Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Fordham’s two reports on charter schools in Ohio – released a month ago – are still resonating in media circles. Then Enquirer’s latest prognostication on policy initiatives likely to take center stage in 2015 includes charter school law reform, and notes Fordham’s reports as support. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Commentator Marilou Johanek is pessimistic that the fix to charter law will come as promised, despite the CREDO/Bellwether/Fordham reports. I think what she means is that she’s sure something will be done with regard to charter law in 2015, but probably not what she and the Blade are hoping for. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. In the only other news of relevance I could find today, it seems that the administration and the teachers union have something of a differing view of how things are going in Middletown schools these days. The union said a pretty emphatic no to the idea of allowing the district supe to retire and be rehired. Not because they oppose the practice – perish the thought – but because they paint a far less rosy picture of the state of the district than the supe does. (Middletown Journal News)
     

RESEARCH BITES 1/12/15: Ohio’s Quality Counts Rating – Achievement Gains

Last week, Education Week released its annual “Quality Counts” report. Ohio earned an overall grade of a C. But Ed Week also generates that grade using an assortment of demographic, achievement, and financial variables, some of which are more valid gauges...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill appeared on WCPN’s Sound of Ideas yesterday, as part of a panel talking about charter schools in Ohio. Great discussion with some important details and nuance presented. You can check out IdeaStream’s brief report on the story here. And you can get the full audio here. Big thanks to WCPN and host Mike McIntyre for doing a whole hour on this important topic and for having us join in.
     
  2. There’s no denying that charter schools are the biggest area of interest in education policy in Ohio at the moment. Editors in Columbus once again opine on the subject of charters today, giving kudos to the Ohio Department of Education for their tougher stance on the “recycling” of closed schools and the authorizers who, well, authorize such things. And then they call again upon the General Assembly to overhaul Ohio charter law. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. We’ve talked a bit about expansion of dual enrollment in Ohio the last couple of weeks. That is, high school students taking college courses for credit through various avenues. Officials at Dayton’s Sinclair Community College are celebrating a record number of high school students doing just that via their programs this term. Nice. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. As predicted, editors in Akron published their take on the very interesting series of stories from earlier in the week on the topic of “racial lopsidedness” in many of Ohio’s classrooms. Worth a read, as is the series itself.
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  1. Editors in Cleveland opine strongly against retire-rehire/double-dipping among the ranks of superintendents in Ohio. Choice words they used: “shameless”, “ridiculous charade”, “pension jackpot”. Ouch.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Fourteen people have applied to fill a recently-vacated seat on Reynoldsburg City Schools’ board, including the guy who sued the district last year to force the schools to close until the teacher strike concluded. Nuts and bolts version here from ThisWeek News/Reynoldsburg News. (Of note, this is the same publication that famously used the phrase “scab firm” in a headline about district strike prep.) A more discerning version of the story was in the Dispatch yesterday, where the guy was actually asked about it and wrote, for the record, “While often times my disagreements with board policies are what get noticed in the community, it is unfortunate that my much more frequent agreements and positive support for our schools goes unnoticed.” Would be a fun job interview to sit in on…if there is one.
     
  3. This story on Middletown schools’ ongoing funding woes – property tax revenues are projected to be down $1.3 million over the next two years – seems innocuous enough. Property taxes are an issue in many smaller districts around the state. However, let’s keep in mind yesterday’s story about Middletown’s mooted sale of a closed school building to a local church. I wondered while reading this whether the projected funding issues will make it less likely or more likely that outside agitators will intervene
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  1. Tired of reading about calls for fixes to Ohio’s charter school law? Me neither. Chad Aldis has a guest commentary in the Enquirer today on that very topic. “It is past time,” he says, “for Ohio's charter sector to leave its troubled past behind.” Yes indeed. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Editors in Akron are also still keen to opine on education fixes as well. They laud the leaders of the new 131st General Assembly for their verbal commitment to education this week but warn of similar previous rhetoric that went nowhere. Interestingly, they use their soapbox to urge legislators to utilize specific data and research to inform their work. I won’t spoil the surprise and let you read it yourself to see of whom they are speaking. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. Members of the Youngstown school board say they agree with an outside consultant’s recommendation that communication needs to be improved between the board and the district superintendent. Just not so much that they think it a good idea for the supe to attend all their meetings. Go figure. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. From the “haven’t we been down this road before?” file: A local church was the highest bidder in an effort to sell a closed school building in Middletown. They’ve got some big plans for the place which – says the pastor – will enhance the community. And the sale will save the district a packet. But Middletown is just down the road from Monroe, where
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Before Christmas, we gave you the rundown of all the media outlets that focused on charter quality and policy thanks to two Fordham-sponsored reports:  Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) report on Charter School Performance in Ohio and Bellwether Education Partners’ The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio's Charter School Sector. The holidays are over now and we’re nearly a week into the new year and media outlets are still talking about the reports and largely concur on the need to improve Ohio’s charter sector. In case you missed the rash of editorials over the past two weeks, here’s a quick look at what they say:  

On Christmas Eve, Fordham’s Chad Aldis appeared in the Columbus Dispatch with commentary about the relationship between bad law and bad charter schools. He focused first on the results from the CREDO report, which found that Ohio charter students, on average, lose an equivalent of 14 days of learning in reading and 43 days of learning in math relative to their district peers. Chad pointed out that while these numbers are bad in their own right, they are even more appalling when compared to charter results from across the country. “Michigan charters add 43 extra days of learning in [reading and math]; and in Tennessee, charters provide an eye-popping 86 additional days of learning in reading and 72 days in math,” he said. “Charter schools can and do work in many other places, so why...

  1. The 131st Ohio General Assembly kicked off its first session yesterday – mostly with housekeeping and welcoming activities. But the Senate president did set a bit of a tone in his opening remarks by calling for “education deregulation” in Ohio, urging his members to recognize the diverse nature of school districts when proposing sweeping education measures and asking, "Why do we hold everybody to the same structure?” Fascinating. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. The Dayton Daily News reported on yesterday’s opening sessions in both the House and Senate.  Seems like both chambers are interested in tackling education issues, including the clarion call for charter law reform. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. The Beacon Journal’s series on racial diversity in schools continued yesterday with a piece about efforts in Akron schools and elsewhere to hire more minority teachers and what it means for students to have a teaching staff that attempts to mirror the growing diversity of the student body. Of particular note is the case of Akron’s Buchtel High School, whose principal has been given a dispensation by the local teacher’s union to hire directly rather than to accept transfer requests and merit assignments. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  1. The Big D promised us a look at ECOT – Ohio’s largest and oldest virtual school – and here it is. Aaron is quoted in this story, which notes some pluses of the statewide virtual model along with all of the usual minuses. But honestly, why does no one involved seem to want to know WHY so many students are choosing online education, despite some obvious quality issues? Until that question is asked and the myriad answers fully understood by folks on both sides, no improvement can possibly be made. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Lest we think the Dispatch is only about charter school hit pieces, here’s an editorial from the weekend where “the Columbus Plan” is reinvoked very positively. Many have already forgotten the Columbus Education Commission and its 55 recommendations – and with Mayor Coleman heading for the sunset, some serious mojo behind those recommendations will be lost – but the Big D has not. They note that some progress has been made on more than half of them, but that many of the biggest recommendations languish, mainly due to lack of funding. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Speaking of editorials, the Blade returns to discussion of the “5 of 8” rule from a couple of months ago, but uses it as a springboard to opine on the need for more/better/different funding mechanisms for schools in Ohio. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. There’s no editorial on this topic yet, but expect one along shortly as the Beacon Journal digs into
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  1. Starting the new year with a bang, the Big D’s got a front page story on charter schools in Ohio, noting that a very small number of new schools opened in 2014. Our own Aaron Churchill and ODE’s John Charlton both attribute this to diligence by the department. Not sure the journalist agrees. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Charter schools are on the minds of the editorial board in Cleveland as well. Today’s editorial repeats the call for action to reform the state’s charter school sector, citing the recent CREDO and Bellwether reports, and Fordham’s central efforts in pushing reform. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Not content to stop at an editorial, the PD’s political prognostication also covers charter school law reform, noting CREDO/Bellwether/Fordham while betting that charter law reform will be one of Governor Kasich’s top 5 priorities in 2015. I predict that that is correct. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Fascinating story about “ESC shopping” among districts in Geauga County. Ledgemont Schools – in fiscal distress – were required to shop around for a new Education Service Center looking strictly at cost. Others have already decided to stay put, but several are shopping around. What they are looking for – lower cost or better services or both – differs from district to district. Worth a read. (Willoughby News-Herald)
  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 confessed to not understanding the point of Public Broadcasting’s “American Graduate” program, which rolled (seemingly unhelpfully) through Cleveland a couple of weeks ago. Even after doing some outside digging, I don’t get it. Students who are at risk of not graduating high school are – I’m pretty sure – aware
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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 the dual-enrollment program allowing students to take college classes for credit while still in high school. High-minded and virtuous, right? Especially the bit about allowing students to take the college courses remotely while sitting in their high school building. But the rule-making discussion focused on the nuts and bolts issues
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