Ohio Gadfly Daily

Back in January, the Education Research Alliance (ERA) for New Orleans released a study looking at patterns of parental choice in the highly competitive education marketplace. That report showed non-academic considerations (bus transportation, sports, afterschool care) were often bigger factors than academic quality when parents choose a school. It also suggested strongly that it was possible for other players in the system (city officials, charter authorizers, the SEA) to assert the primacy of academic quality by a number of means (type and style of information available to parents, a central application system). A new report from ERA-New Orleans follows up on this by examining school-level responses to competition, using interview and survey data from thirty schools of all types across the city. Nearly all of the surveyed school leaders reported having at least one competitor for students, and most schools reported more than one response to that competition. The most commonly reported response, cited by twenty-five out of thirty schools, was marketing existing school offerings more broadly. Less common responses to competition included improving academic instruction and making operational changes like budget cuts so that the need to compete for more students (and money) is less pressing. These latter two adaptations are typically the ones that market-based education reformers expect to occur in the face of competition, yet just one-third of surveyed leaders said they responded in these ways. That low level of response in this hypercompetitive market should be worrying. While advertising is an obvious first response to...

  1. Anyone who’s been following Gadfly Bites for a while knows that we’ve been keeping an eye on Geauga County district merger discussions. Legislation was passed last year that would forgive the debt of tiny Ledgemont Schools if they successfully conclude moves to merge with neighboring Berkshire Schools before June 30 of this year. Oddly, Gongwer is reporting additional merger legislation in the works that would include two other county districts and a new STEM high school that seemed like it was already on track to happen without additional legislation. Not sure what’s up here, but we’ll continue to keep an eye on it. (Gongwer Ohio, 4/3/15)
     
  2. Our own Jessica Poiner told you about the Bright New Leaders for Ohio Schools effort a week or two ago in the Ohio Gadfly Daily. Now the Dispatch is on to the story. $3.5 million in state funding, the effort includes collaborators from the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and Ohio Department of Education aimed at developing “a new kind of school principal.” Worth a look. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. There must be vinegar in the water in Youngstown these days. A weekend editorial on HB 2 – the charter law reform effort which passed the House last week – calls this first-of-its-kind bill “too little, too late.” I know they don’t want the “wild west” of charter school operation to continue here in Ohio. What could be the other option? Hmmm…. (Youngstown Vindicator, 4/4/15)
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  1. Metro Early College High School in Columbus announced earlier this week that it will begin a new program next year called Metro Institute of Technology, a partnership with Franklin University (a business college) and Columbus State Community College. MIT (clever, yes?) will be a five-year high school experience at the end of which students will earn a high school diploma and either an Associates Degree or an industry credential. This program was pitched during last year’s Straight-A Grant cycle but was rejected. Additional donors and partners have allowed the school – an independent, STEM-focused school open to all students via lottery – to go forward with it. Full disclosure: I love Metro, am therefore heavily biased, and consequently wish them and their students great success with this venture. (Columbus Dispatch 4/1/15)
     
  2. Speaking of innovation, Marion City Schools has received a grant of nearly $20,000 – from an engineering/architecture firm – to buy iPads and apps for autistic students and their teachers. The app is designed to help students bridge what can often be imagery-based world and the more word-based world of education. It is also intended as an easy way for teachers to check in with their students via technology. Congratulations to Marion schools and best of luck with the new project. I’m hopeful we’ll get updates on how it’s going. (Marion Star, 4/2/15)
     
  3. Due to the financial strain of declining enrollment, St. Aloysius Catholic School in East Liverpool will be closing for good at
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In his proposed budget , Governor John Kasich calls for the creation of a competency-based education pilot program. Competency-based education is premised on the idea that students only move on to more complex concepts and skills after they master simpler ones. While that sounds somewhat negative at first blush, it also means that mastering current content quickly leads to advancing sooner than the standard march from grade to grade. Kasich’s proposal would provide grants to ten districts or schools that were selected through an application process created by the Ohio Department of Education to pilot the program.

The competency-based model goes by different names in different places. In Ohio, there are schools that already utilize it but call it something different: mastery grading. (Be sure to check out how schools like Metro Early College School and MC²STEM high school, as well as districts like Pickerington, make it work.) Mastery grading assesses students based on whether or not they’ve mastered specific skills and concepts. Instead of an overall grade that takes homework completion, daily assignments, class participation, and test grades that cover multiple standards into account to formulate an average, mastery grading breaks down a student’s performance on individual skills and concepts. Teachers or districts can determine a scale that works for their teaching styles and students. For example, a math teacher might use a scale in which 90 percent equals mastery, 70 percent equals developing mastery, and anything less than 70 percent indicates no mastery....

Either all of Ohio’s education journalists are on spring break this week or they’re glued to the Education Gladfly. Whatever the reason, education news and opinion is hard to come by across the Buckeye State today. Here’s is the paltry result of that dearth:
 

  1. Voters in tony New Albany-Plain Local Schools rejected two levy requests back in November and their rainy-day surplus is exhausted. The budget cuts required by this state of affairs continue to be phased in. Pay-to-play fees have already increased and the promised reduction in busing begins on April 7. Workforce reductions come at the end of the school year. All of these items were on the minds of residents during a recent school board meeting. The reactions to them are varied and interesting, especially the issue of transportation. Worth a look. (ThisWeek News/New Albany News, 4/1/15)
     
  2. Our other story today also comes from central Ohio. It is a look at home-schooled students who live within the boundaries of Delaware City Schools. It all sounds pretty nice at first; even the headline is sunny and Kumbaya-ish. Homeschoolers can, and do, participate in Delaware’s extracurricular activities including sports and band. And everyone is happy…until we start talking about online charter school students. The distinction between e-school students and “traditional” homeschooled students is important to make for a number of reasons, but not in terms of extracurricular activities. It may be murky journalism or a flawed interpretation of state law, but the assertion printed here
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It may not be obvious at first blush, but the political fight happening in New York right now over teacher evaluations has implications for Ohio. Governor Cuomo has proposed increasing the weight of a student’s test scores to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, made possible by a proposed decrease in the weight of a principal’s observations. Ohio Governor John Kasich hasn’t proposed any significant changes to teacher evaluations this year, but consider this: both Ohio and New York do a poor job of objectively evaluating teachers  who don’t have grade- and subject-specific assessments, both states allow the unfair option of shared attribution, and stakeholders in each are questioning whether teacher evaluations give rise to extra hours of assessments that aren’t meaningful for students. This leads to a big question: Is there a way to fix these problems?    

Enter Educators 4 Excellence  (E4E) and their alternative teacher evaluation framework. E4E is an organization comprised of former and current teachers. Its mission is to magnify teacher voices in policy and legislative arenas where educator views are often overlooked—despite the fact that ensuing decisions significantly impact the day-to-day lives of teachers. E4E supports teacher evaluations that are “fair and rigorous,” and the organization published a paper in 2013 that made suggestions for how to improve the evaluation system in New York. In light of Governor Cuomo’s proposed reforms, they’ve recommended an alternative framework—which just so happens to solve most of the issues with...

  1. There was some opining on House Bill 2 this weekend. That’s the first of the charter law reform bills introduced in the 131st General Assembly, which passed both the education committee and the full House last week. Editors in Akron opined on changes to the “sponsor-hopping” provisions this weekend, provisions which were altered from introduction to passage. (Akron Beacon Journal, 3/28/15)
     
  2. Meanwhile, editors in Chillicothe seemed more bullish as they opine on the reforms in HB 2, and the bipartisan support for charter reform that helped initiate the bill in the first place. (Chillicothe Gazette, 3/28/15)
     
  3. We close out with more editorializing. Editors in Columbus opine this morning against testing opt-outs in Columbus and elsewhere. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/30/15)

In Ohio and across the nation, charters have struggled to obtain adequate, appropriate space in which to operate. As competitors, districts have been reluctant to allow charters to operate in buildings that they own, whether through co-location in an open district school or taking residence in a shuttered school. But according to the latest report from the National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC), a few states and cities have been proactive in helping charters access district facilities. The report, using charter survey data across fourteen states from 2007 to 2014, reveals that charters in California and New York—New York City, in particular—were most likely to operate in district-owned space. In California, nearly half (45 percent) of charters operated in district facilities, while 31 percent of New York charters did so. In New York City, 62 percent of the city’s charters operated in a district facility, undoubtedly encouraged by the $1 rental fee that the district was permitted to charge charters (an innovation of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s). The study also reported some variation in the financial arrangements between districts and charters: Of the charters that operated in a district-owned facility, 46 percent of them reported paying no fee to the district, 41 percent reported paying the district an amount equivalent to the cost of operating the building (a median facility cost of $118,500), and 13 percent reported paying the district an amount above the cost of maintaining the building (a median cost of $540,068). Ohio is not included in...

  1. Busy end to the week around here. First up, House Bill 2 passed out of the education committee on a party line vote on Wednesday. Despite those last amendments we told you about earlier, this is still a huge step forward for charter law in Ohio. Chad is quoted saying just that in the following coverage:  The Alliance Review, 3/26/15, others via AP, and Gongwer Ohio (3/25/15)
     
  2. Also on Wednesday, Senate Bill 3 – the education deregulation bill – passed the full senate on a vote of 24-9. As it stands now, 125 districts would qualify. The Dispatch piece names names of those districts in Franklin and Delaware County. None are surprising. Now, on to the House. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/25/15)
     
  3. Ahead of a full House vote on HB 2, editors in Columbus opined that while “significant”, the bill still wasn’t the best it could be, especially with regards to what didn’t make it in to the bill in committee. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/26/15)
     
  4. The House vote on HB 2 took place yesterday morning. Some discussion was had on the floor on what did and didn’t make it into the bill, but in the end the vote was 70-25. Upon passage, Chad reiterated his support for the bill as “strong legislation that brought together legislators from both parties to do what's right for kids who attend charter schools." On the Senate. Coverage from the Columbus Dispatch (3/26/15), Gongwer Ohio (3/26/15), and WKSU-FM,
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  1. In case you missed it yesterday, HB 2 – the standalone charter law reform bill in the House – received a couple of amendments. Here are two reports on that, both from yesterday afternoon and both quoting Chad.  In the Columbus Dispatch piece, Chad finds the watering-down of anti-sponsor-hopping language to be “a head-scratcher”. In the WKSU-FM radio piece, he opines in more detail, noting that unchecked sponsor-hopping can lead to something of a race to the bottom in terms of school quality.
     
  2. The Plain Dealer looked more closely at what’s NOT in HB 2 as it headed for a committee vote today: specifically, a provision to require wide open books for private entities running schools. In-depth piece on the issue from the perspective of one of the bill’s co-sponsor and the usual “sunshine advocates”. Not a word from charter school advocates in there though. Perhaps they were busy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/24/15)
     
  3. As we have noted more than once, charter law reform is on the minds of many across Ohio. Case in point, editors at the Findlay Courier who opined yesterday on the vital need for charter reform. And they only have one small district-run (and apparently successful) online charter in the town and not another one for 40 miles in any direction! (Findlay Courier, 3/24/15)
     
  4. As also noted previously, charter law reform efforts are coming from everywhere in state government. Much of the attention now is focused on HB 2 –
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