Ohio Gadfly Daily

Has the U.S. government’s $3.5 billion School Improvement Grant (SIG) program delivered as promised? The data from Ohio indicates that the answer is no—but with a glaring exception.

SIG is a federal grant program, which has been funded heavily through the 2009 stimulus act. Its goal is to improve the academic performance of persistently low-performing schools. In March 2010, Ohio received a three-year, $132 million grant; the Ohio Department of Education then allocated funds to eligible schools based on a competitive grant process. In spring 2010, over 200 schools applied, and 35 schools received funding.[1]

In return for the funds (up to $2 million per year for a school), the grantee is required to implement one of four intervention models: turnaround—replacing the principal and 50 percent or more of the staff; restart—closing a school and reopening under new management, possibly a charter school; school closure; or, transformation—leaving staff in place but implementing plans to improve instructional effectiveness, extend learning time, et cetera. Most schools in Ohio and across the nation have selected the transformation model, what we have argued is the “easiest” model.

Given the sizeable cash infusion, together with the required interventions to turnaround the school, we might expect to see strong and positive gains in school-level performance.

But one does not observe across-the-board improvements in achievement.

The chart below shows the change in achievement scores for Ohio’s first cohort of SIG schools, from 2009-10 (pre-SIG) to 2011-12 (the second year of SIG...

We have been hearing a lot about the proposed levy for Columbus City Schools (CCS), as mandated by the freshly-signed HB 167. The District’s Millage Committee has had to work quickly, even ahead of the signing, in order to get the issue on the ballot by November. Much has been made over provisions to fund an independent auditor, to distribute local tax revenue to high-performing non-profit charter schools, and to continue with the district’s expansive building and renovation program.

But one provision included in the package that has garnered little public attention, despite being the same size as the charter school funding recommendation, is the expansion of pre-Kindergarten programming for children in Columbus. The provision allocates 1 mil or approximately $42.5 million over 5 years to pre-K programs.

Pre-K expansion has been on the district’s radar for over a year. In fact, the last millage committee to convene back in July 2012 had included funding to the tune of 1.49 mills for this initiative. When the district’s data issues came to light, the proposed levy issue for November 2012 was shelved under great pressure from within and outside of the district.

The latest iteration of the district’s pre-K expansion was presented to the Board at its March 5 meeting. The proposal lays out the reasons why quality preschool programming is important to children and how the lack of it can be felt from Kindergarten through third grade and beyond. Proponents of pre-K expansion have noted...

This spring, we promised to talk to some educators about the implementation for the Common Core Curriculum and PARCC assessments. What we asked was how they and their schools have prepared and what could potentially hinder a smooth transition.

The first school leader we spoke with was Chad Webb, the head of school for Village Preparatory Academy:Woodland Hills Campus (Village Prep) in Cleveland. Chad is an Ohio native and was a principal in the city of New Orleans Louisiana Recovery School District after Hurricane Katrina.  Village Prep is one of the Breakthrough Schools with a structured school culture focusing on reading and math instruction, integrating technology and a unique entrepreneurship curriculum. Beginning in kindergarten, all students (who are referred to as scholars) have a goal of doing their best and attending college.

Below are the questions and excerpts from our conversation.

Q: What's your biggest worry? 

A: Increased rigor of course, but making sure we are preparing our scholars when the new assessment piece takes place.

Q: What do you need to put in place before this all starts?

A: Making sure we are meeting all the teaching points and staff preparation. Our director of curriculum and instruction has worked with the staff and we have had support from regional partners, including the Educational Service Center.

Q:  Do you have all the technology needed for testing?

A: We have been working on it and collaborating with all Breakthrough Schools vetting all our options. Our goal of is 35...

A new era dawned today for Columbus’ public education system. Today, at Indianola K-8 School—the nation’s first junior high school—Governor Kasich signed House Bill 167, the Columbus Reform Plan. The reform plan was crafted in response to the cheating scandal that has rocked Columbus City Schools, first reported publically last summer.

Governor John Kasich signs House Bill 167

The legislation, which raced through Ohio General Assembly in 39 days, enacts three major reforms: establishes an independent auditor, empowers the mayor to authorize charter schools, and shares local levy dollars, which normally fund only district schools, with high-performing charter schools. These reforms represent three of the 55 reforms put forward by the Columbus Education Commission.

Columbus mayor Michael B. Coleman (left) and Ohio governor John Kasich (right)

House Bill 167 better positions Columbus’ public schools (district and charter) to compete with the highest-performing urban school systems in the nation. By empowering the mayor with greater authority over the public school system—in his remarks, Governor Kasich dubbed the mayor, “the enforcer”—schools will be held to higher performance standards, while gaining the political support and clout that an influential mayor can offer. The plan also calls for a November levy, and the Democrat mayor and Republican governor both strongly urged Columbus residents to support it. And, the plan—if rightly executed—will also kick start efforts to attract the nation’s highest-performing charter school networks to open schools in high-need Columbus communities.

So, kudos...

July in Washington, D.C. encompasses the almost intolerable heat and humidity that a swamp can offer.  The city, coincidentally, was built on a swamp many years ago.  However, Washington D.C. was also the sight of the 13th annual National Charter Schools Conference, held just last week.  The conference is magnificently put together by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), a national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. 

Having walked away from the conference with many useful experiences, great industry contacts, and a recharged energy to the mission of advancing the charter school cause, there was one breakout session I attended that stood out for me as being the crucible for all the other topics discussed during the conference.  The session dealt with charter school boards and how to find good board members.

Let’s start with this premise – good board members are indeed hard to find.  No one will dispute that a passion to the cause, along with a connection to the community, and of course, a desire to serve are all essential qualities for board members.  However, what I found most interesting was the lack of mention of a very important skill set -- financial or business acumen. The dichotomy of education and the “business of educating” were never more apparent for me than during that session.   Perhaps this bifurcation is due to some typical oversight or even a subconscious desire to prop up lines of demarcation between the two, so as to not...

High school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation: Of all youngsters in the land, it’s no secret that low-income and minority students have the longest odds of achieving this educational trifecta. One intervention geared toward evening those odds is the creation of Early College (EC) High Schools—academically rigorous schools that, in partnership with colleges, offer college-credit-bearing courses. There are presently 240 such schools in the U.S. (ten of them in Fordham’s home state of Ohio, and one of these in our home town of Dayton), primarily serving low-income and minority youths. But how well do they work? According to this study by the American Institutes for Research and SRI International, they’re doing quite well indeed. The authors exploit the lottery-based admissions of ten ECs to estimate their impact on high school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation for three cohorts of ninth-graders (who enrolled in years 2005, 2006 and 2007). The study finds that 77 percent of students admitted into an EC had enrolled in college itself one year after high school, whereas 67 percent of non-EC students had done so. Moreover, 22 percent of EC students went on to earn a two- or four-year degree, compared to 2 percent of the comparison students—and 20 percent of EC students earned that degree by the time they graduated high school, compared to 2 percent of the comparison students. For low-income and minority youngsters, the schools’ impact was even greater: Minority EC students were twenty-nine times more likely...

Ohio’s State Board of Education made student privacy a priority in yesterday’s education data hearing.

“What data will be collected on my child?” Board President Debe Terhar read from an email she had received from one of a number of parents concerned with their child’s private information being accessed and shared by schools and outside parties. The board expressed parents’ apprehension toward the use of their son or daughter’s education records as it investigated the balance necessary between collecting data for accountability purposes and respecting the privacy of Ohio’s families.

The board invited testimony from experts in the data technologies currently used by Ohio schools as well as education privacy laws. Their aim was to provide the board – and their constituent districts and parents – with the latest information on challenges to effective data collection and threats to privacy.

The board questioned a panel of ODE data experts on the design and uses of the state’s Educational Management Information System (EMIS) and Instructional Improvement System (IIS). EMIS data proves necessary in state and federal funding formulas, performance accountability, and decision tools for policymakers. IIS provides current and secure data to teachers for individual student performance and curriculum alignment with standards.

The panel expressed confidence in the Ohio Revised Code’s data collection regulations, when asked by the board. Further, the panel referred to the systems’ data collection for measuring outcomes from Pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education as the “holy grail of program evaluation.”

Fordham and the board invited Kent Talbert,...

There are scads of misinformation being tossed about when it comes to the Common Core Academic Standards. There is so much that is being said and claimed that it is hard to know exactly where best to start the rebuttals. But one “tagline” being distributed widely by the anti-Common Core crowd in Ohio is especially galling because it is factually so wrong, yet pithy enough that critics share it widely anyway.

Ohioans Against the Common Core has been sending out emails with the following phrase in bold: “If Common Core was really about ‘the best standards,’ why did they adopt them before they were even written.”

Not sure who the “they” are being referred to in the tagline, but here is the timeline for the Common Core in Ohio.

Common Core draft K-12 standards were released in March 2010. Nearly 10,000 people and organizations responded to the draft standards. The final revised standards were released for mathematics and English language arts on June 2, 2010, with a majority of states adopting the standards in the subsequent months. The Ohio state board of education officially adopted the standards on June 18, 2010.

The global competitiveness of the U.S. education system continues to drive much of the school reform dialogue. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) contributed to the conversation last week with a broad report on the progress and productivity of education in the U.S.

In Remedial Education: Federal Education Policy, Rebecca Strauss, associate director of Renewing America publications at CFR considers the most critical challenges facing America’s education system. The report identifies the system’s biggest problems: achievement gaps between the rich and poor, inequality in government spending and performance outcomes, and rising college tuition. After this bleak diagnosis, Strauss presents a comprehensive summary of the federal government’s efforts at improving the state of public education. The report identifies four pillars to innovation: (1) “improving teacher evaluation and effectiveness; (2) expanding high-quality charter schools; (3) encouraging states to adopt common, college-ready standards; and (4) developing data systems to track student performance.”

The report describes the federal government’s continued implementation of accountability standards through the Bush and Obama administrations. This is evidenced by further teacher effectiveness and data-driven education developments. In her appraisal of charter school innovations, Strauss recognizes Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools as one of many high-quality charter school models that have improved tests scores for students struggling in urban areas. The report also reviews stagnant Pre-K funding, expanding community college options, and the necessity of federal student loans in its broad summation of the federal government’s education agenda.

The report asserts that properly implemented Common Core state...

A recent press release from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) estimated that 920,007 students are currently on a waitlist to attend charter schools, a jump from the previous year’s 610,000. For some education reformers, this may be a great statistic because it indicates charter schools are taking a more prominent role in education. For others, this same statistic may be absolutely terrifying.

As more charter schools open to meet this demand, students will have a greater potential to be exposed to innovative and rigorous approaches to education. Conversely, a greater demand for a charter school education also runs the risk of having a large number of charters open that disregard the quality of the educational services they provide. In an ideal world, sponsors would sort through charter school applicants to pick out potential high flyers, but news stories about mismanagement and the poor academic performance of some charter schools has shown that sponsors can fail in outlining rigorous criteria for the charter application and renewal process.

As we see a growth in charter schools applicants and a failure in approving high flyers, what are city leaders and legislators to do?

Columbus’s Mayor Michael B. Coleman, has decided to tackle this problem, becoming only the second mayor to sponsor charter schools in the country.  Gathering support through the legislature, House Bill 167, if signed by Governor Kasich, would allow the mayor to create a sponsorship office that is responsible for new start-up charter schools...

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