Ohio Gadfly Daily

  • We’ve been covering the efforts of schools and districts around the state to meet the requirements of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, mostly with a lot of optimism and positivity. That optimism and positivity seems seriously lacking in Akron, even while the work is actually getting done. It could be that teachers and administrators have given their all and don’t know what else to do, but I do credit the ABJ for noting that third graders in the district will have been given up to six chances to pass the test when all is said and done. That’s a ton of effort for the district to be proud of; no matter the number of kids who don’t make it, it’s got to be better than the status quo from previous years. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Districts in the Cincinnati area may not be serving gifted students to the fullest extent. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • There’s a joke about beans to be made here, but I’m not one to laugh in the face of success. The food service chief of Lima City Schools testified before Congress this week on how well the Community Eligibility Provision is working for families in Lima. Said Ms. Woodruff: “I was there to offer my perspective from one school district that’s doing it and can say it’s going well. The parents appreciate it, the students are participating and it’s a good fit. I was
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  • “Fiscal sustainability” is one of the first criteria to be addressed by reviewers looking at Straight-A Fund applications. And there is some concern that charter schools pitching projects look quite different on paper than traditional districts or ESCs in that regard. So many charter schools' projects were graded down due to sustainability issues in the most recent review that they will be looked at again separately to assess the potential biases their structure introduces. Hey guys, what about standalone STEM schools too? Just sayin’. (Gongwer Ohio)
  • Two new members were sworn in to join the Cleveland Municipal School Board yesterday, one of them a former member of the Friends of Breakthrough Board, the other a public health practitioner. Both charter schools and health-related wraparound services are innovations being pursued by CMSD so these seem like pretty good fits. But I’m not sure why we had to have that little joke about Ms. Bigham having made sure to leave the FoB Board before joining CMSD. Weird verbal dynamics. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Speaking of Breakthrough Schools, a 2011 documentary about a 7th grader at E-Prep struggling with school and life will air tonight on WVIZ-TV in Cleveland. Tomorrow, the young man will update us on his continuing story on public radio. Important stuff, I think. (StateImpact Ohio)
  • State Auditor Dave Yost made 10 recommendations to tiny Mechanicsburg Schools to help them operate more efficiently
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Student transportation is as nuts-and-bolts as it gets. But if we want to expand access to quality schools, we have to get it right. Today, for all the expansion of school choice in Ohio and beyond, especially in urban areas, it’s far from clear how many students can physically access their top-choice schools. In a 2009 study, for example, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) found that low-income parents in Denver and Washington, D.C., were particularly likely to report that a lack of good transportation constrained their real-world choices.

This doesn’t come as a surprise. School transportation systems were designed for an era when practically all students attended the district-operated school nearest to their home. For a half-century now, students have ridden clunky school buses, and routing and scheduling schemes have assumed that pretty much everyone living in a particular neighborhood attends the same school, with relatively rare exceptions such as youngsters with significant disabilities. Moreover, some school systems have eschewed busing altogether—not a bad thing for kids who live within walking distance and in cities with crackerjack public-transport systems, but not a good thing in myriad other situations.

Ohio, though, was a pioneer in recognizing early on the value of transporting kids to their school of choice. Since 1966, private-school students (with some exceptions) have had the opportunity to ride a district school bus to their school of choice. Today, kids...

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Last week, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools (OAPCS) announced that Darlene Chambers would take the helm of the organization as its new president and chief executive officer. Darlene takes over for Bill Sims, whose steady leadership guided the group for its first seven years. Leadership changes at any organization present challenges and opportunities, but in this case those are one and the same: the need to improve the quality of Ohio’s charter-school sector.

At the beginning of this year, we stated the obvious: that Ohio’s charter sector has too many low performers. We went on to suggest that it’s incumbent upon charter supporters to lead the effort to improve quality. Darlene’s background uniquely positions her to steer a course toward quality. As the executive director of a leading charter sponsor, the Ohio Council of Community Schools, Darlene understands more than most the difficult and important decisions that sponsors face when deciding whether to renew a charter contract or to close a school. She also has learned firsthand (as has Fordham) that nonrenewal or closure is hard but is sometimes the right decision for kids.

In addition to her role at OCCS, Chambers is also the outgoing president of the Ohio Association of Charter School Authorizers. This collection of Buckeye sponsors has been an advocate for higher-quality charter authorizing. Given the importance placed on the role of effective authorizing at the state and national level, this gives Darlene a unique...

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Last week, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools (OAPCS) announced that Darlene Chambers would take the helm of the organization as its new president and chief executive officer. Darlene takes over for Bill Sims, whose steady leadership guided the group for its first seven years. Leadership changes at any organization present challenges and opportunities, but in this case those are one and the same: the need to improve the quality of Ohio’s charter-school sector.

At the beginning of this year, we stated the obvious: that Ohio’s charter sector has too many low performers. We went on to suggest that it’s incumbent upon charter supporters to lead the effort to improve quality. Darlene’s background uniquely positions her to steer a course toward quality. As the executive director of a leading charter sponsor, the Ohio Council of Community Schools, Darlene understands more than most the difficult and important decisions that sponsors face when deciding whether to renew a charter contract or to close a school. She also has learned firsthand (as has Fordham) that nonrenewal or closure is hard but is sometimes the right decision for kids.

In addition to her role at OCCS, Chambers is also the outgoing president of the Ohio Association of Charter School Authorizers. This collection of Buckeye sponsors has been an advocate for higher-quality charter authorizing. Given the importance placed on the role of effective authorizing at the state and national level, this gives Darlene a unique...

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Last week was a big week for charter schools. A Presidential Proclamation designated it “National Charter Schools Week.” At the same time, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed (360–45) bipartisan legislation to strengthen the federal Charter Schools Program and prioritize the replication and expansion of quality charter schools. These actions reflect the growing bipartisan support enjoyed by charter schools as well as the increased focus on quality over quantity.

Ohio’s charter growth has mirrored that of the nation, although with some high-profile school closures in the Buckeye State, the bipartisan support has been a little less than forthcoming. While we are ardent charter supporters, we’ve been obliged to call out bad behavior and epic failures that could have been prevented.

But in the spirit of National Charter Schools Week, we opted to celebrate part of our own portfolio of charter schools across Ohio; in addition to being a gadfly, we also sponsor charter schools. These schools—laboratories of innovation and independence—are making an important difference for the communities they serve.

To name but three:

We urge you to check out the whole series here....

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Building upon kindred analyses in FY 2003 and 2007, this magnum opus from the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas examines charter funding across the land in fiscal 2011 and finds that per-pupil charter revenues fall drastically short of what their surrounding districts take in. We learn that U.S. charter schools, on average, received 28 percent less than comparable districts. Unfortunately for Ohio’s 100,000-plus charter students, the Buckeye State’s charter-funding disparity is almost as bad as the national average: 22 percent less than districts. Worse yet, that shortfall is considerably larger in Cleveland and Dayton (the two cities in Ohio where the researchers did a deep dive analysis) than the statewide average. Cleveland’s charter schools received 46 percent less than district schools, Dayton’s charters 40 percent. (The per-pupil revenue for Cleveland’s charters was $8,523 versus $15,784 for the district, and the per-pupil revenue for Dayton’s charters was $8,892 versus $14,732 for the district.) Given the long history of dreadful achievement by those two urban school systems, it’s shameful that the principal alternatives available to needy youngsters in those cities are so egregiously underfunded.

What’s the explanation? As in many states, Ohio charter schools do not have access to local revenue streams or facilities funding. (That dual problem continues, save for a few schools in Cleveland.) Although Ohio has changed its school-funding system since these data were gathered, the new formula produces similar revenue amounts for charter schools and would likely reveal similar...

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  • Up to fifty-three staff members could be let go in Cleveland Municipal School District (that’s teachers and other staff) at the end of the school year, out of an initial sixty-eight identified as underperforming by building principals. The details of the process are fascinating and instructive, but this is proof-positive that CEO Eric Gordon is serious about the reforms he championed in the district, including supporting his principals in weeding out bad performers.
  • Lorain City Schools was one of many districts around the Buckeye State to pilot the new PARCC exams last month. There were far fewer technological snags than most had predicted, and teachers in Lorain have no fear that they can teach their students all they need to meet and beat the higher expectations of the Common Core–aligned tests.
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an excellent series of articles last week looking at the state-of-play in many suburban school districts with regard to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee: where they stood after the fall test, what results they expect from the impending spring test, and what they plan to do with the rest of the school year and into summer to make sure their third graders test proficient and move on to fourth grade. To show the diversity of the series, officials in the tiny Mayfield Schools say they expect no third graders to be held back when all is said and done; in contrast, officials in the inner-ring Cleveland Heights–University Heights Schools
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  1. Outgoing Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder seems to blame the Common Core for the defeat of an incumbent representative in last week’s primary, and he wants to do something about it:  “That sucker is a problem. I think we probably should have addressed it.” I'm kind of glad to know he’s talking about the Common Core and not something else!  (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. In a surprise to no one at all, delegates to the Ohio Education Association’s Spring Representative Assembly voted in favor of a resolution recommending a three-year “suspension on all high-stakes decisions” tied to new standardized tests in the state. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald was also at the teachers’ Spring Wingding and spoke passionately against the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, standardized testing, the Common Core, and a few other things. To the surpise of no one at all. (Toledo Blade)
  4. One of those “high-stakes decisions” that the unions would like to suspend is teacher evaluation tied to their students’ test results – part of Ohio’s brand new teacher evaluation protocol. As we’ve noted before, there are ongoing legislative attempts to change the evaluation protocol even before it’s fully rolled out. Here’s some more on that, focusing a lot on the topic of students evaluating teachers. (Columbus Dispatch)
  5. Two pieces of news from last week – a report showing a diversity gap between students
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The digital revolution is sweeping across Ohio. This year, twenty-six e-schools, twelve of which serve students throughout the state, will educate 40,000 or so youngsters. Countless more students will learn in a “blended” classroom or take an online course at their brick-and-mortar school.

One emerging use of technology is to help secondary students recover credit.  At first glance, the flexibility of online learning seems to be tailor-made for students who, for whatever reason, are in dire need of credit recovery. But in her recent Education Next article, journalist Sarah Carr documents a few of the flies in the ointment when it comes to this nascent, computer-based approach to credit recovery.

First, the data and research about online credit-recovery are simply far “too incomplete.” According to an AIR analyst with whom Carr spoke, “Even basic questions are unanswered, like the size of the business [i.e., online learning providers] and the size of the need.” Second, she finds that there is practically no way to determine the quality of an online course provider. In fact, Carr described a New Orleans school where the principal ditched one provider because its courses failed to engage her students and the quizzes were mostly recycled until the student passed them. Lacking an external quality-control authority, the vetting of online courses remains the duty of local educators. Third, Carr provides a few examples of how credit-recovery can be misused and abused. She cites a New York City incident in which administrators pushed failing...

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