Ohio Gadfly Daily

The charter school sector in the United States encompasses forty-two states and the District of Columbia, with 6,400 charter schools serving 2.5 million students. More than 1,000 authorizing entities oversee these schools, working under state laws that (ideally) balance the twin goals of school autonomy and accountability for results. This report, produced by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), examines the quality of those laws. NACSA has identified eight policies that facilitate the development of effective charters, including performance management and replication, default closures, and authorizer sanctions. States are awarded points based on the strength of each of these policies in their charter school laws. Since each state has a unique charter-authorizing landscape, NACSA has divided the states into three groups based on their similarities and then ranked states within each group. The groups are: 1) district authorizing states, 2) states with many authorizers, and 3) states with few authorizers. Ohio—with its 70 authorizers—was placed in group two along with four other states (Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, and Michigan). NACSA awarded Ohio a score of 18/27, enough to tie for third in its group (along with Missouri). While Ohio earned top marks for its default closure policies and its (relatively new) authorizer sanctions, it received zero points for its charter-renewal standards. More specifically, current law allows “reasonable progress” to be sufficient evidence for an authorizer to renew a charter. This low standard is particularly worrisome given Ohio charter schools’ “documented history of poor performance.” The report also notes...

Cheers to Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy, an early college high school which draws students from nearly a dozen districts in its region. The school is prepping to move into a new, larger facility next school year, and is looking to recruit around one hundred new students to help fill it. This is another example of an education option that doesn’t have to divide a community. Instead, all districts with kids in the school can be proud of their students earning college credits while being challenged with a strong STEM curriculum.

Jeers to seemingly unquenchable bias in education reporting.  What do you call a charter school that manages to tick every box in the “wow” column (inner-city location, focus on special-needs students, strong arts program, dazzling tech component, on-target for enrollment, leader with solid school-district credibility, fiscally sound, sponsored by the state, managed by a local nonprofit)? If you’re not biased against charter schools, you call it awesome. If you are, then you call it a product of “divine intervention,” reducing to insignificance the hard work of the dozens of dedicated professionals who created and run it every day.

Cheers to Sciotoville Community School senior Taylor Appling, one of six Scioto County winners of the Honda/OSU Partnership Math Medal Award. Fordham sponsors SCS, and so we applaud Taylor, his teachers, and his school administrators.

Jeers to the persistence of an archaic school transportation model in Ohio. Amid reports of continuing bus driver shortages in Dayton City...

It’s a busy day here at Fordham Columbus, so Gadfly Bites will be brief today. Expect a bumper issue tomorrow, in which we ourselves hope to feature prominently.

  1. The other big news of the day is the fact that the state Board of Education is likely going to vote on the so-called “5 of 8” rule. Yesterday saw some testimony and discussion, which focused on a revised version of the rule which will be submitted to Ohio’s rule-review body if approved by the board today. Here is coverage from the Columbus Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer (which includes what I think is the first hashtag in a headline I’ve ever clipped, in case you’re wondering what’s driving this debate), and the Cleveland Plain Dealer (which includes the text of a resolution passed by Cleveland City Council of all people, urging more time for public input on the issue). Crazy times in Ohio indeed.
     
  2. As if the above pieces (and the others statewide) weren’t enough, editors in Cleveland decided to opine on the “5 of 8” rule as well, urging the board to leave it as is for the sake of poor school districts across the state. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. In other news, a local reporter in Marion has decided to take a look at Common Core implementation from an unusual angle for an adult: a desk in a third-grade classroom. That’s right, she’s gone “back to school” to see what an elementary classroom
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  1. How complicated is school funding in Ohio? According to the legal arguments in this state Supreme Court case pitting a group of local taxpayers vs. their Cincinnati-area school district, very complicated. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. How complicated is verifying student data in Ohio? According to the conflicting responses to a fairly simple question about superintendent sign-offs across the state, very complicated. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Speaking of school funding, last week there was a flurry of stories about a new study (of oddly mysterious provenance) which showed that students in rural areas around the state had less access to AP classes than their urban and suburban counterparts. This was attributed mainly to funding disparities between rich and poor local tax bases. The Vindicator takes on the same study today (with even less detail about where it comes from), but focuses straight-up on the DeRolph rulings of two decades ago and that good old “thorough and efficient” bugbear. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. CRPE last week released the results of a survey of “public school choice” parents in a number of cities, including Cleveland. The PD took up the story and focused on affect: more of the surveyed parents in Cleveland believe their schools are getting worse than believe they are improving. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. The Beacon Journal also took a look at CRPE’s report and noted, with their usual doggedness, that 83 percent of the Cleveland parents surveyed sent their children to charter schools. Now, it makes sense in
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  1. School Choice Ohio’s Executive Director Matt Cox penned a terrific editorial piece that ran in the Enquirer today, focusing on the little-reported financial aspects of voucher use in Ohio. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Here’s a fantastic story about the I Know I Can program, whose long-time efforts to link Columbus high school students to college could take a huge leap forward if they achieve their goal of putting a college adviser in every district high school. Laudatory and awesome, but let’s not forget about charter and career tech high schools too!  (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. We told you yesterday about the status of Columbus’ parent-trigger pilot – in two months, not a single parent has reached out to the group charged with providing information on options in 20 bottom-of-the-barrel district schools. There was a lot of speculation in that piece as to why this is, and today Dispatch editors put forward their own opinion on the matter.
     
  4. As we mentioned yesterday, charter schools are often criticized for “slick advertising” and “recruiting”, especially when they use state funds to do so. The argument is that school districts can’t do the same. We showed that early college high schools can do it (not charter schools, yes, but not traditional districts either). Today, we see that districts can do it too. Strongsville schools have a PR firm on retainer. Why? The board wants to reach Strongsville residents with a positive message about the schools. Well duh. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
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  1. With about three weeks until the deadline, not a single Columbus parent has contacted the group responsible for providing information on “parent trigger” options available to them. The Dispatch is attempting to figure out why. There’s a bit of finger pointing and probably too much “us vs. them” here, but the comments are instructive of how choice in general has historically (dis)functioned around here. Check it out and see what you think. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. There’s an undercurrent of “us vs. them” in this piece too. It’s an update on the so-called “5 of 8 rule” under consideration for elimination by the State Board of Education. The story dredges up some previous “us vs. them” stuff from Toledo school history, but I have to say I’m with the small-district supe who supports the elimination of the rule in favor of districts determining their own staffing ratios. He knows that the very real backlash stems from a question of trust between districts and their teachers. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. A continued bus driver shortage in Dayton City Schools has left routes uncovered, caused kids to be regularly late to school, and made at least one parent pretty upset. I’m imagining that charter school parents in Dayton are having an even rougher time. Can we please find some better way to do school transportation? (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy – an early college high school which draws from nearly a dozen districts – is on
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  1. On Monday, the Enquirer printed an open letter to the Catholic Archbishop of Cincinnati from a local Catholic-school grad, imploring him to drop Common Core from all the schools under his purview. The lad says Common Core will “remove parents from the education process, reduce teachers to paper-pushers, and concern learning with the vocational rather than the metaphysical.” As if you couldn’t tell from the letter and his avatar photo (or from his aggressive attempts to control the online discussion board in the Enquirer website), this young fellow is a political science major - at none other than Hillsdale College. Go figure. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. I wasn’t going to clip the above piece, but since the Superintendent of the Catholic Diocese of Cincinnati decided to pen a response, I thought they would make an excellent counterpoint to one another. He says that the Diocese is “adapting, not adopting” Common Core. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  3. Speaking of Common Core, the very first administration of PARCC’s performance-based assessments in English and Algebra 1 is occurring in Ohio this week. That is, tests that actually count. The folks in Bay Village schools seem confident that their teachers – and their students – have it in the bag thanks to helpful prep, sample questions, and guidance from PARCC. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. As predicted earlier, the effort to eliminate mandatory pay schedules for teachers from Ohio law died when the language was removed from HB 343 in the House Education Committee. Committee Chair Stebelton said the language was a drag on other more important provisions
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  1. Reporters affiliated with the Plain Dealer have fanned out across Northeast Ohio to interview 25 district superintendents in some depth. The individual pieces are available via the PD’s website, but here is the overview that opened the interview series, focusing on money. How much the supes make, what kind of benefits they get, what their travel allowances are like, how many are double-dipping, and how many plan to join the double-dippers. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Two clues lead me to believe that the Beacon Journal has tired of writing about charter schools for the moment. First was last week’s “miraculous” story about a seemingly-unbashable charter about whom the reporter had nothing bad to say. A miracle indeed. Second is yesterday’s story digging into a revamped, comprehensive program within Akron City Schools for students removed from their home schools due to discipline problems. The Phoenix Program, housed in a former school building, offers smaller class sizes, incentives for positive behavior and other interventions with the goal of returning troubled pupils to their home schools. It is run by the local YMCA. However, the building is now also houses to other services that may be of use to Phoenix students and their families as well: a branch office of the juvenile court system, the Y, a number of mental health providers, probation officers, and the district’s recently-revived truancy program. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. We are familiar with the early-college high school concept here in Ohio. Canton is exploring the
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  1. Not much education reporting over the Thanksgiving break. The folks at Gongwer took a look ahead at the remainder of the lame-duck legislative session. Specifically, this piece is about two pending education bills likely to see some action. The removal of the mandatory teacher pay schedule, they predict, will not happen this go round (via House action); and the bill to reduce testing time for students to just four hours per subject per student also may not happen (via Senate inaction). We shall see if the prognostications prove correct. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. In 2005, the Columbus City Schools’ board disbanded its budget committee and switched to what is called “policy governance”, which leaves spending decisions largely up to the district administration. In the ensuing ten years, so the Dispatch’s analysis goes, per-pupil spending on regular instruction was down more than 5 percent, and spending on what the reporter calls “bureaucracy” skyrocketed. Not sure that’s entirely fair, given the variety of spending categories that appear on those two lists, but hopes are high that the imminent resurrection of the board’s budget committee will allow the district’s “laserlike focus” on student achievement is properly backed up by spending priorities. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. And, in case you missed it: Fordham’s sponsorship team released its annual report for the 2013-14 school year and you can (and should) check it out by clicking here. (Fordham Ohio)
  1. We’ll start today with an item that is only tangentially related to education. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman announced yesterday that he would not seek a fifth term as mayor. He’s already the longest-serving mayor in Columbus’ history and has a lot to show for his dedication to the city. But his leadership in efforts to help improve education in Columbus – from a citywide afterschool program to the Columbus Education Commission to the visionary (but ultimately doomed) levy that tried to bring reform to the city schools – will be sorely missed. No one on the short list of contenders for the office so far has much cred when it comes to education. Bon chance, Mr. Mayor, wherever you’re off to. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. And on to real education news with a bang. There is a possible double-strike whammy looming in Parma at the moment. Both the teachers union and the support-staff union have been negotiating with the district on new contracts (the former for over 18 months!), but both unions have recently rejected offers rather soundly. Words like “last” and “best” are being bandied about, but let’s hope that cooler heads prevail and both strikes can be averted. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Staying in Cleveland for a moment, PD editors opine (again) today on the testing-time limit bill which passed the Ohio House last week. They urge caution, deliberation, and outright blockage of the current bill by either the Senate or the governor.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
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