Ohio Gadfly Daily

The California Charter Schools Association and The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

There has been much recent debate as to the utility in Ohio of a school accountability model similar to the one employed in California. During public policy debates like this one, the big picture can sometimes be obscured by the details. In an effort to raise the level of discussion, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (Fordham) have joined forces to co-write this commentary sharing our perspectives on the key principles that should govern school accountability policy.

Before digging in, it’s critical that we address some of the misperceptions that have emerged around the issue. First, Fordham does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the guest commentators who submit articles to its blogs. CCSA has deep concerns about the accuracy of the analysis by Dr. Vladimir Kogan that was published by Fordham on November 16. This commentary is not intended to address these statistical matters; rather, CCSA addresses those issues on its own website.

Second, Fordham believes that the Similar Students Measure developed by CCSA is a robust measure that makes extremely good use of school-level...

Ohio is one of fifteen states with an automatic closure law for low-performing charter schools, meant to serve as a minimum floor for performance and clean up the sector during an era when bad schools proliferated and authorizers failed to close them.[1]

Ohio’s academic death penalty for charter schools has been described as the “toughest in the nation.” In reality, it’s had minimal impact on either the number of schools closed or the number of students affected. A current three-year safe harbor on closure (among other sanctions) makes it all the more anemic. In its early days, it may have motivated some charter school authorizers to intervene and prevent their schools from facing a similar fate, but it hasn’t curbed poor oversight decisions among some authorizers in the nine years since the law was enacted.

Even so, accountability advocates needn’t be concerned or press for a stronger closure law. All in all, Ohio is a case study for how a minimum performance threshold for charter schools by itself doesn’t lead to wide-scale sector improvement. Our experience shows that direct state intervention cannot accomplish much and that strong accountability controls on charter...

As 2015 comes to a close, the long-awaited reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will likely soon become a reality. Among many proposed changes is the jettisoning of the federal waiver requirement mandating teacher evaluations. Before critics rejoice and demand an immediate end to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), it would be wise to remember why evaluations were instituted in the first place: Several research studies indicate that while teacher quality isn't the only factor affecting student achievement, it is a significant one. Ensuring that all students have a good teacher is a worthy and important goal; without a system to evaluate and differentiate effective teachers from ineffective ones, though, it is impossible to achieve. It’s also worth noting that many of the evaluation systems that existed prior to federal waivers—those that were solely observation-based—failed to get the job done. Teacher evaluations have come a long way.

That being said, Ohio’s system needs some serious work. Fortunately, fixing evaluation policies isn’t without precedent: In 2012, only 30 percent of Tennessee teachers felt that teacher evaluations were conducted fairly. In 2015, after the Tennessee Department of Education ...

We are inundated with news every day, and parsing what’s worth a look and what’s plain worthless takes time and energy. Quite honestly, you probably have better things to do. Fortunately for you, Fordham offers a thrice-weekly news service that is personally researched, curated, and annotated with Ohio’s education reform interests in mind. You might not think you want—let alone need—another news clip email appearing in your inbox, but Gadfly Bites is different, providing two parts news and one part snark.

For example: A story in the Akron Beacon Journal may discuss local transportation issues with a busload of unacknowledged slant. At the same time, a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer may discuss an unexpected but welcome rise in an urban school district’s student population without realizing an even more important positive outcome in it. Gadfly Bites not only highlighted those two stories as part of the day’s news but also told you what they’re about and found a vital connection that might not occur when reading the pieces individually. And those were just two of the stories featured in a recent Gadfly Bites edition that highlighted other stories from Cincinnati and Columbus as well.

Sure,...

  1. The good folks at The 74 Million blog referenced Fordham’s blockbuster school closure and student achievement report while discussing the same topic in terms of New York City school closures earlier this week. What; you don’t know about this particular bit of Fordham awesomeness? Shame on you. Go check it out right now. Partially because it’s the end of the year and we’re trying to max out on our stats, but mainly because it is – as I mentioned before – awesome. (The 74 Million, 12/2/15)
     
  2. Thanks for checking out our school closure and student achievement report. Glad to have you back with us here at Gadfly Bites. Last week in this very spot, we noted that Columbus City Schools had five days or so of tech hell when several systems melted down at once and moving to backups was found to be more difficult and time consuming than expected. I can sympathize and am happy to report that a previously-planned full-blown tech audit for the district has been moved up in the schedule as a result. Once again, CCS, I know a great tech consultant if you’re looking bidders. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/4/15)
     
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In light of a Hillary Clinton’s charge that charter schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids,” as well as the lambasting of one of the nation’s highest-performing charter networks for its discipline practices, this report from the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools is especially timely. As it reveals, the worst of the recent allegations fall flat (at least when it comes to students with disabilities). Charter schools do have slightly lower percentages of students with disabilities compared to traditional public schools (we should note that the discrepancy is nothing like the gap that some charter opponents allege), but they also tend to provide more inclusive educational settings for those students. Suspension rates in the two sectors are roughly the same.

The study’s authors investigate whether anecdotes about charter schools failing to serve students with disabilities align with the actual data. They examine enrollment, service provision, and discipline statistics, made possible through a secondary analysis of data from the Department of Education’s biennial Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2011–12 school year (the most recent one for which data is available). Nationwide, students who receive special education support and services made up 10.4 percent of...

Is there such a thing as too much parental involvement in a student’s education? Lack of parental involvement is often cited anecdotally as an impediment to student achievement. On the other hand, so-called “helicopter parents” can run their children’s education like drill sergeants. The goal is educational and occupational success, but there is increasing concern that such intense involvement could instead lead to dangerous dead ends. A new study in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology adds much-needed data to the discussion. (Disclaimer: The study is from Germany, so mind the culture gap.)

There have been a number of studies over the last forty years looking at parents’ aspirations for their children, which is a useful way for psychological and sociological researchers to measure parental involvement. However, the current study’s authors noted two gaps in previous research. First, temporal ordering of effects was not generally considered (i.e., it was assumed that parents’ involvement led to certain academic outcomes in the future, but the current research supposes that kids’ past achievement could lead to more/different parental involvement in the future). Moreover, little effort was made to separate parental aspiration (“We want...

  1. As a rule, Ohio’s education journalists are shall we say wary when it comes to education reform issues. For most of today’s clips, however, I fear we’re looking at “wary” in the rearview mirror. Let’s start with a PD piece about online charter schools. Its opening paragraph reads “Poor test results at online schools are creating divisions in the charter school community in Ohio and nationally, leading some national leaders to question whether e-schools should even be part of the charter school movement anymore.” It quotes Nina Rees as saying, “If you were to eliminate the (test scores of) online schools, the performance of the state would dramatically improve." All fairly factual, but I can’t help but wonder what the opener would have been if there was any doubt about those claims. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/30/15)
     
  2. The Dayton Daily News is claiming credit for “persuading” Ohio’s treasurer to ask charter schools to join his push for opening their expenditures for online inspection by the public, along with other public entities statewide. The treasurer said his oversight in not asking charters previously to join his voluntary program was inadvertent, but that doesn’t satisfy the DDN who dig into
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  1. The pointed language and slant in this story about busing of K-12 students in Akron (all students that is – district, charter, and private) is impossible to miss, and a number of pertinent facts about how busing actually works in Ohio are absent or elided. I’m going to avoid the obvious bait and simply point out that if families weren’t choosing to go to schools other than Akron City Schools, the “problem” would be far less than is presented here, even without changes to current busing rules. And that the lone parent interviewed gave a pretty cogent reason for choosing another option. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/30/15)
     
  2. Perhaps the good folks at Akron City Schools should take a break from the echo chamber and read this piece instead. After decades of serious decline, Cleveland Metropolitan School District is cautiously reporting a possible gain in its student population. If it proves to be true, officials in the CLE will have some celebrating to do. What is most instructive at this point, however, is that district officials are crunching the numbers daily and actively trying to figure out where new students are coming from, what district schools they are choosing,
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  1. Fordham is namechecked and Vladimir Kogan’s guest post for the Ohio Gadfly is discussed in this article about the whole “Similar Students Model” vs. Value-Added conundrum currently doing the rounds here in Ohio. Cage match, anyone? (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/24/15)
     
  2. Here is a ton more detail on committee proposals for fixing Ohio’s charter sponsor review process. Interesting if esoteric stuff. The public comment period on these proposals runs until December 7. (Gongwer Ohio, 11/23/15)
     
  3. My kids got their PARCC test scores in the mail earlier this week. All is well in the Murray household. This piece discusses the full process of informing families of the students’ test scores – individually, districts, and statewide. One question from me not answered here or in earlier stories about this: what impact will opter-outers have on the emerging data? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/25/15)
     
  4. Quick – what were YOU doing in 2005? I was watching the first series of the newly-revived Doctor Who. The Ohio Department of Education was reducing what are known as “foundation payments” for three of the largest school districts in the state due to lower-than-expected enrollment. Those reductions have been contested by the districts
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