Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Part 2 of the Plain Dealer’s dig into the Ohio Department of Education’s email trove goes further into the issue of highly-mobile students. The story is mainly about e-schools, whose percentage of highly-mobile students is predictably high, but our own Aaron Churchill is quoted here with the proper sentiment: "To say these kids shouldn't count is not good policy." A link to Aaron’s recent blog post on the subject is also included. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/28/15)
  2. In between parts 1 and 2 of the PD’s series, editors there opined – as if on repeat – in favor of the passage of HB 2 now. There was also a bit about fracking, something else upon which Aaron has recently blogged. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/28/15) Editors in Akron also opined on charter schools this week, although I think reform is the last thing they really want. Interesting political history lesson, though, something upon which Aaron has yet to blog. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/28/15)
  3. Speaking of charter law reform, the Ohio House of Representatives is back in session today after summer break and one of the first pieces of legislation they will take up is
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As Ohio lawmakers return to Columbus, a debate is brewing about how to measure the effectiveness of e-schools. At issue is the fact that a large fraction of their students are mobile—for example, our 2012 student mobility report found that less than half of online students stay for more than a couple years.  Some e-schools assert that it’s unfair to hold them accountable for raising the achievement of children who spend such a brief time under their supervision.

Are they right? How should we think about accountability for e-schools, or other schools with a highly mobile population? (Our mobility study revealed that urban schools also experience high rates of mobility.) Should state policymakers make accommodations for schools with a more transient student body? Or should they stand firm on accountability, regardless of the challenges of serving a mobile population?

To be sure, these are tough issues, but policymakers can look towards a few guiding principles.

First, all kids count. Every student deserves an excellent education, regardless of whether she’s brand-new to a school or has been enrolled for several years. Think of it this way: when a fourth grade student moves from one school to another, shouldn’t the...

In Eastern Ohio and elsewhere across the nation, fracking has had a profound effect on economic activity and labor markets. But has it had an impact on education? According to a new study by Dartmouth economists, the answer is yes: The proliferation of fracking has increased high-school dropout rates—and not surprisingly, among adolescent males specifically. They estimate that each percentage point increase in local oil and gas employment—an indicator of fracking intensity—increased the dropout rates of teenage males by 1.5–2.5 percentage points.

The analysts identify 553 local labor markets—“commuter zones,” or CZs—in states with fracking activity, including Ohio. For each CZ, they overlay Census data spanning from 2000 to 2013 on employment and high school dropouts (i.e., 15–18 year olds not enrolled and without a diploma). The study then exploits the “shock” of fracking—it picked up significantly in 2006—while also analyzing the trend in dropouts. Prior to 2006, dropout rates were falling for both males and females; post-2006, dropout rates for males shot up in CZs with greater fracking activity. (Female dropout rates continued to decline.) Using statistical analyses, the researchers tie the increase in male dropout rates directly to the fracking boom.

This study raises important issues about...

  1. There is confusion and concern in Lorain City Schools at the moment, the only other district currently under the aegis of an old-style Academic Distress Commission. The confusion is whether their unique ADC status will lead to Lorain being exempted from new “safe harbor” provisions based on PARCC test scores. The concern is one of possible unfairness: it could turn out that Lorain is the only district in the state to which PARCC “safe harbor” does not apply. It’s complicated and even the Ohio Department of Education boffins quoted in this piece are unsure. Could be moot if the lawsuit from Youngstown succeeds, but fascinating to see the nuances of district turnaround in action. Or perhaps inaction could be more accurate. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 9/25/15)
  2. Former Toledo school teacher, current ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, and longtime charter school critic Teresa Fedor opined in a guest commentary this weekend in favor of a far-reaching investigation of the Ohio Department of Education in regard to the rescinded sponsor evaluations done earlier this year. (Toledo Blade, 9/27/15) Perhaps not coincidentally at all, editors in Toledo opined – as if on repeat – in favor of
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While plenty of folks seem to think that getting rid of Common Core would be good for schools, the standards remain largely intact in most states across the nation, including here in Ohio. Before supporters start congratulating each other on victory, however, they would be wise to recognize that the real battle for Common Core has just begun. As my colleague Robert Pondiscio points out, “far too little attention has been paid to the heavy lift being asked of America’s teachers—and the conditions under which they are being asked to change familiar, well-established teaching methods.”

This heavy lifting includes selecting curricula to teach the standards (because the standards aren't a curriculum—districts choose their own). The lift gets Atlas-like when one considers the poor alignment of the curricula from which districts and teachers can choose. Since last summer, researchers have called out textbook publishers’ misleading claims of alignment with words like “sham,” “buyer beware,” “disgrace,” and “snake oil.” Slapping “shiny new stickers on the same books they’ve been selling for years” has probably lined some pockets, but it’s also left teachers high and dry—and still hefting the weight of ensuring that students master...

  1. An interesting discussion of Ohio’s teacher evaluation system includes comments from Innovation Ohio’s Steve Dyer ("It's a very subjective thing, teaching."), Fordham’s Aaron Churchill ("It's a move toward results-oriented, performance-based education, and that's a huge step forward.”), and the late Albert Einstein (“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted."). I’m with Aaron. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 9/24/15)
  2. Loyal readers know that I love me some Yost (I know!). But I do hope that the Auditor of State never decides to buy me a present, because he’s got a different definition of “surprise” than I do. Case in point: the big announcement of impending “surprise” visits to both charter and district schools for a new round of attendance spot-checks, among other things. This is important stuff for the auditor to stay on top of – attendance is, sadly, an inexact science most everywhere – but secret visits should be secret. Shouldn’t they? Just sayin’. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/25/15)
  3. As you no doubt recall, the first batch of charter sponsor ratings were rescinded earlier this year over the exclusion of some low grades for Ohio’s e-schools from a portion of the ratings process. A
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  1. Fordham’s Aaron Churchill is one of the critics referenced in the headline of this piece, reporting on the state board of education’s recent setting of PARCC cut scores for Ohio. Too low, say the critics, including Aaron. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/23/15)
  2. Meanwhile, Chad Aldis is quoted in this Dispatch piece speculating on whether HB 2 – the currently-stalled charter law reform bill – would already or could with some tweaks address any of the issues raised in last week’s Ohio Supreme Court decision. You remember the one: is it charter governance or contract law? Important discussion here, especially since lawmakers are due to return to Columbus in a week, and a lot has happened in the charter school realm over the summer. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/23/15)
  3. They are arguing on process, but are using that argument to attempt to on reverse the actual decision. What am I talking about? No, not the creation of the Youngstown Plan but the scrapping of those magnet school campouts in Cincinnati in favor of a lottery. It’s a small but vocal group and they are fighting to the end for the return of the campouts. Guess those tents must be non-returnable.
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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is pleased to welcome Jamie Davies O’Leary back into the fold as our senior Ohio policy analyst. Jamie joined Fordham in 2009 after working as a public school teacher and Teach For America corps member. She was both an Education Pioneers fellow (2008) and a Truman Scholarship fellow (2004), and she holds a master’s degree in public administration from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

During her first sojourn at Fordham, Jamie focused on the teaching profession and on policies impacting teachers, such as teacher evaluations, merit pay, and the Teach For America program (for which she testified before the Ohio Senate Education Committee).

Jamie left Fordham to work in communications and advocacy for the Ohio Council of Community Schools, one of Ohio’s longest-running and largest charter school authorizers. In her most recent role as the council’s chief communications and advocacy officer, she oversaw the delivery of communications to schools, governing boards, and the media. She also managed the organization’s policy and legislative strategies.

The Ohio Education Gadfly welcomes Jamie back to the team, and we look forward to many more incisive blog posts and publications...

In the fall of 1996, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) implemented a new accountability system that placed 20 percent of its schools on “probation.” Poor reading test scores made up the sole criterion for censure and those scarlet-lettered schools were plastered on the front page of both Chicago newspapers. A new study by Peter Rich and Jennifer Jennings of NYU takes a look at enrollment changes in these “probation schools,” both before and after the imposition of the new accountability system. The authors attempt to determine if the addition of new information (“this school is not performing up to par”) motivated more or different school change decisions among families.

1996 may seem like ancient history to education reformers, but the study illustrates the perennial power of information to motivate school choice decisions. In 1996, CPS had (and still does) an open enrollment policy that allows any family to choose any school in the district other than their assigned one, provided there is space available. Since the district provided no transportation to students either before or after the policy was imposed, that issue was moot. The number of schools and seats within the district also stayed the same. In other words,...

  1. Chad Aldis is quoted in this DDN piece posted late on Friday. It is about the currently-stalled charter law reform bill and how quickly various stakeholders think it will take for the bill to become un-stalled once legislators return to work later this month. Everyone seems optimistic, although everyone interviewed – including Chad – knows the bill could use some tweaks to make it even better. (Dayton Daily News, 9/18/15)
  2. Speaking of that currently-stalled bill, editors in Columbus opined yet again – as if on repeat – that Ohio needs charter law reform now. Luckily for weary readers, they at least have last week’s Ohio Supreme Court decision as a unique hook on which to hang their opinion piece. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/20/15) Ditto for editors in Akron. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/20/15)
  3. If the ABJ editors sound a bit crankier than usual, it’s probably because of the two-day series they made out of the closing – months ago, before school started – of a charter school in the Akron area. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/19/15). As with many charter school closings, it seems like it was overdue and that the
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