Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Fordham is namechecked and Vladimir Kogan’s guest post for the Ohio Gadfly is discussed in this article about the whole “Similar Students Model” vs. Value-Added conundrum currently doing the rounds here in Ohio. Cage match, anyone? (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/24/15)
  2. Here is a ton more detail on committee proposals for fixing Ohio’s charter sponsor review process. Interesting if esoteric stuff. The public comment period on these proposals runs until December 7. (Gongwer Ohio, 11/23/15)
  3. My kids got their PARCC test scores in the mail earlier this week. All is well in the Murray household. This piece discusses the full process of informing families of the students’ test scores – individually, districts, and statewide. One question from me not answered here or in earlier stories about this: what impact will opter-outers have on the emerging data? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/25/15)
  4. Quick – what were YOU doing in 2005? I was watching the first series of the newly-revived Doctor Who. The Ohio Department of Education was reducing what are known as “foundation payments” for three of the largest school districts in the state due to lower-than-expected enrollment. Those reductions have been contested by the districts
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NOTE: State Sen. Cliff Hite is holding a series of events around Ohio to discuss the topic of extracurricular activities and the fees being charged by schools for those activities. He intends to introduce a bill soon that could call for the banning of so-called pay-to-play fees. Chad Aldis spoke at one such event today. These are his written remarks.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment today on pay-to-play fees.

Before I begin, I would like to commend Senator Hite for his focus on these issues. Policies like pay-to-play may aid schools with their immediate budgetary concerns, but they also put a strain on families. While many of the proposals that you will hear about today are a good start, I encourage you to think broader and perhaps even outside the box.

For years, the Fordham Institute has focused on education as a means of social mobility. Schools have long been championed as places where we can level the playing field for low-income children. Unfortunately, that leveling doesn’t happen as often as it should or even...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill is briefly quoted in this piece taking a preliminary look at preliminary PARCC test scores. Aaron notes that this is only preliminary data. Preliminarily. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/20/15)
  2. I’m sorry to have found this rather remarkable series of stories at its midpoint, but I think you will agree it is worth catching up and then tuning in for the final parts over the next two weeks. Journalist Bradley W. Parks has dug deeply into Ohio’s district and school building report cards and has visited all six Muskingum County school districts to see what the report card measures mean to superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents. The result is a compelling five-part series focusing on key individual measurement areas. Part One is an overview of district report cards, discussing all of the moving parts and how those parts have been affected by other moving parts (standards, testing, etc.) Quotable: “In an effort to make everything measurable, we’ve lost sight of what is important,” said one supe. “If you were trying to come up with a system to destroy public education, I’d think you’d done a pretty good job.” (Zanesville Times Recorder, 11/7/15) Part Two
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  1. We’ll lead off today with some good news. Dayton City Schools was one of two districts in the state whose academic performance put them on a path to a possible designation of “academic distress” and all that that entails in Ohio. As a preventative measure, the Ohio Department of Education offered help. To wit: “We have flooded the district with services and support, to the total of 546 days of service from our staff,” the Dayton school board was told this week. “We’re very proud to be … welcomed by Superintendent Ward, the district leadership team and the teachers and principals who are with us on a daily basis.” Sounds great. And how are things looking in the wake of all that help? “If the district continues in the vein that it is in now, with fidelity and adherence to their plan,” ODE staff told the board, “we do not foresee that more intensive supports will have to be placed upon the district.” In other words, the “Youngstown Plan” will not need to become the “Dayton Plan”. Sounds pretty good based on my summary, right? But if you read the piece all the way to the end you will
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  1. Dayton City Schools still has 35 teaching vacancies to fill four months into the year. Officials are blaming large scale retirement of veteran teachers, despite having 81 new applicants show up at a recent job fair. There is some brief discussion of the $1,000 incentive for new teachers to live and work in Dayton. (Dayton Daily News, 11/17/15)
  2. Staying in Dayton for a moment, here’s a nice piece on the “Welcome Dayton” program – facilitated by Sinclair Community College – which pairs new high schoolers in the district’s ESL program with native-English-speaking peers. The goal is “to create cultural competencies organically, not from a forced curriculum.” (Dayton Daily News, 11/18/15)
  3. Speaking of school climates, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District agreed to spend around $1 million to assess 25 of its school buildings in areas that “testing can’t measure”. Part of the funding – to a consulting firm – is to train district staff to continue the reviews on their own going forward once the firm has completed its contract. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/16/15)
  4. Finally, we have two stories from the “sure-fire ways to antagonize your opponents” file. The president of the Youngstown Board
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Vladimir Kogan

The school accountability movement is founded on the principles of transparency, high expectations, and the dissemination of accurate information about educational quality. While there is much to like about Ohio’s recently signed charter school reform legislation, one provision in the bill is at odds with all three of these ideas. As a result, it threatens to significantly undermine Ohio’s efforts to hold charter school operators and public school districts accountable for the achievement of the students they educate.

The provision I’m referring to requires the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to create and evaluate a new “Similar Students” measure of academic achievement, based on a metric used in California. The final language of the legislation only called for a study of such a measure but there appears to be significant interest from legislators and stakeholder groups in formally incorporating it into Ohio’s existing school accountability system, particularly for charter schools. Once ODE completes its evaluation, this conversation is likely to intensify.

In a new analysis, I show why this would be a terrible idea. Using data from ODE and technical documentation from the California Charter Schools Association,...

  1. Starting today’s report with an interesting piece I missed last week. Ross County continues to be the epicenter of debate on the topic of open enrollment in Ohio – that is, allowing students to attend schools across traditional district boundaries. There is discussion of current net “losers” and “winners” of students and of the funding that follows those students. Most importantly, it seems that some districts are actually surveying the students who leave in order to find out why. A huge development in the ongoing discussion. (Chillicothe Gazette, 11/12/15)
  2. On Friday the 13th, all five members of the new Youngstown Academic Distress Commission were finally named. (WYTV – Youngstown, 11/13/15) There’s no information in this piece on the individual appointed by Youngstown’s mayor. Here is a nice profile of that appointee – a retired dean from Youngstown State University. (Youngstown Vindicator, 11/13/15) Meanwhile, the school board’s sole appointee to the commission has irked the local teachers union, who state that while the retired administrator chosen has a long track record in the district and substitutes regularly, she is “not a current teacher in the Youngstown City Schools.” Next up – assuming
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CREDO’s national study of online charter schools has prompted even ardent supporters to call for “tough changes” in how they are regulated. Released in tandem with Mathematica’s survey of operational practices of e-schools and an analysis of state online charter policy by the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), the findings showed that Ohio online charter students learned seventy-nine fewer days in reading and 144 fewer days in math. (Read our analysis of the study here.)

Where does Ohio stand in its current regulation of online schools (which serve nearly one-third of the state’s entire charter school population)? And what can policy makers—and the e-schools themselves—do to ensure that students are better served? Let’s examine each question in turn.

Ohio’s recent steps to regulate e-schools

After an eight-year moratorium, Ohio lifted its ban on e-schools and allowed three new ones to open in 2013. The state regulates their expansion more tightly than charter schools broadly. In deciding who may open, the Ohio Department of Education examines both the track record of the operator and sponsor of each proposed e-school. Statute allows five e-schools to open each year, but the department may elect to approve...

  1. Chad’s quote from last month’s Dispatch story on the CREDO e-school report was recycled in a blog post on the website of Non Profit Quarterly. (Non Profit Quarterly, 11/10/15) Ditto for this version of same on the blog of NCPA, which quotes Chad and Jamie’s blog post/testimony on the same topic. (National Center for Policy Analysis, 11/12/15) What’s the point? I don’t know either.
  2. Back in the real world, here’s a brief piece on the Men of Color event in Dayton earlier this week. This is a local iteration of the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to provide access to strong male role models for local students. More than 200 men participated. Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 11/11/15)
  3. The leader of the Men of Color initiative in Dayton is a former state board of education member. He is probably very happy to be off that board now that the search for a new state superintendent is getting underway. Even the impaneling of a group to formulate the RFP rules for a search firm has been mired in politics. It’s going to be a long winter around here. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/12/15)
  4. The Ohio Alliance of
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This brief by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools offers “the most comprehensive analysis to date” on what is a very convoluted topic—special education funding in charter schools. Drawing from a review of state funding laws, websites, documents, and interviews with key stakeholders, the authors present their findings in several parts.

First, “Getting Lost While Trying to Follow the Money” (apt title, by the way) offers a primer on special education funding. Understanding the flow of special education dollars requires a grasp of overlapping federal, state, and local funding streams, which the brief outlines effectively. Readers learn the history of IDEA Part B, the ins and outs of the “maintenance of effort” requirements, and instances in which schools can qualify for Medicaid reimbursements. The report also describes the types of state funding formulas used. Ohio is one of nineteen states with a weighted funding formula (i.e., special education funding is based on the severity of a student’s disability, type of placement, and overall need). The vast majority of charters can’t access local funds (in Ohio, a handful in Cleveland can). Thus, if their special education costs exceed...