Ohio Gadfly Daily

Yesterday, National Public Radio talked finance with kindergarten students from Village Preparatory School–Woodland Hills, a Fordham-sponsored charter school in Cleveland. Village Prep is one of nine schools in the Breakthrough Schools network of high-performing charter schools that serve students from Cleveland’s inner city.

When NPR asked these youngsters how they would spend $100, their replies ranged from Reese’s cups, to a car, to a toy for their dogs. The twist: These kids might really get $100—but not for candy.

If Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald succeeds, each of the county’s kindergarteners would receive a college savings account flush with $100. The plan, which is modeled after a similar program in San Francisco, is intended to inspire parents and children to take seriously the prospect of going to college.

We applaud efforts to promote the expectation that our youngest students will attend college, while simultaneously encouraging their parents to think about the economics of college early in their kids’ lives. County Executive FitzGerald’s plan is a very modest and entirely right step in this direction.

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Eric Hanushek, Marguerite Roza, and Frederick Hess provided Ohio’s lawmakers today with ideas for helping the Buckeye State retool its school funding system. StudentsFirst, an education reform organization, recruited these leading experts to Ohio and arranged meetings with both the House and the Senate finance committees. Ohio’s Governor John Kasich has promised to address school funding in his 2013 biennial budget proposal.

Hanushek, who testified in person (Hess and Roza joined by videoconference), led off the conversation with these lawmakers. He enumerated five principles of a strong school finance and accountability system. (These are described in more detail in his publication, Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America’s Public Schools.) These principles include:

1. Establishing a set of standards, assessments, and accountability for schools that are strong and transparent.

2. Empowering local districts to allocate funds in ways that meet the needs of their students. State lawmakers shouldn’t dictate, Hanushek insisted, how districts spend their funds.

3. Rewarding successful schools and not directing additional funds to failing schools. State lawmakers need to resist the impulse to distribute more funds to failing districts, as it may incentivize failure.

4. Providing funding for innovation and evaluation. The state should fund innovative educational practices and programs, but any innovative program funded by the state should also be rigorously evaluated. Importantly, Hanushek emphasized that evaluation of innovative programs needs to be done at the inception of the program, not after the program has been implemented.

5....

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Today the Ohio Senate Education Committee heard testimony and debated the merits of House Bill 555 (HB 555), legislation that would overhaul Ohio's school accountability system, if passed. The legislation has passed through the Ohio House of Representatives and is currently under review by the Senate. Revamping Ohio’s accountability system is required under Ohio's ESEA Flexibility request.

Most significantly, HB 555 proposes a change in how the Buckeye State rates schools' academic performance. Under current policy, Ohio's public school buildings and districts (charter and traditional) are given a rating from "Academic Emergency" to "Excellent with Distinction." HB 555 would do away with these designations and move to an A to F rating system. The new grading system would take effect beginning in the 2014-15 school year. In addition to this change, HB 555 would also revise the components and weights of a school's Report Card, enact an accountability framework for dropout recovery charter schools, and establish a rating system for charter school sponsors.

Fordham's vice president Terry Ryan testified in favor of HB 555, arguing that the legislation represents a step forward in Ohio's accountability system. You can read Terry's Senate testimony here, along with an analysis of how the implementation of the PARCC exams (tests aligned to the Common Core) may affect the state's and districts’ proficiency rates in 2014-15....

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The Buckeye Association of School Administrators has named Rusty Clifford of West Carrollton City Schools Ohio's Superintendent of the Year for 2013.

The Gadfly applauds this choice and salutes Superintendent Clifford's track record of success and excellence in West Carrollton.

As teacher, coach, principal and now Superintendent, Rusty Clifford embodies the highest ideals in education.

Congratulations!

Check out the announcement of Superintendent Clifford's honor in the Dayton Daily News.

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The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), a top-notch group of entities that are serious about sponsoring quality charter schools, issued a call this week for authorizers and state laws to be more proactive in closing failing schools and opening great new ones. They call it the One Million Lives campaign.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Number of Ohio charter schools in the lowest 15 percent of state performance.
Source: 2011-12 Ohio Report Card Results.

At the kickoff, NACSA President Greg Richmond said, “In some places, accountability unfortunately has been part of the charter model in name only. If charters are going to succeed in helping improve public education, accountability must go from being rhetoric to reality.” He then called for a policy agenda aimed at achieving both smarter growth and stronger accountability in these ways:

  • Establishing strong statewide authorizers that promote both high-quality growth and accountability,
  • Writing into law standards for authorizers that are based on NACSA’s excellent Principles & Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing,
  • Placing performance expectations for charter renewal into state law,
  • Empowering authorizers to close schools that fail to meet the expectations set in their charter contracts,
  • Holding authorizers accountable for the performance of their schools and their authorizing practices, and
  • Creating automatic school closure laws that make it impossible for education failure to persist forever.
  • ...
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There’s no question about it: Students are on the move in the Buckeye State. Fordham and Community Research Partners’ recent mobility study shows the near-ubiquity of student mobility in Ohio’s metro areas (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo).

But student mobility isn’t only occurring in urban schools; mobility happens frequently in rural schools also. (Our research examines mobility in schools across all of Ohio.)

A roundup of recent newspaper reports underscores the growing need to understand mobility in all areas of Ohio--rural districts included. In addition, these news articles also begin to answer the all-important questions of what’s causing mobility (or conversely, stability) in our schools, and what the effects of mobility are.

The Chillicothe Gazette examines some of the reasons why students move among schools in the rural, blue-collar counties surrounding Columbus. District administrators pointed to the lack of job opportunities in declining rural townships as the trigger for student mobility.

For example, the Crestline Exempted Village (Crawford County) superintendent attributed a large amount of its mobility to the loss of a General Motors plant in their area. A school official at Eastern Local (Pike County) pointed to another cause of mobility, in addition to economic decline: The large number of highly-mobile, foster students living in temporary homes in her district.

The Lima News, which covers several rural counties in northwestern Ohio, focused on student mobility via open enrollment at Perry Local School District (Allen County). Perry is the state’s largest recipient of open enrollees, as...

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Today, I happened upon a decades-old Rand Corporation report (McLaughlin and Berman, 1975) on the topic of educational change and school-level implementation. Of the many interesting and important tidbits of information in this report, I found this quote striking—and perhaps most relevant—for Common Core implementation:

“Indifferent and unreceptive environments were frequent in our sample of projects attempted in upper-level schools. . . . Change agent projects that included the higher grade levels experienced severe management and administrative problems as well as teacher resistance. For example, reading projects that spanned all grade levels consistently encountered resistance at the upper-level schools as they attempted to persuade science or history teachers to view themselves as teachers of reading.”

According to the Rand report, high schools exhibited more hostility to change than elementary schools, largely because of teacher resistence. High school teachers, the researchers found, "perceive themselves as having large intellectual and emotional investments in academic purity." As such, high school teachers, who often teach specialized subjects (i.e., biology or U.S. history), have less motivation to work outside their "solid subject" area, try "new ideas," and thus act as "change agents."

In 2014-15, Ohio will fully transition to the Common Core in math and English language arts for all grade levels, K-12. So, changing course from an all-grade-level implementation to a graduated implementation (elementaries first and high schools later) would be nearly impossible. The Rand findings, however, should raise awareness that high schools may strongly resist the Common Core. As a result, Common...

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Terry Ryan, Fordham’s Vice President for Ohio Programs and Policy, penned a thoughtful comparison between the social narrative in which Mike Petrilli’s latest book The Diverse Schools Dilemma belongs and that in which the Ohio team’s new report on Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools fits. The parents who face the diverse schools dilemma are “socially-conscious middle-class parents” who wish for diverse and high-performing schools. The parents of “student nomads,” however, are—first and foremost—“struggling to simply find a permanent place to live.” To read more, click here for Terry Ryan’s post in today’s Flypaper.

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Fordham and Community Research Partners’ student mobility project, released last week, measures the frequency and describes the pattern of student movement in Ohio's schools. The mobility data, while dense, have practical and strategic uses for school-level and district-level practitioners.

Here’s one possible use.

Our research provides educators with information about student mobility networks. This information can help superintendents, principals, and teachers know which schools they are most connected to, by way of student moves.

At a school building level, network data can help educators identify which schools they need to work closely with—perhaps aligning curricular or instructional approaches or making sure their textbooks are the same. At a district-level, network data can help administrators plan facilities or personnel. For example, administrators may find highly-connected schools easier to consolidate, if facility costs are a concern. Similarly, to save on personnel costs, districts could share staff across highly-connected schools. Rather than having a school counselor for each school building, a single counselor may just as effectively serve multiple but highly-connected schools.

To illustrate what a student mobility network looks like (see, D. Kerbow, 1996), I use Bond Hill Elementary School as an example—for no reason other than for illustration. Bond Hill, enrollment 400, is part of Cincinnati Public Schools, 91 percent economically disadvantaged, and nearly 100 percent minority. The school received a C rating (Continuous Improvement) in 2010-11 and in 2011-12.

Bond Hill had an above average one-year churn rate in 2010-11 (32 percent) compared to Cincinnati Public Schools (on...

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Foreword

For several years, in our role as charter school authorizer, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has worked closely and collaboratively with the governing authority (Alliance Community Schools) of the Dayton View and Dayton Liberty charter schools to encourage better results. After more than a decade of working together, the governing board fired the school’s operator, Edison Learning, at the end of the 2011-12 school year. At the start of this school year the management responsibilities for both buildings were turned over to a veteran Dayton educator and his management team. 

Because we believe there are many lessons to be drawn from this experience, we engaged veteran journalist Ellen Belcher to tell the story of these two schools and ongoing efforts to improve the education they provide some of Dayton’s neediest children. Ellen is an award-winning journalist and former editorial page editor of the Dayton Daily News, where she frequently wrote about education issues including those around charter schools.

Our task to Ellen was straightforward – talk to the board members (current and former), administrators, teachers, and parents involved in the two schools and find out their stories. Why, in their words, haven’t the schools lived up to their promise? She also reached out to current and former officials from the schools’ former operator, Edison Learning, to get their perspectives on these issues, and she spoke with Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. for his take as well. 

Ellen tackled the assignment with her usual curiosity, skepticism, and reporter’s acumen....

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