Ohio Gadfly Daily

ACT recently released individual state reports that reviewed student performance on the 2012-2013 ACT college readiness assessment. ACT introduced updates to the assessment last year explaining that, “tighter alignment was needed between ACT college readiness standards and the Common Core State Standards.” With the assessment’s alignment to the Common Core, Ohio received a clear look into the college readiness of its high school students. Ohio’s report reviews student achievement in each of the four content areas--English, reading, mathematics, and science--and overall performance on the ACT. In 2012-13, 92,813 Ohio students, or 72 percent of Ohio seniors, took the ACT exam. Ohio’s average composite score was 21.8, just higher than the national average of 20.9. Despite Ohio’s above-average performance, the report also found some concerning statistics. First, less than half of Ohio’s students met ACT’s benchmark for “college and career readiness” for math (49 percent met ACT’s benchmark) and for science (44 percent met the benchmark). A higher percentage of students, however, met the benchmarks in reading (51 percent) and in English (71 percent). More starkly, just 31 percent of high school students met ACT’s benchmark in all four subject areas. The report recommends that “all states—especially those that have adopted the Common Core State Standards—should be aligning college and career readiness standards to a rigorous core curriculum for all high school students whether they are bound for college or work.” With less than a third of Ohio graduates meeting all of ACT’s benchmarks for “college readiness,”...

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OASBO’s recent analysis of school performance shouldn’t shock anyone. A school’s overall student achievement level, the Ohio Association of School Business Officers found, is linked to economic disadvantage. No kidding! One could practically uproot a forest printing the research that has shown the link between poverty and achievement.

But as we lament the generally low achievement results of Ohio’s neediest students, let’s not ignore the fact that there are schools that do fantastic work helping Ohio’s most disadvantaged students achieve at high levels and/or make large learning gains (aka, “progress”) over the course of the school year. (For a more extended discussion about the differences in “achievement” and “progress,” read our recent analysis of Ohio’s school Report Cards, Parsing Performance.)

Consider chart 1, which shows yet again the relationship between poverty and student achievement. The trend line through the scatter plot of points (each point represents a school building) slopes sharply downwards. This indicates that a school with a higher poverty rate is also more likely to exhibit lower achievement, as measured by Ohio’s “performance index”—a weighted composite score that accounts for all test scores from a school.

But look, however, at the far right portion of the plot. There is substantial variation in the performance index score of schools with 95 percent or above economically disadvantaged students.[1] Although a good many very high poverty schools fall well beneath the trend line (lower than approximately 80 PI), many other schools are well above it...

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The Buckeye State’s new A-F report card is a wonderful opportunity for parents to gain a better appreciation of how their child’s school is doing, and to take action if necessary. This August, Ohio switched to a conventional A-F letter grading system to report (public) school and district performance. The A-F grades provide a clear and transparent way of reporting whether a school is academically strong, weak, or somewhere in between.

But with nine (!) indicators of school performance in play (and more to come), parents also need to know which of the letter grades are the most crucial to understand, and how they ought to interpret them. (Ohio will not issue an “overall” A-F letter grade to schools and districts until August 2015.)

So, how is a parent to understand the state’s new school report cards? To start, let’s begin with the two big questions that parents likely want to know about their child’s school (or potential school).

1.) Is the typical student in my child’s school achieving at a high-level?

2.) Is my child’s school helping students learn?

There are two key A-F letter grades that answer these questions.

To answer question one, parents should look towards a school’s performance index A-F rating. The performance index letter grade indicates how well a school’s students perform on Ohio’s standardized exams. Hence, this is the key gauge of raw student achievement within a school.

By looking at the performance index rating, parents can gain a sense of whether their child’s...

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Earlier this month, Fordham released a brand-new report, What Parents Want, which looks at parent priorities and preferences in K–12 schools. We found that parents’ “must-haves” do not vary greatly, and that parents are more alike than they are different. (Chief among parents’ priorities: schools that have provide a strong core curriculum in reading and math and that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.) But differences among parents also emerged, in six market-research “niches,” where parents prioritized individual school attributes or student goals that other parents viewed as less important.

So we know what all parents—and what parent “niches”—want in our schools. But do we have the schools that meet parents’ needs? Does Ohio’s supply of schools meet the demands of picky parents?

Not perfectly, of course. By all accounts, school, student, and parent don’t always mesh like a hand in glove. But, there is also evidence that public schools are increasingly designing curriculum and hiring staff to meet the demands of specific parental segments, while at the same time, holding to high academic standards. Looking across Ohio, we put together a short list of district and charter schools that, in some way or another, appear to cater these niches. (By no means is this an all-inclusive list; we surely left off many schools that exemplify the market niches.)

The following bullets describe parental niches that were identified in the survey, along with a few schools—all high schools—that we think meet the various niche markets. (See our...

Community and human service agency leaders gathered this morning in Columbus to discuss student mobility in Ohio’s schools (when students transfer schools for reasons other than customary promotion). Have A Heart Ohio (HAHO), a nonpartisan network of over 100 social service agencies and organizations, invited Aaron Churchill to present the results of Fordham’s groundbreaking Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools report and the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) president Melissa Cropper provided her perspective on the findings. Jon Honeck, the Edward D. and Dorothy E.  Lynde Fellow at the Center for Community Solutions and Co-Chair of HAHO, organized the meeting and introduced the discussion as “an opportunity for education and human services to have more dialogue.”

Aaron opened the meeting by giving a PowerPoint presentation (downloadable copy available here: Mobility Presentation 8.9.13.ppton the student mobility study. The research, which used Ohio Department of Education data from October 2009 to May 2011, was conducted by Community Research Partners and received funding support from the OFT. Aaron presented the research findings concerning the magnitude of mobility, the patterns of mobility, and the impact of mobility on student achievement. He concluded the presentation with a few implications of the study for policy and practice. These included policies that encourage summer moves, rather than within school-year moves (if a student must move),...

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Summer vacation is over for many of Ohio’s students. As they head off to class, you may find yourself with some extra time to catch up on reading. Looking for suggestions? The Fordham staff is here to help you find some good reads.

Private Enterprise and Public Education: Strange Bedfellows or Natural Allies?

Angel Gonzalez

Everyone take a breath. For-profit providers in education have value.

Before we get squeamish about the potential “business takeover of our schools”, it may be a good idea to read this piece from the American Enterprise Institute. The article discusses the symbiosis that can exist between public schools and for-profit providers. In the report, the authors candidly discuss the role, as well as the pros and cons, of for-profit engagement in the education sector. On the one hand, Hess et al. argue that for-profit entities can be “exceedingly responsive to customer desires.” The authors argue that for-profits are motivated to attract the broadest base of public school “customers” using the most cost-effective methods. For-profits can also be driven to develop innovative education delivery programs to expand their consumer base and attract individuals with strong academic credentials. These innovations, in turn, can be adopted by public schools and refined to serve an even wider base of students. On the other hand, the authors find that for-profit customer responsiveness is a potential threat to delivering quality educational services. Hess et al. cite Abt Associates’ Todd Grindal who shares that many pre-K for-profit schools focus on...

You’ve seen the films—Waiting for “Superman”, The Lottery—you’ve heard the stories about parents anxiously filling out request forms months in advance in New York City or camping out for the “magnet school scramble” in Cincinnati. And you’ve even heard me talking about it on this very blog. Sometimes winning the lottery is the only thing you as a parent care about. That school is the best thing you can find for your child and there’s very little you yourself can do to access it aside from being lucky. If you don’t get in, do you have a Plan B and are you really willing to put yourselves through this again next year when the outcome could be the same?

Through luck and providence, we had a very good Plan B put together: another private school. More tuition, more religion, applying for the lottery again next year, another decision to be made for high school in just a couple of years. But it would work.

It turns out that several weeks after our first-round disappointment, more seats were opened in that popular “holy grail” school I told you about and one of my children won the second round lottery and got in.

Yep. Just one of the two.

We were then faced with several dilemmas: undoing Plan B for one, tackling the quick turnaround of admissions paperwork, figuring out how logistically to send our twins to two different schools in different parts of town—one Catholic and Montessori, the other...

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City-County Council members in Indianapolis convened a panel of experts yesterday evening to discuss the impact of charter authorizers on school quality. The Council invited Fordham’s Terry Ryan, Mind Trust’s Dave Harris, radio personality Amos Brown, Indianapolis Public School Board member Caitlin Hannon, and National Association of Charter School Authorizer’s (NACSA) Amanda Fenton to share their advice and experience in charter authorizing. Currently, Indianapolis’ 31 charter schools are authorized by Ball State University, the newly formed Indiana Charter School Board, and the Indianapolis Mayor’s office. The discussion was intended to help city leaders understand what charter authorizers do, as well as the pros and cons of having multiple authorizers within one city or state.

The background to this meeting was the passage of House Bill 1002 in 2011, which has increased the number of authorizers in the Hoosier State. The legislation granted the Indiana Charter School Board and private universities the ability to become authorizers of schools, in the hope that it would broaden the amount of charter schools serving students. Dave Harris, however, argued that expanding the authorizer market was a “solution to a nonexistent problem” for Indiana. Harris, who helped create the Indianapolis mayor’s authorization office, stated that authorizers in Indianapolis have not reached capacity and that including more authorizers in the city would allow low-performing charters to “shop around” for an authorizer, in order to stay open.

Drawing on his experience here in the Buckeye State (Fordham authorizes 11 charters...

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute today announced two new vice presidents to lead its education-reform efforts in Ohio. Chad Aldis will join the Fordham Institute as vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy and Kathryn Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives. Terry Ryan, Fordham’s current vice president for Ohio programs and policy, will be leaving Fordham to serve as the President of the Idaho Charter School Network.

Aldis, a longtime advocate for Ohio education reform, most recently served as a program officer in the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area for the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining Walton, he served as the executive director of School Choice Ohio and was the Ohio state director for StudentsFirst. Aldis will join Fordham in October and lead school-reform initiatives throughout Ohio.

Mullen-Upton has been Fordham’s director of sponsorship since 2005, where she is responsible for the management and oversight of Fordham’s charter-school-authorizing operations. Effective immediately, Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives, where she will expand Fordham’s charter sponsorship operations and advance education-reform efforts in Fordham’s home town.

“Terry Ryan is unique and therefore cannot be ‘replaced,’” said Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. “Ohio and Fordham—and the education-reform cause more broadly—have benefited hugely from his labors these past dozen years. We will miss him and wish him the very best in Idaho.”

“Terry can, however, be ‘succeeded,’ and in Chad Aldis and Kathryn Mullen-Upton, we have been fortunate to find...

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In 2011-12, Cleveland’s public school system (traditional district and charter) had 80 schools rated a D or F. Over 30,000 students enrolled in these buildings. Given these numbers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s headline is remarkable: “Hundreds of Spots Remain in Cleveland's Top-Rated Public Schools this Fall.” 

The article goes on to describe how the city’s top-rated schools still have the capacity to serve more students this coming school year. These are both district and charter schools, and all produce solid academic results, while serving some of Ohio’s most needy students.

Among the district schools with open slots: The top-rated John Hay Academies, three so-called “exam schools,” had nearly 150 available seats; MC2 STEM school had 56; and Whitney Young Leadership Academy had 227 open seats. Among the charter schools, Cleveland’s E-Prep School—part of the Breakthrough Schools, one of the nation’s highest-performing charter school networks—had 60 empty seats. Two ICAN charter schools, a high-performing charter network based in Cleveland, had 70 open seats.

By my calculation, the total number of open seats on the PD’s distinguished list of schools—17 schools were listed in all—came to 1,105.

It’s a shame that there are any open seats in high-quality Cleveland schools, much less over 1,000. The city has a staggering number of low-performing schools, whether one measures performance by state rating, or by value-added growth or achievement scores. And with so many poor-performing schools, it’s no surprise then that Cleveland’s school system has the second-worst NAEP scores—the so-called “Nation’s Report Card”—in the U.S. (only...

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