Ohio Gadfly Daily

Always a hot topic for debate, charter school issues—especially those involving funding—are hotter than usual.

Let’s start at the national level, which we can see in the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ new report The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: A State-By-State Analysis. NAPCS reports on twenty-five states and the District of Columbia, assessing the overall “health of the movement” by focusing on eleven indicators, including student-enrollment growth, innovation, and academic quality. Washington, D.C.’s and Louisiana’s charter schools come out on top, in part because of equitable funding for charters compared to district schools. Oregon and Nevada finish last for a number of reasons, not least of which being poor learning gains. Ohio finished in the middle of the pack, getting high marks for charter growth but struggling with student achievement.

The state of New York ranked fifth in the NAPCS analysis, just ten points behind Louisiana, but has experienced some well-publicized tussles over charter school issues in recent months, including a lawsuit filed by a group supportive of charter schools alleging that New York’s method of funding charter schools violates the state constitution and disproportionately hurts minority students. Buckeye state officials should keep an eye on this case, as Ohio charter school students receive similarly disparate funding.

As reported elsewhere in this issue, funding of charter schools is being debated in Fordham’s home state of Ohio as well. The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools has issued their analysis of recently released Ohio report...

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John A. Dues

 

John A. Dues is the Chief Learning Officer for United Schools Network in Columbus.
 

"There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children."

                                                                                                                       -Nelson Mandela

As a society, we are in need of some serious soul searching. There is an urgent need to support and create as many outstanding schools as possible as a part of a larger plan for improving life outcomes in Columbus’s most challenged neighborhoods. In Central Ohio, outcomes for kids that grow up just a few miles from each other can vary immensely. Drive east on Main Street from Miller Avenue in the Near East Side to Capital University in Bexley and in the span of two miles you will get a snapshot of the different worlds that exist within our city. Take that same drive on Central Avenue from Dana Avenue in Franklinton to Grandview and you will have a similar experience. 

Challenges facing our students

Over the last year, there have been a series of articles in the Columbus Dispatch that provide a lens into some of these troubled neighborhoods and the crises they face. Taken together, it starts to create a picture of the environment in which many children from neighborhoods like the Near East Side and Franklinton—neighborhoods where United Schools Network’s three schools are located—are living. These students come to school with needs that are far...

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  1. Less than a month until it’s all over and the gubernatorial race in Ohio is trending rather lopsided. Problem is, certain issues that typically arise during a contested race just haven’t gotten a lot of play this time around. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is briefly quoted in this piece, lamenting about the lack of specifics on K-12 education from either side. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Oddly enough, state board of education races seem to be getting more play in the media than the gubernatorial race…in certain places. We’ve clipped a few stories about individual district races before, but here’s a nice overview on all of the contested seats on the board. You would have thought that Common Core would have been a bigger issue, but it seems that charter schools are more relevant to most candidates…especially if they are Democrats. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Big changes are being promised for the education provided to students with special needs in Columbus City Schools, following a pretty earth-shaking admission that the district had routinely followed a “no-fail” policy for students on IEPs, moving young people along whether they passed or not. These changes even include efforts to allow former students to retake classes to pass on their own merit. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. A press conference was held in Chillicothe on Friday with both the founder and the current owner of a local private school, which closed its doors earlier that day. As you might expect, lack of money was the issue
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  1. EdWeek took notice of the KnowYourCharter website rollout in Ohio this week...and of the reaction it generated from Fordham and others. (EdWeek)
     
  2. Youngstown City Schools’ Academic Distress Commission adopted an updated recovery plan this week. Among the goals, to be achieved by 2017, are a PI score of at least 85 for two consecutive years, a value-added score of a “C” for two years, meeting proficient standards on at least 14 of 22 indicators, and achieving an 80 percent four-year graduation rate. How to achieve these goals? Step one – curb the micromanagement of the district’s board of education. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  3. A follow up on yesterday’s story about the abrupt closing of a private school and daycare in Chillicothe. Parents are hurt, confused, and scrambling. For the most part it sounds as if other private schools, nearby districts, and childcare providers are working well with parents to help them find new schools. Very good journalism here. (Chillicothe Gazette)
     
  4. It has been said that no one knows the state board of education exists. After reading the survey answers of the three candidates up for election in District 5, I can believe that ignorance is bliss. To repeat: one of these people will be on the state board of ed come January. (Canton Repository)
     
  5. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson talks about his visit to Ginn Academy, an all-boys prep school in Cleveland Metropolitan School District with awe and respect for what the school
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  1. The Plain Dealer, with typical deliberation and thoroughness, took a couple of days to check out the new KnowYourCharters website before publishing their take. They suspect that politics may have “crept in” to the project. But seriously, nice Cleveland-centric take on the story with lots of quotes from charter school foes and supporters, including our own Chad and Aaron. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Here’s an addition to yesterday’s stories about district opposition to state testing requirements, some of which are new this year. This time: the above-average Columbus suburb of Westerville. Complete with calculations of testing time required. (ThisWeek News/Westerville News & Public Opinion)
     
  3. The USDOE has awarded a grant of $795,000 to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to support its efforts to find, train, and keep good turnaround principals. Congratulations! (EdWeek)
     
  4. More on the ongoing efforts of a church in Monroe (more than three years so far) to buy a closed high school building from the local district. The latest is a public hearing. It went about how you thought it would. The alternative now being put together is for more taxpayer money to go into the property and for the district to take a big financial hit. (Middletown Journal-News)
     
  5. A private school in Chillicothe which will be closing for good tomorrow (after nearly two decades in the community) with very little notice. While it is certain to be to be
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  1. As you may have heard, the OEA and Innovation Ohio have launched a website (KnowYourCharter.com) to ostensibly provide comparison information between charter schools and Ohio’s districts. There’s tons wrong with this picture, of course, but suffice it to say that it’s akin to the Confederation of Wolves launching a website called KnowYourHenHouse.com, to let you know how secure chicken coops are around the state. It definitely isn’t for the purpose of making the coops more secure. But seriously folks, the Dispatch coverage quotes our own Chad Aldis talking about the apples-to-bowling-balls comparison to be had. (Columbus Dispatch). Gongwer’s coverage has other voices raising the same concerns. (Gongwer Ohio) Most other coverage around Ohio is limited to this same piece with only token information and token response. (Willoughby News Herald)
     
  2. Back in the real world, CEO Eric Gordon gave his annual State of the Schools speech in Cleveland yesterday. Although playing heavily on the story of Sisyphus, he averred that the Cleveland Plan is starting to show signs of success. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Still hanging in the real world, officials in the inner-ring Columbus suburb of Whitehall say that their schools are ready for PARCC, especially in the area of appropriate technology for the online version of the tests. How’d they get there so easily, despite the well-known challenges? By participating in last year’s test piloting. (ThisWeek News/Whitehall News)
     
  4. Sliding back into the realms of fantasy for a moment, check out this
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With any luck, the “Know Your Charter” website from Innovation Ohio (IO) and the Ohio Education Association (OEA) will go the way of Pets.com and Geocities.com. The new website’s stated aim is to increase the transparency around charter-school spending and academic results by comparing them to traditional public schools. While greater transparency is a worthwhile goal, it looks like Innovation Ohio—a liberal advocacy group founded by former Strickland administration officials—and the Ohio Education Association (OEA)—the state-level affiliate for the nation’s largest labor union—let political spin get in the way of presenting information in a meaningful way.

The website misinforms the public by failing to report essential information about public schools, calling into question how much the website actually helps anyone “know” anything. In particular, Innovation Ohio (IO) and the OEA make the following crucial omissions in reporting basic school information:

1.) They ignore district funding from local property taxes. You’ll notice that the IO-OEA website reports only state per-pupil revenue for districts and public-charter schools. But remember, school districts are funded jointly through state and local revenue sources.[1] By reporting only state revenue, they flagrantly disregard the fact that school districts raise, on average, roughly half their revenue through local taxes (mainly property). Meanwhile, charters, with only a few exceptions in Cleveland, do not receive a single penny of local revenue, which leads to funding inequity between district and charter schools. When local, state, and federal revenue sources are combined, recent research from...

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  1. Not much for the Gadfly to bite into today, so we’ll make the most of what we have. Starting with this very nice profile of Fordham-sponsored Village Prep :: Woodland Hills school in Cleveland. The story centers on the pervasive college-prep mentality in the school, down to the classroom doors all decorated with college logos/flags/mottos. "It's a literal and figurative door to college," says Head of School Chris O’Brien, and the students interviewed echo that mindset. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. There is very little mention above of the economic conditions of Village Prep students, but it is noted that many students come to the school behind in their learning and that the school works hard to bring their students up to grade level as quickly as possible. Editors in Columbus are thinking on similar lines as they opine on the quandary of raising the achievement levels of economically disadvantaged students when non-academic factors weigh so heavily against them. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. The website WalletHub has released a study ranking states based on the best opportunities for teachers. Among the 18 metrics used are median starting salary and teacher job openings per capita. Ohio ranked 8th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This in itself is fascinating, but I would be remiss if I did not note that the Plain Dealer, from which I clipped this story, is the only major daily paper in Ohio whose website is still free and open to the
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  1. Gongwer Ohio discussed Aaron's Poised for Progress report on Friday, looking at new report card data from the perspective of the distribution of high-quality seats in Ohio's urban areas. OAPCS's report card analysis is covered as well. Nice! (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. How did the Big D get wind of the fact that Columbus City Schools is losing high schoolers to other districts and schools? Football. 8 teams were downgraded to smaller leagues based on student population. No matter. This fact spurred an investigation to find that most other Franklin County districts are losing high schoolers as well. No one has any idea why or even where specifically kids are going. Conjecture from our education professionals include competition from those pesky charter schools and the ease of public transit (?!) making changing schools easier. If only there was a study about this sort of thing though…. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. According to StateImpact, among those high schoolers who do find the right fit and stick it out, four-year graduation rates are improving among Ohio’s Urban 8 districts. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. This weekend’s talks between Reynoldsburg teachers and the district were unsuccessful and teachers are back on the picket line this morning. On the upside, sounds like Friday’s football game went off OK without any “spillover”…minus the loss to Pickerington Central that is. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. A number of districts in Stark County have tightened up their truancy policies this year – at least one of them citing
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  1. What could be worse than extended weeks of daily school transportation delays? Perhaps having your transportation up and functional for a couple of weeks, only to have it stopped with the explanation that you shouldn’t have had this bus service these last few weeks anyway. Oops. Our bad. For the love of Pete – please find another way to do this. (ThisWeek News/Bexley News)
     
  2. Cleveland’s Brent Larkin opines on the (lack of) substantive education discussion going on during the gubernatorial contest in Ohio. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Speaking of the gubernatorial race, gubernatorial challenger Ed FitzGerald visited the picket line in Reynoldsburg yesterday. I will leave the question as to why a Clevelander visiting central Ohio was covered most fully in the Toledo paper up to others to answer. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. Gubernatorial candidate FitzGerald only gets a brief passing mention in the Big D’s Reynoldsburg story today….probably because things have taken a turn for the bizarre there. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  5. Recall that there is a law on the books in Cleveland that parents must meet with their children’s teachers. There are no consequences, as you might imagine, but Year 1 numbers for parent visits were significantly higher than in previous years. It’s Year 2 now, and the fall parent meeting numbers are trending even higher than last year. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  6. We stay in Cleveland for our final Gadfly Bite today: The Sound of Ideas this week featured a formerly homeless
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