Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Here is yet another school district touting their new “online education program”, decrying the loss of money for kids who leave the district for charter schools (online or otherwise) and then implying that the kids come back to the district “even more behind” than when they left. Lots of problems with all of those anecdotal statements, of course, but let’s put those aside to focus on who is providing this valuable new service to the district’s students in their online venture for “non-traditional learners”. Vandalia-Butler City Schools has contracted with an online charter school to run their own E-school. Fascinating and bizarre. (Dayton Daily News, 8/3/15)
     
  2. So, if online charter schools are no longer foes for school districts, then who is? According to the leaders of 41 Southwest Ohio school districts, the state of Ohio is their enemy. The state has made it “nearly impossible” for their teachers to do their jobs via “unfunded mandates”. Oddly enough, Vandalia-Butler has yet to sign on to this enmity pact. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/3/15)
     
  3. However, in Columbus, it’s the Ohio High School Athletic Association that appears to be the more urgent bête noir. OHSAA’s distribution of newly-sports-eligible charter and STEM
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Author's note: following the publication of this piece, the Ohio High School Athletic Association voted to reverse their original decision and removed all charter and STEM school students from enrollment counts in district high schools.

Late in July, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) announced that it had parceled out newly sports-eligible students evenly and randomly to district high schools in the cities where they live. This action was taken as a result of a 2014 change in law that now allows non-district students in charter or STEM schools to participate in district-affiliated athletics (and certain other extracurricular activities). Instantly, all but one of the high schools in Columbus City Schools were “upsized” into a new athletics division—in some cases two or three steps upward—because of the technical increase in the schools’ enrollment. In other words, schools previously fielding sports teams in lower divisions (where the competition is less fierce) will now face tougher competition in the big leagues.

While stoicism reigned over the situation as it similarly unfolded in Toledo, the reaction in Columbus was swift and furious. One Columbus Dispatch sports writer called this action a “burden on districts that are already...

Finding a facility for charter schools to call home is a challenge on a number of fronts, not the least of which is finance. Some charters have been fortunate to find an unused district school building. Here in Columbus, the high-performing United Schools Network utilizes two former Columbus City Schools’ facilities. Other charters, like KIPP Columbus have built its own school from scratch (though its first home was a former district building as well). Unfortunately, these examples are the exception rather than the rule.

For many charters, operating in a traditional school building is financially infeasible. While charter schools bear the responsibility to find their own facilities, they receive only a small amount of state money for the task. Anecdotally, we know that this has forced many charters to make ends meet by residing in facilities that weren’t originally built for the specific purpose of educating children.

We wondered exactly how many charter schools use non-traditional facilities. To answer this question, we looked at the seventy-nine charter schools located in Franklin County (most are in Columbus) and then searched their addresses on the county auditor’s real estate website, which provides information including structure type and ownership (present and...

  1. After last week’s presentation by ODE to the current Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, more details are emerging on what the future CEO-led district might look like. The prime question in this piece is whether the elected school board will be retained and what it’s duties might be. (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/2/15)
     
  2. It is clear that folks in Lorain – the only other Ohio school district currently under the aegis of an old-style Academic Distress Commission – are looking warily at Youngstown for a glimpse of their possible future. This weird hybrid opinion piece/fact roundup is equal parts hope (“The district is pinning its hopes in Dr. Jeff Graham, who started Aug. 1 as the new Lorain City Schools superintendent.”) and propaganda (“We can’t think of anyone who would want to see Lorain Schools viewed in the same light as the struggling Youngstown City School District…”). But its authors are oddly optimistic about their own chances of avoiding state takeover (“We support any and all efforts to re-energize the struggling Lorain Schools.”) while simultaneously jumping the gun and erroneously reporting that Youngstown’s elected school board has already been disbanded. Almost as if the piece was written by a divided
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A recent study from the Education Trust called Funding Gaps 2015 illuminates the per-student funding disparities between affluent and poor districts. Findings show that, on average, more state and local tax dollars find their way to wealthier districts. For many, this overall trend is hardly surprising, but perhaps more interesting is where the trend is actually being reversed.

Authors Natasha Ushomirsky and David Williams examined the Census Bureau’s finance data, specifically focusing on each state’s state and local funding (excluding federal dollars). Nationally, the report concluded that districts with the highest poverty receive about 10 percent less in state and local funding (or about $1,200 less per student) than the wealthiest districts. Seventeen states, however, defied the national trend: Their highest-poverty districts receive at least 5 percent more than the lowest-poverty districts. According to the Education Trust’s analysis, Ohio was the national leader, boasting 22 percent more funding for its highest-poverty districts.

But when the authors accounted for the estimated 40 percent more funding needed to educate students in the highest-poverty districts—an estimate pulled from the Title I formula—the gap widens. When this is accounted for, the highest-poverty districts receive about $2,200 (or 18 percent) less per student than...

Today is the textbook definition of a “slow news day” here in Ohio, but maybe that will help us parse the few interesting stories we have a little more deeply. Of interesting note: all of today’s stories are about school choice, from very different perspectives.
 
  1. First up, we’re talking about an “oldie but goodie” in the school choice pantheon – vocational education – from the perspective of an avid purveyor of educational options. This is a guest column by the President/CEO of Great Oaks Career Campuses in Southwest Ohio, extolling the virtues of career tech education in the 21st century. This is not your father’s shop class, and the Pres seems a fine advocate for the benefits of CTE for Ohio students. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/29/15)
     
  2. Second is a relative newcomer to the school choice world – virtual schooling – from a perspective that one might call “opportunistic”, if one were feeling uncharitable. Garaway Schools in eastern Ohio has created a new virtual school in order to stem the flow of money/students from their district to online charter schools; oh, and to give students the flexibility they need to blah blah blah. It is about the district losing less
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  1. An excellent article from an unlikely source. Here’s a look at the status of Cleveland’s school turnaround plan from the perspective of a business publication. While the district CEO speaks the usual ed reform language of “let’s stop bickering over ‘turf’ and ‘ownership of kids’,” the business analysts cut through the rhetoric with this: There are over 2,750 students enrolled in mid-performing charter schools currently unaffiliated with the district. This is a “significant opportunity” for the district to align itself with some of the most promising schools, nudge them into the next category, and so move closer to the plan’s goal of tripling the number of kids in high-performing schools. The only question for them is how to seal the deal. (Crain’s Cleveland Business, 7/26/15)
     
  2. As if they have a recurring event on their Google calendar, editors in Cleveland once again opined in outrage that charter law reform remains stalled in the General Assembly. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/28/15)
     
  3. From outrage to barely contained glee: no new charter schools are slated to open in Toledo in the 2015-16 school year. And no, that’s not an op-ed. (Toledo Blade, 7/29/15)
     
  4. The current Academic Distress Commission in
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As ESEA reauthorization heads to conference committee, debate is certain to center on whether federal law should require states to intervene if certain subgroups are falling behind in otherwise satisfactory schools. Civil rights groups tend to favor mandatory intervention. Conservatives (and the teachers’ unions) want states to decide how to craft their school ratings systems, and when and how to take action if schools don’t measure up. The Obama administration is siding with the civil rights groups; a recent White House release, clearly timed to influence the ESEA debate, notes that we “know that disadvantaged students often fall behind in higher-performing schools.”

But in how many cases do otherwise adequate schools leave their neediest students behind? Are there enough schools of this variety to justify a federal mandate? Fortunately, we have data—and the data show this type of school to be virtually nonexistent.

In a recent post, I looked at school-level results from Fordham’s home state of Ohio. That analysis uncovered very few high-performing schools in which low-achieving students made weak gains. (“Low-achieving” is defined as the lowest-performing fifth of students statewide.) Just seven schools (in a universe of more than 2,300) clearly performed well as a whole while allowing their...

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) undoubtedly increased the federal footprint in education. As Congress debates how to rewrite the law, a new analysis from Bellwether Education Partners couldn’t be timelier.

The report starts with a look at the history of federal involvement in K–12 education and how NCLB tilted the balance of power toward Uncle Sam. Although NCLB started as a bipartisan bill with broad support, critics multiplied as the deadline for universal proficiency approached, interventions for low-performing schools mounted, and conditional waivers from the law were granted by the Department of Education. Among its shortfalls, NCLB included “over-prescriptive” provisions that mandate how a state education system should be run and a misguided one-size-fits-all approach.

But the law wasn’t all bad. Evidence suggests that NCLB’s accountability measures were effective in improving schools and student performance. These improvements were particularly evident among black and Hispanic students. The authors of this report applaud a requirement that states break down testing data into disadvantaged subgroups, thereby shining a light on students who are most at risk.

So how can policymakers keep the good (transparency and accountability) while ditching the bad (micromanagement)? The Bellwether analysts turn to the charter concept and argue...

On June 30, Governor John Kasich vetoed forty-four items in the budget  and signed the rest into law. Among the provisions that survived is an extension of “safe harbor” as Ohio continues its transition to new standards and assessments. Last year, lawmakers created this “safe harbor” policy for students, schools, and teachers; it pertains to certain test-based accountability provisions for 2014–15. With the 2015 budget bill, they’ve extended it by two more years (2015–16 and 2016–17).

The safe harbor provisions for students and teachers are pretty straightforward. For students, test scores from the 2014–15, 2015–16, or 2016–17 school years cannot be used “as a factor in any decision to promote or to deny the student promotion to a higher grade level or in any decision to grant course credit.” While not explicitly mentioned, this means that failed End of Course exams won’t equate to lost course credit or failure to graduate.  

For teachers, safe harbor means that the “value-added progress dimension rating” determined by state tests administered in 2014–15 and 2015–16 cannot be used for “assessing student academic growth” for teacher evaluations, or “when making decisions regarding the dismissal, retention, tenure, or compensation” of teachers. There is,...

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