Ohio Gadfly Daily

Last year, we at Fordham wrote quite a bit about teacher policy. We talked about changes needed in teacher preparation, teacher licensure, and teacher evaluation. We also spilled some ink on innovations in teacher credentialing, teacher roles, teacher professional development, and other potential changes to teacher evaluations. By the early days of 2016, we realized that a year had passed, and—despite some debate—nothing had actually changed. Teacher policy in Ohio was pretty much ignored. The advent of a new federal education law promises to shake things up, and it could be the jolt of energy that Ohio teacher policy needs. But what should legislators and administrators know about teacher policy before they start crafting programs and reforms in the wake of ESSA? Let’s take a look.   

Teacher licensure

When lawmakers in Ohio discussed tackling deregulation last year, one of the policies they proposed was to deregulate state mandates regarding teacher licensure for eligible high-performing districts. The move generated some controversy, which is unsurprising, considering that licensure is an area of teacher policy that’s rife with conflicting research. However, that hasn’t stopped Ohio from getting ...

  1. Editors in Youngstown opine in the strongest possible terms urging an end to the stalling of the work of the new Academic Distress Commission in Youngstown City Schools. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/18/16)
     
  2. Editors in Canton opine on the topic of school district fees for extracurricular activities. What is their position on the matter? No idea. (Canton Repository, 2/18/16)
     
  3. Forget the alphabet soup of ESSA and NCLB. In Northwest Ohio, they just call it “the Learning Law”. And here’s what Northwest Ohio parents and school districts think of it. (WTOL-TV Toledo, 2/18/16)
     
  4. Elyria is the 14th largest city in Ohio, but its swagger appears considerably larger these days. Case in point, the school district’s director of academic services, who contends that Elyria City Schools is on track to “bust urban district stereotypes by raising expectations and achievement”. She points to rising graduation rates to make her point. By the end of her report to the school board as covered in this piece, however, she says, “We do a great job of showing progress…but not to the level the state wants.” But I admire her can-do attitude. It is likely infectious. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/17/16)
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  1. Some college profs took time out of their busy schedules earlier this week to air their gripes about Ohio’s efforts to allow high schoolers to take college classes via the College Credit Plus program. Nope. I don’t get it either. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/16/16)
     
  2. More than half of Columbus City Schools’ high schoolers don’t attend their “assigned neighborhood” school. District officials are trying to understand the pattern as they work on updating their facilities master plan, but the one parent interviewed for this piece seems to defy pattern analysis. More research is needed. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/14/16)
     
  3. The Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center is conducting a transportation survey, funded by a Straight A Grant. They’re aiming to save the small districts in the region millions of dollars through efficiencies and shared services. Nice. (Zanesville Times Recorder, 2/17/16)
     
  4. Finally, two pieces of good news from Cleveland. Breakthrough Schools announced expansion plans that will bring two of its prep schools to the West side in the next two years. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/15/16) And Cleveland's MC2STEM High School has been awarded an Excellence in Innovation in Secondary Schools award from the Alliance for Excellent Education. (Cleveland
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  1. The state has asked the judge to lift his stay on the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, to at least allow the four seated members to meet and begin work, even if the fifth member is still in question. “Without immediate intervention from this court, [the children of Youngstown] have no hope that anything will be different in the coming school year,” wrote the state’s representatives. No word as to whether they asked “pretty please” or not. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/12/16)
     
  2. We told you last week about the fancy new Lorain High School currently under construction – how local pastors love it, how it won’t have metal detectors (not because they’re not necessarily warranted, but because “knuckleheads” can fairly easily get past them), and how it will have a crap ton of space dedicated to the local community college for dual enrollment courses. But this last item could mean the end of the 10-year-old “Lorain Early College Program”, dedicated to getting first-generation students into college. At a minimum, the existing program will have to change. Some folks are unhappy about this turn of events. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/11/16)
     
  3. And finally this week: Beef School. Line forms
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  1. Here are some things we learned during this week’s state board of education meeting. Ohio’s learning standards are still in the process of being revised. Said the dude from ODE: "We're looking for revisions, not a debate on whether you like standards-based education.” Not everyone got that memo, it seems. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/9/16) The next permanent state supe is still in process of being selected. A lack of consensus among board members on things like the qualifications required of applicants and pay level could hold up said process for a long time. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/9/16) ODE is still figuring out how to handle school report cards in the face of parents opting their children out of testing. Looks like they are going to be giving schools two different grades – one with untested students getting “zeroes” and one with untested students not being counted at all. Nothing could go wrong with that, could it? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/9/16)
     
  2. Meanwhile, editors in Cleveland PD opine with a vote of no-confidence in the Ohio Department of Education with regard to charter schools. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/9/16)
     
  3. We all know the old SchoolHouse Rock tune about how
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Detroit Public Schools recently made national headlines for the heartbreaking conditions of its school facilities and a widespread teacher “sick-out.” For Detroit, these are sadly just the latest hurdles to overcome: The public school system has been in dire financial straits for many years, while national testing data indicates that the district’s students are among the lowest-achieving in the nation.

A report from the Lincoln Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on land use and tax policy, provides a fascinating angle on the Detroit situation. It highlights the massive problems that the Motor City encounters when trying to finance public services, including education, through its local property tax system. Consider just a few bleak statistics reported in this paper: 1) The property tax delinquency rate was a staggering 54 percent in 2014; 2) roughly eighty thousand housing units are vacant—23 percent of Detroit’s housing stock; 3) and 36 percent and 22 percent of commercial and industrial property, respectively, sat vacant.

The report also highlights ways that property tax policies exacerbate the school system’s revenue woes. First, property tax abatements—tax breaks aimed at spurring re-investment—have reduced or exempted the tax liabilities of more than ten thousand properties. Whether the benefit...

Fordham Ohio’s latest report – Quality in Adversity: Lessons from Ohio’s best charter schools – was released on January 27. You can read the report foreword elsewhere in this issue, and now you can check out the event video by clicking here.

Our principal investigators presented the findings of their survey of the leaders of the top charter schools in the state and moderated a panel of those leaders on topics such as sector quality, accountability, and replication and growth.

The report’s findings and the event garnered attention in media outlets both in the Buckeye State and nationwide. Here’s a snapshot of the coverage:

  • The Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer discussed the findings on the day of release, comparing them to the papers’ previous reportage on charter school issues.
  • Statewide public radio covered the report and the release event, interviewing the researchers, the panelists, and even an audience member. A staffer from Democrats for Ed Reform was also on hand for the event and wove a very personal story into her observations.
  • National notices were brief but important. Ohio’s top charter schools deserve to be heard above all of the
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On November 1, 2015, Governor John Kasich signed landmark legislation to reform charter schools—House Bill 2, which strengthens the governance of Ohio’s charter sector and holds its key actors more accountable for their performance. These reforms lay the foundation for higher-quality charter schools and better outcomes for children. In time, we expect that the tougher accountability measures in Ohio’s revamped charter law will purge this sector of its lowest-performing schools, those that demonstrate no improvement (or worse) over the schools to which they serve as alternatives. However, simply eliminating ineffective schools is not nearly enough to create the opportunities Ohio children need; simultaneously, state policymakers should nurture the growth and replication of excellent schools.

Ohio already has some exemplary charters—a beachhead and benchmark for future sector quality—but the need for more high-quality schools in urban communities remains acute. In Columbus alone, more than 16,000 children attended truly dismal district or charter schools in 2013–14 (defined as a school that received a D or F for student growth and achievement). Equally staggering numbers of students attended low-performing schools in Cincinnati and Cleveland: 15,000 and 19,000 students, respectively. Taken together, roughly 75,000 youngsters in Ohio’s eight major cities (or about 30 percent...

  1. We told you last year of the saga of a group of homeowners here in central Ohio who petitioned successfully to have their homes rezoned from one school district to another. Turns out it doesn’t take a group, but such a rezoning process can commence with even just one property owner making the request. Such is the situation now, with homeowner, sending district and state board of ed all OK with the move. Small potential hiccup: the receiving district doesn’t seem keen on it. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/6/16)
     
  2. School district officials in Athens County discussed their K-3 literacy grades on the recent partial report cards. Most officials interviewed went into some serious and interesting detail as to why they think their grades – all of them – were so bad. (Athens Messenger, 2/7/16)
     
  3. Perhaps more and better pre-K would help K-3 literacy scores in Athens County. Editors in Akron think that could work, as they opine in favor of a “big leap” in such funding statewide. (Akron Beacon Journal, 2/7/16)
     
  4. Speaking of early education, here’s news of a possible expansion of the SPARK program into Ross County. We’ve told you about SPARK before (stands
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  1. We told you earlier this week – as dispassionately as your humble compiler was able – about the proposal to reconfigure a large number of Dayton City Schools buildings in order to combat “major academic and discipline problems” among the districts’ 7th and 8th graders. Passions, however, are rising among Daytonians in regard to the changes. (Dayton Daily News, 2/3/16)
     
  2. One of the passionate defenses of the status quo in the story above is that if you mess with the grade configurations, kids will leave for the charter school down the street, which is noted to be very high performing. But perhaps that problem is less pressing than the good folks of Dayton think. The D reported yesterday that the Ohio Department of Education has revised both the number of poor performing charter schools (upward, from 6 to 57) and the number of high performing charter schools (down, from 93 to 59) reported to the USDOE in regard to that stalled $71M grant that was all up in the news a couple of months ago. The department said the revision is due to new rating criteria put in place since the original grant application. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/4/16)
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