Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Following last week’s firestorm over its charter school sponsor review process, ODE on Friday rescinded all previously-announced sponsor rankings, including the “exemplary” rating earned by Fordham. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/17/15) This turn of events was also covered by the Beacon Journal, and included a quote from a blog post by our own Aaron Churchill on a different but related subject. To call the ABJ story “wide-ranging” would be an understatement. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/17/15)
  2. The fallout continued over the weekend as the leader of the school choice section of ODE resigned in the wake of the controversy over the sponsor review process. Coverage of the resignation was widespread and included the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/19/15), the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/20/15), and various other outlets via the Associated Press (Columbus Dispatch via AP, 7/19/15)
  3. Even before the resignation was announced, the editorializing had begun. First up, editors in Akron opined in favor of immediate investigation of ODE, preferably by the state auditor (I know) in regard to the sponsor review process. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/18/15). Same goes for editors in Cleveland, although they went ahead and updated their opinion in light
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  1. As we told you already, the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school sponsor review process came under fire in the State Board of Education earlier this week. The piling on has begun, but obviously when State Auditor Dave Yost (I know!) weighs in, folks listen. Fordham’s VP for Sponsorship Kathryn Mullen Upton is quoted in the Dispatch’s piece, stressing once again the importance of proper sponsor reviews: “ ‘We’ve got a real quality issue with charter schools in Ohio,’ she said. And sponsors play a role in that… ‘They’re the ones that can let a bad school go on indefinitely.’” Well said. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/15/15)
  2. Additional coverage of the sponsor review brouhaha can be found in various outlets via the Associated Press (AP, 7/16/15), the Beacon Journal (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/16/15), and the Plain Dealer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/16/15)
  3. The Dispatch also touches on the charter sponsor review situation while opining – again – in favor of swift charter law reform. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/17/15)
  4. I’m not sure whether this qualifies as irony or satire, but teachers at three charter schools in Youngstown voted to unionize this week. Yep. That should take
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  1. In case you missed it, Fordham was namechecked in an op-ed on charter law reform wherein editors lament lack of legislative action on same. (Findlay Courier, 7/14/15)
  2. We promised you an update on Monday’s community meeting on the Youngstown Plan, and here it is, courtesy of the Vindy. There’s too much here for me to comment on in this forum, but this is, I think, a must-read article – and a must-follow debate – for anyone who cares about urban education reform. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/14/15)
  3. The State Board of Education was talking about the Youngstown Plan this week also. Approximately the same dichotomy of views seen in the Vindy piece above is seen here as well, although perhaps more predictable a split on the board than in the community. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/14/15). The State Board of Ed is also on the same page as editors in Findlay, going so far as to pass a resolution urging the legislature to pass charter law reform as soon as possible. As the old paraphrase goes: victory has many parents, failure is an orphan. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/14/15)
  4. The State Board of Ed also did some digging into
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The Ohio Education Research Center (OERC) recently reported the teacher evaluation results from 2013–14, the first year of widespread implementation of the state’s new evaluation policy. The report should serve as an early warning sign while also raising a host of thorny questions about how those evaluations are being conducted in the field.

The study’s main finding is that the overwhelming majority of Ohio teachers received high ratings. In fact, a remarkable 90 percent of teachers were rated “skilled” or “accomplished”—the two highest ratings. By contrast, a mere 1 percent of Buckeye teachers were rated “ineffective”—the lowest of the four possible ratings. These results are implausible; teaching is like other occupations, and worker productivity should vary widely. Yet Ohio’s teacher evaluation system shows little variation between teachers. It’s also evident that the evaluation is quite lenient on teacher performance. But there’s more. Let’s take a look at a few other data points reported by OERC that merit discussion.

1.   Most teachers are not part of the value-added system

Given the controversy around value added in teacher evaluation, it may surprise you that most Buckeye teachers don’t receive an evaluation based on value-added results. (Value added refers...

Over the last twenty years, Ohio has transformed its vocational schools of yesteryear—saddled with limited programs, narrowly focused tracks, and low expectations—into a constellation of nearly three hundred career and technical education (CTE) locations that embed rigorous academics within a curriculum defined by real-world experience. (For more on Ohio’s CTE programs, see here.) According to a new report from Achieve, these transformations have put the Buckeye State on the cutting edge in CTE.

What sets Ohio apart from other states offering CTE is its commitment to high expectations. This principle was perfectly encapsulated in 2006, when the legislature was debating whether career-technical planning districts (which handle the administrative duties of CTE programs) should be held to the same standards as traditional schools. Many CTE leaders were determined that their students should be held to the same rigorous expectations as other students. Fast forward to the 2014 mid-biennial review legislation, and their determination finally became reality: Ohio now has three pathways to graduation, one of which is designed for CTE students. This pathway requires that any CTE graduate must earn “a state-approved, industry-recognized credential or a state license for practice in a vocation and achieve a score that...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill was quoted in two stories about urban education this weekend. First up, the ABJ is talking about a new nationwide online rating system for schools which, they say, attempts to “correct” for the effects of poverty in existing ranking processes. Aaron points out that while an overall single grade for a school is helpful for parents looking for information, if the components of that grade don’t include value-added data (which the new site doesn’t), then it’s not a fully accurate measure. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/12/15) Second is a look at the state of play in Fordham’s hometown of Dayton. The story is wide-ranging and Aaron is brought in to talk about how the so-called “Youngstown Plan” might take root in Dayton should it tip into academic distress status. But Aaron, as usual, digs a little deeper. “I think raising the academic standards in terms of Common Core, as well as the new science and social studies standards,” he says, “raises expectations for kids who have had low expectations for years.” Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 7/12/15)
  2. Speaking of Common Core (takes you back, doesn’t it?), editors in Toledo see the legislative prohibition on Ohio’s
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Not much going on in education new at the end of the week, and what there is is all about charter schools:

  1. In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced legislation intended to reform charter school laws across the nation, but especially in Ohio. Coverage begins with the Beacon Journal, which quotes our own Chad Aldis in response to Sen. Brown’s plan to curb “fraud, abuse, waste, mismanagement and misconduct”. Federal legislation of this type “misses the mark,” says Chad, and should be left to individual states. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/8/15)
  2. This was followed by the Repository, which simply summarized Chad’s statement into the word “overkill” while discussing the new bill, which seems like “underkill” to me. (Canton Repository, 7/9/15)
  3. As usual, the PD goes in depth, noting among other things that Sen. Brown’s bill announcement included reference to the Stanford/CREDO study of charter school performance in Ohio released in December and that Ohio’s currently-stalled charter reform bill addresses many of the issues about which Sen. Brown is concerned. Heck, they even solicited reaction from the senator to Chad’s comments. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/10/15)
  4. The Blade dispenses with the journalism
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U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has introduced the Charter School Accountability Act. In making his case for charter school reform, Senator Brown cites a recent study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) showing Ohio charter students lagging their peers in traditional public schools on state assessments.

“While presumably well intentioned, Senator Brown’s effort to scale up federal involvement in public charter schools nationwide based upon a situation in Ohio misses the mark,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Making matters worse, it seemingly ignores the tremendous state work undertaken over the last six months by Governor Kasich and the Ohio legislature to craft the most comprehensive charter school reform legislation in the state’s history—a version of which has already passed both the Ohio House and Senate.”

Senator Brown has also offered the bill language as an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act currently under consideration. Announcement of the legislation was met with strong support from both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

“Unfortunately, Senator Brown’s proposal goes well beyond simply strengthening accountability and transparency,” Aldis added. “The inclusion...

  1. A rally was held yesterday in Youngstown by folks opposed to the so-called “Youngstown Plan”, which is really a sharpening of the Academic Distress Commission protocols in Ohio…although targeted fairly specifically at Youngstown. Hundreds turned out, many not from Youngstown it seems, and a public meeting was announced for Monday in which some alternative to the Youngstown Plan will begin to be discussed. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/8/15)
  2. Speaking of city-based education plans in Ohio, here’s an update on the Cleveland Plan, which is a bit twisty. One of the main goals of the Cleveland Plan in 2012 was to triple the number of students attending high-performing schools. Changes in Ohio’s report card system for schools since 2012 have altered the depth at which schools’ performance is tracked and measured. This has led the mayor, the CEO, and the Transformation Alliance to rethink their own definition of “high-performing” schools and, in fact, to craft their own. Applying this new criteria lowers the baseline number of students who, in 2012, were in high-performing schools to begin with. Depending on your perspective, this either means they’ve moved the bar lower for their own success (tripling 3,568 is easier than tripling 11,466)
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Vladimir Kogan

The dire findings on the performance of Ohio’s charter schools published by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) have provided the badly needed political impetus to reform the state’s charter school laws. Now, however, it appears that not only are these reforms at risk, but lawmakers are actually considering steps to weaken one of the few aspects of the existing accountability system that works.

If existing measures show that charter schools are underperforming, it seems that some charter operators have decided that it would be easier to change the yardstick used to assess them than to improve student achievement.

As the Columbus Dispatch reported recently, at least one charter school operator is pushing Ohio lawmakers to replace the state’s current “value-added” accountability framework with a “Similar Students Measure” (SSM), similar to metrics used in California. Doing so would be a gigantic step back in accountability and would make charter school student achievement look better than it really is.

Here is some background: The state of California ...