Ohio Gadfly Daily

Ohio’s newspapers ran headlines today warning, “Money
crunch pushes Downtown roadwork way back
,” “Local
highway projects face delays
,” and “Last
phase of I-75/I-475 project stalls
.” The financial problems facing Ohio is
scaling back big time infrastructure projects that have been in planning for
years. According to the Columbus Dispatch
the Ohio Department of Transportation “proposes pushing back 34 projects that
had been planned to start by 2017 to dates as far off as 2036.”

Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation,
captured the problem when he told the Cincinnati
Enquirer:

Unfortunately, this
is Ohio’s new reality. For too long, previous administrations have added more
and more to the list of projects knowing that there were more projects than
funds available. Their poor planning has put us in the position of making the
tough decisions and delivering the bad news to many communities throughout the
state that there is simply not enough money to fund their projects.

In reading about the woes facing Ohio’s highway improvement efforts
I couldn’t help but wonder if education in Ohio doesn’t face problems of
similar scale. Despite recent cuts at both the state and local levels in the
Buckeye State, have we made more promises than we can possibly meet? Ohio is in
the midst of totally revamping its academic standards as part of the Common
...

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Is it time for Ohio to consider new forms of governance and
management for its most troubled schools and districts, and, if so, what might
alternatives look like? The question of what to do with long-suffering public
schools has driven many of the country’s most significant education reforms.
Both the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top competition addressed
failing schools and sought to force dramatic changes within them. States have
also taken up the challenge. According to the Education Commission of the
States there are at least 29 states that permit state takeovers of school
districts for academic bankruptcy, fiscal mismanagement, and other problems, while
at least 23 states provide for takeovers of school buildings.

But, despite both federal and state legislation and millions
of dollars in things like “school improvement grants” there are still far too
many schools that seem impervious to improvement efforts. Consider Cleveland
where there are 15 elementary schools that have been rated Academic Emergency
(F) by the state for at least the last four consecutive years. Collectively,
these schools serve about 6,000 children and in 2010-11 they met a total of
just eight state performance indicators out of a possible 225. In these schools
fewer than half of the children attain basic proficiency in reading and
mathematics by the time they leave eighth grade. Yet, these schools, and many
others across the...

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An innovative partnership to teach money-management skills
to students launched this week between a southern Ohio district and a local
credit union.

The Atomic Credit Union
is establishing student-operated credit unions in the three elementary schools
in the Jackson
City School District
. The credit union offers free savings accounts for
children that feature no fees or minimum balance requirements. The credit union
will provide the first $2 deposit for each student who opens an account and
students may then deposit as little as one cent at a time – to ensure that all
students can participate, regardless of their family finances. One day a week
will be designated as “credit union day” in the schools when students can make
transactions, and fifth-grade students will learn real-world job skills working
in the school credit union.

Credit
Union President and CEO Tom Griffiths told the local Telegram
newspaper
,
"For our children to be growing up and experiencing the worst economic
times our country has seen since the Great Depression, I cannot think of a
better ‘educational vehicle’ than that of a student-run financial
institution."

The average household carries more than $10,000 in credit
card debt
and college tuition continues to rise (in fact, Sec. Duncan and
Vice President Biden are talking college affordability in
Columbus today
). People – especially in areas like southern Ohio, where
unemployment...

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Columbus Preparatory Academy, a K-8 Mosaica-run
charter school on Columbus’s west side that is a poster child for the
successful turnaround of a troubled school.

In 2008, the school was rated F by the state and student
performance on state assessments was abysmal. Today the school is rated
A+
(aka, Excellent with Distinction) and boasts achievement levels that best
that of nearly all of the area’s top-performing schools (and are leaps and
bounds above the state’s definition of “proficiency”). This transformation was
achieved while the school continued serving a challenged student population – about
72 percent of students are economically disadvantaged and eligible for free or
reduced-price lunch – and retained nearly all of the same teachers and staff
members who were working in the school when it was failing (in a school that
now employs 30 teachers, the principal said just seven or eight teachers have
left during his four-year tenure).

So what are the keys to CPA’s success? Two things
immediately stand out:

Leadership. Principal
Chad Carr (who has led the turnaround since taking over the school four years
ago) is committed to the success of his students, staff, and school like few
others in his field. I don’t say that lightly as I know a lot of absolutely
terrific school leaders, but spend five minutes with Carr and...

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What
does online learning really cost? Can it, in fact, be both better in terms of
improving student achievement and overall less expensive than traditional
bricks and mortar schools? These fundamental questions are what the Fordham
Institute’s new paper, “The Cost of Online Learning”, gamely tries to tackle. In
short, paper shows that online learning has the potential to save education
money while also improving the quality of instruction available to students.

The
Parthenon Group
(the national research firm that helped craft Ohio’s
winning Race to the Top application) provided the research. They conducted more
than 50 interviews with entrepreneurs, policy experts and school leaders across
the country to come up with “an informed set of estimates regarding the cost of
virtual and blended schools” across five categories – labor (teacher and
administrators), content acquisition, technology and infrastructure, school
operations, and student support.

Using
these five categories as the basis of comparison the researchers compared a
“typical” traditional model (brick and mortar school where instruction is
delivered by teachers), a “typical” blended model (students attend brick and
mortar schools where they alternate between online and in-person instruction)
and a “typical” full virtual model (all instruction takes place online). In
blended schools like Carpe Diem, Rocketship, and KIPP Empower, technology is
used as a tool to personalize instruction for students who spend part of their
...

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Just over a year ago, Ohio won $400 million in Race to the
Top grant dollars and promised to implement a number of significant reform
programs. The U.S. Department of Education just released a progress report
for the Buckeye State detailing how it has fared in year one, as well as the
work that remains.

First, it might be helpful to revisit the major commitments
Ohio made. They were to:

  • Increase the high school graduation rate by 0.5
    percent per year with an eventual goal of an 88 percent graduation rate. Right now
    only 84.3 percent graduate from Ohio’s high schools.
  • Reduce the graduation rate gap between white and
    minority students by 50 percent. The current gap is 16 percentage points.
  • Reduce the performance gap between Ohio students
    and some of the nation’s highest performers like Massachusetts.
  • Double college enrollment for Ohioans under the
    age of 19. Ohio ranks 35th in terms of adults with a two-year degree
    of higher.
  • Adopt and implement high-quality academic
    standards aligned assessments.
  • Ensure great principals and teachers in every
    school (however that’s measured).

Ohio has more than 600 school district, 3,500 district schools
and over 300 charter schools so it had its work cut out for it when it applied
for RttT dollars and then won. The list of goals stated above is no easy
task.  So how is Ohio doing...

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The Dayton Public Schools are caught in the middle of a
financial crisis… yet again. A recent Dayton
Daily News
article
delivered the somber news that DPS officials must find a way to avoid a $12
million deficit in 2014. Last year DPS cut
294 positions, including 139 teaching spots, in an attempt to fill a $9 million
hole. Less than a year later, the district is back in the same spot, leaving DPS
leaders with a couple of options.

Property Tax Levy

One option
to fill the gap is putting a new tax levy on the ballot in the November
election. Dayton voters last approved a 4.9 million operating tax levy in 2008
which was supposed to generate $9.3 million annually. However, due to a
decrease in student enrollment, high foreclosure rates, and delinquent taxes,
the district is actually collecting less in property taxes than it did before
the levy. Consider the following: in 2001 DPS had 20,147 students enrolled in
their schools; fast-forward to the 2010-11 school year and only 14,174 students
remain in DPS. The news doesn’t get much better when you look at the amount of
tax money that is not collected. In 2010 DPS lost out on almost $5 million
dollars (collecting only 85.5 percent of taxes due to the district).
Considering the track record of tax collection and the not so bright future...

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Good morning and welcome to a new year and a new look for the Fordham website, and a new approach to our blog. In the past Flypaper has served as the main and only blog for the Fordham team, allowing for a variety of voices to share their opinions on various topics in the ed-policy world. But we at Fordham believe that a group blog has its limits (i.e. as new posts get added every day, posts that are still timely and relevant get pushed to the bottom, making it difficult for the reader to keep up with the swarm of blog posts) so Fordham now has six separate blogs, each with their own authors, focusing on specific topics. Read Mike Petrilli’s explanation of the new blogs here for a better understanding of the new blog approach and what topic each new blog will focus on.

Most exciting out of this change for our small (but mighty!) team in Ohio is that we now have our own blog, Ohio Gadfly Daily. This blog, which will be co-authored by the entire Fordham-Ohio team (with occasional guests bloggers), will allow for keen insight into Ohio’s education policy scene, where we not only advocate for educational excellence for all students, but attempt to put those policies into action with  the sponsorship of eight charter schools.

Be sure to stay tuned to Ohio Gadfly Daily for what is sure to be an exciting and busy year, and...

More students move between Columbus City Schools and
neighboring school districts than move between the district and area charter
schools, according to data from Community
Research Partners
(reported in today’s
Columbus Dispatch).

This is sure to come as a surprise to many, given the
decade-long cry from Ohio’s school districts about charter schools “stealing” their
students (and funding).  But it’s no
surprise to us at Fordham.  Last year, we
commissioned a study
of student mobility
in our hometown of Dayton.  Among the many findings:

-         
Far more students moved among Montgomery County
districts, or left the county altogether, than moved between Dayton Public
Schools and the city’s charter schools.

-         
No charter school or district was “creaming”
good students.  High-performing and
low-performing students alike were mobile, and families didn’t appear to be
selecting new schools based on the school’s academic performance.

-         
The greatest indicator of a student’s mobility
was his/her score on the state’s third-grade reading test.  The lower the score, the more likely the
child was to be highly mobile.

Our Dayton study generated much conversation and debate in
the city around questions like, “If nearly half of our students will attend
several different schools between kindergarten and fifth grade, should we have
a city-wide elementary curriculum to provide education stability?” and “How
should we develop and amend the state’s school- and teacher-accountability
...

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STEM education in Ohio is a growing component of
the state’s K-12 system. Metro Early College High School opened as a STEM
school in Columbus in 2007, and since then STEM schools have opened their doors
in metro regions like Dayton, Cincinnati, Akron, and Cleveland. The schools have
drawn millions of dollars in support from state government, local school
districts, the private sector and philanthropy (see here for details).

So far, however, the state’s STEM network has
not yet opened a school that is aimed at the state’s dynamic agricultural
sector and all that supports it. Senator Chris Widener (a Republican from
Springfield who chairs the Senate Finance Committee) hopes to tackle this void
in the state’s STEM sector. There is a whole lot of merit to this effort.

As I learned (somewhat surprisingly) in talking
with Sen. Widener, one in seven jobs in Ohio is connected to the “AgBioscience”
sector. This sector comprises food, agriculture, environmental, and bio-based
products industries. As a whole the sector employs about a million workers statewide
with an annual economic impact of over $100 billion a year. It is one of Ohio’s
fastest growing sectors with thousands of jobs going unfilled because there
aren't enough skilled Ohioans to do the work. Consider the following statistics
provided last week by Sen. Widener:

  • Ohio
    has added on average 59 new bioscience companies a year since 2004,
  • ...
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