Ohio Gadfly Daily

Much attention has been paid to why teachers quit. Statistics and studies get thrown around, and there are countless theories to explain the attrition rate. While recent reports indicate that the trend might not be as bad as we’ve thought, teacher attrition isn’t just about whole-population numbers—it’s about retaining the most effective teachers within those numbers. Indeed, a 2012 study from TNTP (formerly known as the New Teacher Project) notes that our failure to improve teacher retention is largely a matter of failing to retain the right teachers. A separate study suggests that retaining the best teachers is all about reducing barriers that make teachers feel powerless and isolated. The 2014 National Teacher of the Year recently pointed out that, among myriad other causes, lacking influence in their own schools and districts (let alone in state policy) is often at the root of teacher attrition.

Keeping high-performers in the classroom has long been a trouble spot for schools. “If you don’t offer leadership opportunities for teachers to excel in their profession, to grow, and still allow them to stay in the classroom,” says Ruthanne Buck, senior advisor to Secretary of...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill was on the radio in Columbus yesterday, talking about our new report School Closures and Student Achievement. Big thanks to host Joel Riley for having us. (WTVN-AM, Columbus, 5/7/15)
     
  2. Blast from the past. Former Fordhamite Terry Ryan spoke to statewide public radio this week, discussing the history of charter schools in Ohio. With audio link in case you miss Terry’s dulcet tones. Nice. (StateImpact Ohio, 5/6/15)
     
  3. Fast-forward to today, when editors in Columbus opine (again) in favor of charter law reform in Ohio. Now. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/8/15)
     
  4. Reference is made in that Dispatch op-ed to bills being debated in the Ohio General Assembly on charter school law reform. No less than three bills contain vital elements of reform. On Wednesday, Bellwether Partners’ Andy Smarick testified before a Senate subcommittee on one of those bills. But, honestly, he could have been speaking of them all: “If they can implement the law well and hold their sponsors accountable, evidence from other states suggests this will put Ohio on the right track.” You can check out coverage of all the testimony from that session – which included not only Smarick but also representatives
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Editor's note: On May 6, Fordham contributor Andy Smarick delivered testimony before an Ohio education subcommittee on Senate Bill 148, a critical piece of legislation that would help clean up the state's troubled charter sector. With his permission, we're reproducing his remarks.

Thank you Chair Hite, Vice Chair Sawyer, and subcommittee members for allowing me to offer some thoughts on your ongoing efforts to improve charter schooling in Ohio. Congratulations and thank you for the important progress that’s reflected in the legislation being considered here today.

My name is Andy Smarick, and I’m a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit organization committed to improving K–12 schooling, especially for high-need students. I’ve worked on education policy for most of my career—at the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. House of Representatives, a state department of education, and a state legislature.

I’m also a strong advocate for high-quality charter schooling. I helped start a charter school for low-income students, I helped found the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and I’ve written extensively about charter schooling, including a book on how—when done right—it can dramatically improve student results in cities.

I was a coauthor of the report published late...

  1. Here’s some of the most exciting news to hit Ohio in a while: the Cincinnati Accelerator project. That is, a public-private partnership meant to boost the number of high-quality schools open to Cincinnati's poorest students. Partners include the Cincinnati Business and Cincinnati Regional Business committees, and the Farmer Family, Haile U.S. Bank and KnowledgeWorks foundations. It also involves leaders from Cincinnati Public Schools, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and local charter schools. Whew! In five years, the goal is to double the number of seats available at high-performing schools in Cincinnati, from about 5,000 to 10,000. And in ten years, 20,000 high-quality seats. We wish them the very best in this endeavor, on behalf of children and families in Cincinnati. It is to be hoped that no further campouts will be required to access these seats. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 5/6/15)
     
  2. Anyone else interested in an update on the status of the so-called “education deregulation” bill currently being heard in the House Education Committee? Me too! And here it is. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/5/15)
     
  3. Since when does a local newspaper care about the minutiae involved in a charter school changing management companies? When the school is in Youngstown and
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The education components of Governor Kasich’s proposed budget—and the House's subsequent revisions—made a big splash in Ohio's news outlets. Much of the attention has been devoted to the House’s (unwise) moves to eliminate PARCC funding and their rewrite of Kasich’s funding formula changes. Amidst all this noise, however, are a few other education issues in the House’s revisions that have slipped by largely unnoticed. Let’s examine a few.

Nationally normed vs. criterion-referenced tests

As part of its attempt to get rid of PARCC, the House added text dictating that state assessments “shall be nationally normed, standardized assessments.” This is worrisome, as there is a big difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests.

A norm-referenced test determines scores by comparing a student’s performance to the entire pool of test takers. Each student’s test score is compared to other students in order to determine their percentile ranking in the distribution of test takers. Examples of norm-referenced tests are the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Stanford 10 exams. A criterion-referenced test, on the other hand, is scored on an absolute scale. Instead of being compared to other students, students are compared against a standard of achievement (i.e.,...

School closures should never be undertaken lightly, be they district or charter schools. Academic troubles, a fall in enrollment, economic problems, and a myriad of other issues can push the issue to the forefront. Under such times of duress, policymakers and education officials are forced to ask a difficult question: Does closing a school cause more harm than good, especially for students?

Report Co-Author, Stéphane Lavertu

Today, Fordham released a new study called School Closures and Student Achievement that seeks to answer this very question. At a breakfast event on April 28th that attracted around fifty Ohio education leaders, the report’s co-author, Dr. Stéphane Lavertu, presented a summary of the study’s findings. These findings showed that three years after closure, displaced students typically make significant academic gains.

After Dr. Lavertu’s presentation, Chad moderated a panel of policymakers and practitioners who discussed the findings and policy implications. The panel consisted of: the Honorable Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton; Tracie Craft, Deputy Director of Advocacy, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO); Stephanie Groce, former member Columbus City Schools Board of Education;...

  1. Editors in Columbus opined on Fordham’s new school closures report. The findings “make logical sense” and districts should “make a priority of explaining these findings to the public, whether or not a round of closings is imminent.” Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/2/15)
     
  2. The president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership opined on efforts to strengthen charter school law in Ohio. The changes will result in “a profound improvement” for charter school students and families and he urges the legislature to fast track passage of the various bills before them. Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/3/15)
     
  3. The Ohio Senate’s advisory panel on testing made its recommendations last week. In a nutshell: Testing only once per year (near the end of the year), shorter testing time overall, extended “safe harbor” timeframes for everyone involved, and prompt response from vendors to change/tweak the tests at state request (or risk being dumped). Check out initial coverage from the Cleveland Plain Dealer (4/30/15) and the Columbus Dispatch (4/30/15). More to come on this, I’m sure.
     
  4. The Ohio Department of Education last week gave a preview of the new reading proficiency grades that schools and districts around the state will receive
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In a previous review, my colleagues examined a National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) report that analyzed states’ charter policies regarding access to district-owned facilities. In a new report, NCSRC narrows its focus to charter school facilities in California. Golden State charters were asked to complete a survey about their facilities and to allow an on-site measurement; these results were then supplemented by data on school enrollment, student demographics, and funding. The results offer a sobering picture of charter facilities in the state. Charter school facilities are generally smaller than the size recommended by the California Department of Education; classrooms for elementary, middle, and high schools are, on average, between 82 and 89 percent of the state standard size (it is worth nothing that state size standards might not be appropriate for all schools in all situations). Charter facilities as a whole are 60 percent smaller than state site size recommendations, even after adjustments are made for enrollment differences. California charters also spend varying amounts of their per-pupil funding on facilities; charters that own their buildings pay an average of $895 per pupil; charters located in a school district facility pay an average of $285 per pupil; and...

Intra-district choice has long been a type of school choice supported by many people who don’t really like school choice. Since neither students nor funding leave their boundaries, district officials have fewer problems allowing families to choose their schools. But intra-district choice is also complicated. A lack of quality information about available schools, the absence of a simple system-wide method of applying to those schools, and the added burden of transportation challenges can bring the potential of intra-district choice to a screeching halt. However, there are school districts that have taken these issues head-on and offered valuable, innovative solutions. Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is a shining example.

During the 2013–14 school year, CPS made the transition to high schools that serve students between the seventh and twelfth grades. CPS offers some compelling academic reasons for the switch, but they also utilized the transition to create high schools of choice. Instead of assigning sixth graders to a high school based on their home addresses, CPS permits students to choose their high school. Each high school offers a variety of programs, classes, extracurriculars, and services that represent unique learning environments and opportunities. All schools offer college preparatory curriculum aligned to Ohio’s...

  1. In case you missed it yesterday, Fordham Ohio released a new report—School Closures and Student Achievement—looking at how students displaced students fare following the closure of their schools. We were gratified by the breadth of coverage the report received. You can take a look at in-state coverage from the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 4/28/15) and the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/28/15), and some national coverage from the Wall Street Journal (who ran an op-ed by Mike Petrilli and Aaron Churchill on 4/28/15) and the Washington Post (Washington Post, 4/28/15).
     
  2. In other news, the Ohio Senate’s advisory committee on testing continues to meet and work on determining what, if any, changes to the state’s standardized testing methods will be made. Don’t tell the teacher: the PD took a peek over the shoulder of Solon City Schools’ representative on the committee and tells us what one of the state’s higher-flying suburban districts is suggesting in regard to testing changes. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/28/15)
     
  3. School buildings typically occupy prime land within communities. When schools are closed and the buildings demolished, that prime land is often seen as a public asset of great value…and sometimes of great contention. Especially
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