Ohio Gadfly Daily

Data – no, not the character from the hit television series Star Trek -- travels an amazing and mainly unknown journey through galaxies of complex IT systems that only perhaps Stephen Hawking can fully articulate.

As the newest member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s sponsorship team in Dayton, Ohio, I have been inundated recently with compliance issues and database systems.  The database systems are intended to support timely and voluminous data-gathering and reporting between schools and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), and to make that data accessible to the public and researchers.  My most recent assimilation did not involve the Borg, but instead involved ODE’s Education Management Information System, or EMIS.

EMIS, established in 1989, is expansive to say the least. It is ODE’s main data collection source for primary and secondary education, including demographic, attendance, course information, financial data, and test results.  EMIS’ collected data falls into four general categories: district level, student, staff, and financial data.  A community school must timely enter and maintain all of this data into their computer, in goal of sharing it with ODE. In practice, however, this is not as simple as a school merely downloading its data directly into an ODE portal each month and calling it a victory.

All states have similar data systems nowadays, but Ohio’s is deficient among its peers in some regards. First, as Auditor Yost has highlighted, Ohio law prevents the state from having personally identifiable student data.  Instead both ODE and schools are dependent...

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Mathematica Policy Research last week released a major research report showing that students attending KIPP middle schools make substantial additional academic growth relative to peer students who attend other public schools.

Nationwide, the KIPP network of charters consists of 125 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia; of those, this report focused on 43 middle schools serving students in grades five through eight. The student population that participated in the study was 96 percent black or Hispanic; 83 percent qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. 

Mathematica found that after three years, KIPP schools produced an additional eleven months of learning growth in math and eight months in reading. The report also dispels the myth that KIPP schools’ positive effects on learning are a function of “teaching to the test”.  Mathematica examined test results from both state assessments and from the nationally norm-referenced test (Terra Nova), for which teachers and students do not prepare, and found consistently positive results for both exams.

Ohio currently has one KIPP school, KIPP: Journey Academy, which serves grades five through eight in Columbus, and is sponsored by Fordham. While Mathematica did not include KIPP: Journey in its study, we do know that state-reported data indicate that KIPP: Journey is effectively educating students. It was rated “Effective” (B) by the Ohio Department of Education in 2012 and had an “Above” rating along the value-added performance indicator. This, while serving 300 students, of which 91 percent were black and 100 percent were...

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Yesterday was the first day of public testimony on Governor Kasich’s budget proposal before the Ohio House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Committee. Terry submitted testimony on behalf of the Fordham Institute, as did Students First and others.  Following is a good recap from Gongwer News Service:

Terry Ryan, vice-president for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, offered support for the budget, saying the funding offered through the formula would outpace that of almost every other comparable state in FY 14. He also offered suggestions for use in the budget or as the subjects of future legislation.

Firstly, he said all dollars should follow students to the schools they actually attend, but funding is still stuck in categorical programs and flows to the district but not necessarily the building attended.

Mr. Ryan also called for annual academic return on investment reporting for all public schools, both districts and charters. "Just as some districts are more productive than others so are some schools and these should be acknowledged and better understood," he said.

More mandates related to regulations, laws and contract should be eliminated if they force funds to be spent in certain ways in all schools regardless of student characteristics. He said the flexibilities of the Cleveland Plan should be expanded to all districts.

Like the administration, Mr. Ryan said the state should move away from hold harmless provisions and guarantees "that provide funding to districts for phantom students."...

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Terry Ryan offered written testimony to the Ohio House Finance Primary and Secondary Education subcommittee today. Testifying in support of Governor Kasich’s Achievement Everywhere school reform plan, Terry outlined four reasons that the Buckeye State should support the Kasich plan (testimony can be downloaded here): Governor Kasich’s plan

  1. Calls for new investments in public schools. In fact, it seeks an increase in K-12 funding of nearly 10 percent over two years. This is generous in tough fiscal times.
  2. Recognizes the need for getting at, and reporting on, Academic Return on Investment (ROI).
  3. Promotes innovations and innovators through its Straight-A fund.
  4. Removes some of the shackles off educators. Specifically, under the proposed “Free to Advance” provisions some regulations will be lifted so districts and schools can make more effective use of state dollars.

In addition, Terry also offered five recommendations to improve the Kasich education plan:

  1. Get all dollars to follow kids to the schools they actually attend.
  2. Require annual Academic ROI reporting for all public school buildings in the state – district and charters. Just as some districts are more productive than others, so are some schools and these should be acknowledged and better understood.
  3. Further eliminate mandates – regulations, laws, contracts – that force funds to be spent in particular ways across all schools regardless of student characteristics.
  4. Rapidly move away from “hold harmless” provisions and guarantees that provide funding to districts for phantom students. An obvious downside to such policies is that they
  5. ...
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When then-Governor Ted Strickland issued his Evidence-Based Model (EBM) of school funding reform in 2009 we engaged Professor Paul Hill to provide an analysis of the proposals. We couldn’t think of anyone better to do the work than Professor Hill. His credentials are impeccable. He is founder and recently retired director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a former Senior Fellow at Brookings and RAND. Further, Professor Hill has roots in Ohio as a graduate of Ohio State University. He also has family in Dayton.
 
Professor Hill’s analysis of Strickland’s plan was largely informed by the research project he led, Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. That six-year effort, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. It concluded that America’s public-school finance systems are burdened by rules and narrow policies that hold local officials accountable for compliance but not for results. Facing the Future was the work of more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It included more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
 
Based on findings and recommendations from Facing the Future we asked Professor Hill to develop a “crosswalk” between the key findings of that seminal report and the policy recommendations in the Strickland’s Plan. Professor Hill’s analysis of Governor Strickland’s EBM was not kind. It stated bluntly, “Though Governor Ted...

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Dayton panelists from left: Bob Taft, Rusty Clifford and Lori Ward

The word churn is used within a variety of industries.  Just as customers leave businesses and migrate to competitors for other products or pricing options, students transfer between school districts and buildings. Churn is a reality within Ohio schools.  But what are the reasons for this cycle? School leaders, parents, community members and others gathered yesterday in Dayton and Cincinnati to discuss student churn, what it means for their schools and what might be done about it. A crowd of about 100 gathered for each event.

In November, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Columbus-based Community Research Partners (CRP), and nine other funders released a statewide study of student mobility in Ohio. This substantial report was the basis of the conversations hosted by Learn to Earn in Dayton and The Strive Partnership in Cincinnati. 

“Today’s event in Dayton was very eye opening,” said Chatoya Hayes, an audience member who joined the discussion from the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area.  “I think the issue of student mobility is directly altering student success and is a major factor not usually considered.”  Hayes said she found the comparisons between Dayton and other districts in Ohio to be especially beneficial to the thinking of audience members.  Churn within schools can be associated with a variety of factors, whether academic, family life, or housing situations. At...

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Here in the policy world—as we prepare legislative testimony, author white papers, commission research studies, draft blog posts, prepare for meetings, and do additional, far more mundane work—we often say to ourselves, “Didn’t I just do this the other day?” Likely we mean, didn’t I just advocate for this the other month or year. We repeat, and repeat, and repeat, our messages. To observers, we might be a broken record. And we are—with good reason.

Consider this example from education policy: Ohio’s State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010. Today, two-and-a-half years later, how many of those members still serve on the board? Five. Out of 19. What about the General Assembly? How many of those members were serving during Ohio’s eight-month debate over adopting the Common Core standards? Fifty-two percent (or 69 members).

Since the state adopted the Common Core standards, Fordham-Ohio has produced multiple reports on the topic, convened three major events about the standards, and written more than fifty articles on our blog and in our e-newsletter. (To say nothing of the numerous conversations we have with lawmakers, State Board of Education members, reporters, and business/education/community leaders.) This ongoing and, yes, repetitive work serves a purpose: to help new policymakers, education leaders, and the public engaged in and understanding of important issues facing our state’s schools. As policy advocates we have to keep this in mind, and learn to be okay with sounding like a broken record.

Thank you to my...

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My son is a student in the Columbus City School District. Thus, what transpires per education in Ohio’s largest district impacts me personally, not just professionally. Last evening I was pleased on both fronts by Mayor Michael Coleman’s State of the City address. It was his 14th such speech but it was a “first” in one regard: Coleman tackled the issue of improving public schools in his city head-on. This speech comes as the mayor’s education commission is meeting regularly to develop a plan to help right the city’s schools. (Terry and Ethan Gray from CEE-Trust presented to the committee just a few days ago). Terry's presentation can be viewed here and Ethan's can be viewed here.

The entire speech was promising and demonstrated the mayor’s strong intent to provide better education options to his city’s children. Perhaps most striking, though, was his unabashed support for good charter schools (which is rare from an Ohio Democrat—though we’ve seen tides shift among other urban Dems). Here is the charter school portion of the speech:

And finally: Every child deserves to go to a good school, and the schools that consistently fail our children must be replaced.

Unfortunately we don’t have enough good schools in Columbus. When you combine Columbus City Schools and charter schools, only five percent of schools earn an A rating. That means only 2,800 of 65,000 students go to excellent schools. Meanwhile, five times as many students attend failing...

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In a Senate hearing on February 20, the Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers presented progress the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has made in the past six months on various initiatives. In what he deemed a “crash course,” Sawyers shared the changes being made to the state and district report cards distributed to schools, assessments required for students, and evaluations given to teachers. The superintendent seemed optimistic about the changes related to the Common Core. Sawyers, moreover, paid special attention to the introduction of new Common Core learning standards which he believes will “put the art back into teaching.”

In response to No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001, ODE was required to write academic standards that required teachers to follow specific guidelines. Sawyers then compared the 2001 standards against the new Common Core standards.  

SOURCE: Michael Sawyers, “Education Reform Update: Presented to the Senate Education Committee,” PowerPoint presentation, February 20, 2013.

Sawyers explained that changing the language allows the Common Core standards to be “fewer, deeper, and clearer.” By wrapping these standards into clusters, teachers are able to creatively unpack what lessons they can teach their students, bucking the checklist of requirements that they had to consider before the Common Core. The new standards also ask the students to delve deeper into material, providing teachers the opportunity to create instruction that digs into the nuances of academic content.  

Currently, ODE is...

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Lima, Ohio, recently named the nation’s ninth saddest city, received some cheer earlier this week when Governor John Kasich strode into town for his annual state of the state address. Among the myriad of topics the governor touched upon was K-12 education reform, and the residents of Lima—and many more across the Buckeye State—should be heartened by the education reforms he proposes.

Among the boldest and most exciting reforms the governor proposes, is his overhaul of the state’s school funding formula. The funding proposal the governor has laid forth levels the playing field for all Ohio students. It ensures that youngsters who attend a public school system with less local wealth—measured by property value and income—receive more state aid. For example, according to the governor’s preliminary FY 2014 estimates, the property and income-rich Upper Arlington schools near Columbus would receive no state aid for its regular students. (It would receive aid for its special education, economically disadvantaged, gifted, and English language learner students.) The state assumes, correctly, that Upper Arlington’s local residents can and will raise sufficient revenue to educate their children. This is sensible public finance—furnishing limited state funds to Upper Arlington is like giving Donald Trump social security. They simply don’t need it.

Meanwhile, the governor’s proposal provides generous state aid to students who reside in poorer, hard-scrabble communities such as Lima. Lima doesn’t have five-bedroom homes that generate large amounts of school tax revenue, and additionally, its residents don't have surplus income lying around...

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