot of the really important things," Chad says of the bill. "This is a great start for looking at charter reform.” Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. O’Donnell also was able to garner a direct and specific response to the bill from the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee. She calls the bill “tweaking” and “window dressing”, as you might expect. She also seems to have coined a new pejorative: “educaneurs”, which I can’t find anywhere else on the internet. Kudos. I have t-shirts already on order. They'll pair well with my bright yellow scarf. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Editors in Canton opine on the need for – and the apparent bipartisan interest in – charter law reform. They reference CREDO’s Ohio charter school performance study and the State Auditor’s
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  1. Slightly-belated coverage of Monday’s School Choice Week event in Columbus showed up in public media yesterday. I probably shouldn’t even clip this today as it’s obviously slanted (likely why it took so long to be published). The absence of Cleveland Schools’ CEO Eric Gordon from the coverage is especially egregious, but more importantly is the very odd photo of myself while speaking. While I know my words were neither particularly eloquent or inspiring, I apparently did hold sway long enough to get my fellow speakers to all look at empty air while I gestured about something. Ah well. Can’t look like a rock star at every event. (WOUB public media, Athens)
     
  2. In actual news, Republicans in the Ohio House gave clear indications of their priorities yesterday with the introduction of a number of high-importance bills, first in the 131st General Assembly. High on that priority list is reform of charter school law – HB 2. You can read coverage of the bill itself in several media outlets today. Both Gongwer Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch include reaction from our own Chad Aldis. To wit: "Our independent research clearly shows the need for better transparency and accountability,
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  1. It took a few days, but newspaper editors have finally started taking note of the state auditor’s report on charter school attendance. Check out opinion pieces from the Akron Beacon-Journal and the Columbus Dispatch.
     
  2. Academic Standards Review Committees were mandated in state law last year, with members appointed by the Senate, the House, and the Governor. The committees began work yesterday, and the Statehouse is still standing. However, it does appear that a couple of the members are under the mistaken idea they were appointed to the legislature of the state board of education. Weird. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  3. Administration of PARCC tests is to begin in earnest in Ohio soon. The Ohio Department of Education did a little rollout event yesterday. You can check out the dry – but informative – version of the story, focusing on the rollout event itself in Gongwer Ohio. Or you can go down to the district level – far less dry and with far more skeptical commentators – with the Dayton Daily News.
     
  4. So the state auditor releases a report on charter school attendance and the result is at least 10 stories across the state and the
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  1. In case you missed it: Governor Kasich said this about Common Core over the weekend: “It's local schools with local school boards and high standards. I don't know how anybody can disagree with that…” On national television. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. In honor of National School Choice Week, one Lima News editor opined strongly against the entrenched status quo of what he calls “government schools”. Not sure how one reconciles that attitude with a support for open enrollment or even charter schools, but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. (Lima News)
     
  3. Speaking of “government schools”, the local chapter of the NAACP wants Youngstown’s district superintendent out, expressing no confidence in his ability to improve education in the district. Let’s remember that “the government” (i.e. – the Ohio Department of Education) has placed the district under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission, a review of procedures found the school board micromanaging the district to a damaging degree, and the newspaper’s editorial board literally begged the governor to take over the district entirely. No wonder everyone’s open enrolling in Austintown. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. In other academic distress commission news, there appears to have been a Q&A between Lorain’s commissioners
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Chances are, you’ve heard something in the past year about test mania. Everyone from superintendents to parents to retired educators has an opinion; even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan suggested tests and test prep are dominating schools. Given all this attention, one might assume that students spend hundreds of hours each year taking tests—perhaps even more time than they spend actually learning. A recent report from Ohio Schools’ Superintendent Richard Ross paints a very different picture.

The report, required by state law, reveals that Ohio students spend, on average, almost twenty hours taking standardized tests during the school year. (This doesn’t include teacher-designed tests, but does include state tests.) Twenty hours is a good chunk of time, but when one considers that the school year in Ohio is about 1,080 hours total (it varies by district and grade level), that means testing only takes up about 2 percent of the year. (Report results show that students spend approximately fifteen additional hours practicing for tests, but this additional time only raises the total percentage to 3 percent).

Regardless of this small percentage, critics of standardized testing make some valid points. No one wants quality, in-depth learning...

In spring 2013, Ohio policymakers approved a two-year, $250 million investment aimed at spurring innovation in public schools. Known as the Straight A Fund, this competitive grant program has since catalyzed sixty new projects throughout the state, many of which are joint ventures between schools, vocational centers, ESCs, colleges, and businesses.

As a member of the grant advisory committee, I gained a firsthand view of the exciting projects happening around the state, everything from “fab labs” (a computer center outfitted with computer-aided drawing software and 3-D printers), outdoor greenhouses, and robotics workshops. Those who are interested in these projects should plan to attend this conference in Columbus on February 5.

In the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers should continue to invest in innovation by reauthorizing the Straight A Fund. At the same time, the legislature should also consider a few alterations that could give an even stronger boost to the most innovative project ideas. The suggestions are as follows:

Remove the cost-reduction mandate.

A small provision in the Straight A legislation required grantees to show “verifiable, credible, and permanent” cost reductions that would result from the grant. As a result, applications were evaluated significantly on...

Today marks the start of National School Choice Week. Across the country, over 11,000 events will take place from the intimate (school open houses and homeschool how-to sessions) to the enormous (Capitol Rallies across the country); from our own gathering to online events. It is one week of the year during which the focus is on the benefits parents and children gain from having the opportunity to choose the school that best fits their needs.

School choice in Ohio comes in many forms, including public charter schools, private schools (and voucher programs that help needy students pay private tuition), open enrollment, STEM schools, vocational centers, post-secondary enrollment options, and home schooling. Among these choice options, charter schools have clearly become the most prominent feature of Ohio’s school-choice environment; they educate over 120,000 students, many of whom come from low-income families.

Given the high profile of charter schools, it is worth pausing on School Choice Week to honor the very best of Ohio’s charter schools. The table below is an honor roll of Ohio charter schools. It displays twenty-two charter schools that were ranked in the top ten percent in either the state’s performance-index score (student achievement) or value-added-index...

If you could redesign a city’s education system from scratch, what would it look like? In New Orleans, a terrible tragedy created the need to do just that. Today, education in the city bears very little resemblance to what existed ten years ago. School types, locations, information systems, and application processes are now almost entirely market-driven to give parents the information they need and the schools they want. The unprecedented landscape change in New Orleans has also given rise to a unique opportunity to study school choice in “revealed preferences”: what schools parents actually choose, and not just what they claim to want in a survey, when they must make a choice. The new report from Education Research Alliance for New Orleans compares choice data from immediately pre-Katrina with data collected two different years post-Katrina, as additional information and options settled into place over time. First the good news: After Katrina, the lowest-income families had greater access to schools with high test scores, average test scores increased across all students in the city, and even school bus transportation systems expanded (there’s no choice if you can’t get there). However, very-low-income families were less likely to choose schools with high...

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