Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Fordham was namechecked in two stories noting that another charter sponsor has joined the “Exemplary Ranking” club…and that two have been named to the “Ineffective Ranking” club, the lowest possible rating. Check out coverage in the Big D (Columbus Dispatch, 6/10/15) and the Enquirer. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/10/15) Also noted nationally in Politico this morning, along with a quote from Chad. Nice.
  2. Speaking of charter schools, what’s up with management companies in Ohio? The Beacon Journal is still digging into Summit Academy Management. To wit: multiple breach-of-contract proceedings against teachers at their schools who quit to take jobs at other schools…mainly district schools. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/8/15) But I think the real story – which the ABJ will get to in due time, I’m sure – is this one: Akron-based journalist-fave White Hat Management is considering selling off operation of 12 of its K-8 academies to an out-of-state company. The PD’s story seems pretty tame given all the history (how did that story not get around to noting the potential new operator is also a for-profit company, for instance), but I’m sure that will change soon enough. Seems like this could get huge. More to
  3. ...

The Ohio Senate recently passed Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), legislation focused on “deregulation,” and sent it on to the House. The bill would allow high-performing districts to be exempt from certain state regulations. Judging from the testimony presented, the most controversial provisions dealt with teacher licensure.

SB 3 gives high-performing school districts two pieces of flexibility around teacher licensure. First, it allows qualifying districts to choose not to require its teachers be licensed in the grade levels they teach (though the bill maintains that a teacher must hold a license in the subject area they teach). Second, it allows these high-performing districts to hire teachers who don't hold an educator license but are instead qualified based on experience. Senate President Faber has argued that these provisions expose students to high-quality teachers they might not encounter otherwise—a retired math professor who wants to teach high school students, for instance. Opponents object to allowing unlicensed teachers into classrooms because important skills like behavior management and writing lesson plans aren’t necessarily intuitive, and their absence could outweigh the benefit of content knowledge and experience. This debate raises some important questions: Does teacher licensure matter? And is there...

Although charter schools were created to be laboratories of innovation, regulations and policies often prevent them from reaching their full potential. Take, for instance, teacher education and certification requirements that can obstruct schools from training educators in the manner that best meets their unique missions, values, and goals. According to a new case study from the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a few highly successful charter schools have overcome these obstacles by creating their own teacher certification and master’s degree programs. These schools include High Tech High in San Diego; Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First in New York; and Match Education in Boston.

Each of these schools began their forays into teacher credentialing because they had trouble finding teachers whose “philosophies and methods” aligned with their missions. In addition, they found that many of the teachers they hired lacked the skills to be immediately successful in the classroom. By creating their own teacher training programs, these schools were able to connect formal teacher education with what happens on the ground in actual classrooms. Each program focuses on its parent school’s innovative instructional approach: For High Tech High, it’s project-based learning; for Relay...

  1. Editors in Canton opined this weekend against poor-performing charter schools and for charter law reform, then lamented that proposed reforms didn’t come soon enough to spare the kids in a local charter threatened with closure from a poor education in their building. (Canton Repository, 6/7/15)
  2. Meanwhile, in Trotwood-Madison City Schools, a report issued by the Ohio Department of Education tried to get to the bottom of several years of “F” grades received by the district in a number of areas, including academic achievement. The report was step one in a process that could end up with Trotwood-Madison under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission…or not. Stern stuff, right? Well, fear not parents of Trotwood. The district supe is resolute: “…[W]e’re going to close those achievement gaps. You’re going to see improvement in Trotwood-Madison City Schools.” Carrying on the theme from the Canton piece, above, I hope someone will publicly lament that these promised changes – when they come – didn’t come soon enough to spare the kids in Trotwood from whatever was going on there before that led to all those “F” grades. Just sayin’. (Dayton Daily News, 6/5/15)
  3. Continuing the theme of retroactive regret,
  4. ...

Teaching is hard. (Even if I weren’t a former high school teacher I would know that.) And it’s particularly hard when you feel like those who shape education policy are constantly changing the game for reasons that have nothing to do with what’s best for students. For instance, Ohio educators have discussed how Common Core is successful in their classrooms over and over and over and over and over  again. And yet here we are, facing yet another standards repeal bill in the House. Unfortunately, this new bill’s attempt to repeal standards that are working in Ohio classrooms is even more unfair to teachers than previous iterations.

Previous attempts to repeal Common Core have included ridiculous requirements, such as forcing teachers to teach three separate sets of standards in four years. Unsurprisingly, that one failed to gain much traction. Even without mandating three sets of standards, HB 212 found a way to be worse. It requires that the board adopt new standards “not later than June 30, 2015.” Think about the implications: With no date given for when these standards are to go into use other than the June...

  1. In case you missed it on Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Education sent letters to four charter schools it sponsors informing them of their intent to close the schools for, among other things, poor academic performance. There’s a lot to this story that actually goes back a couple of years, but the bottom line is that this is exactly how sponsors should handle such situations. Kudos to ODE for making the tough decisions required in the best interests of students. For a boring version of the story perhaps a bit too light on details, check out the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 6/4/15). For an interesting in-depth version of the story – three of the schools are in Cleveland after all – with lots of links to explain the history, check out the PD. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/3/15). And for a predictably unique version, you can check out the ABJ. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/4/15)
  2. And since those initial stories ran, the schools on the chopping block in Cleveland responded to the press. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/4/15) So did the school in Canton. (Canton Repository, 6/4/15) Expect more on this situation next week.
  3. Hannah Sparling has
  4. ...

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) this week gave notice to four charter schools that it sponsors of its determination to cease school operations due to, among other things, a pattern of poor academic performance. While the schools’ governing boards have a short amount of time to appeal closure and provide a plan acceptable to ODE to remedy its concerns, it is unlikely that the four schools will reopen next school year. These are hard decisions with real impacts to the families and the communities served by these schools, but the department (and especially its Office of Quality School Choice) deserve plaudits for making tough calls and acting in the best interests of children and families whose schools are not providing the quality education that all of our students deserve.

While some may want to characterize this action under the popular “Wild Wild West” narrative and use it as a flail with which to attack charter schools writ large in Ohio, it is more accurately characterized as the latest in a very positive series of steps taken by the department to assert improved oversight over the charter school sector in the Buckeye State:

  • In 2013, State Superintendent Richard
  • ...
  1. In case you missed it, editors in Columbus opined yesterday in favor of charter school operators opening their books for scrutiny of public dollars spent. They also opined on the possibility of merging the three charter law reform bills currently under discussion in the legislature, saying, “Lawmakers should end the era of charter-school mediocrity in Ohio by keeping the strongest elements among the three proposals and allowing real school choice to blossom.” Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/2/15)
  2. Here is a list (and mini bios) of the nine candidates who have applied for the Interim Superintendent position in Youngstown City Schools. Not a bad list really. The all-lower-case headline makes it read almost like modern poetry. Good luck to everyone, and may the person with the most intestinal fortitude win. (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/2/15)

    A roundup of news from Columbus City Schools over the last week requires liberal use of the number “0”:
  3. Installing wifi in all district buildings by the end of the 2015-16 school year will cost $4,600,000. You’d think this would indicate the district is flush with cash despite the 2013 levy defeat, but fear not: this is federal money they’re planning on using.
  4. ...

On May 18, another bill aimed at repealing Common Core in Ohio was introduced. House Bill 212 is far more troublesome than its many predecessors, mainly because it aims to do far more than repeal Common Core. Legislators should put this bill out to pasture, and here’s why.

The war on assessments

HB 212’s worst offense is that it declares war on a rigorous assessment system. First, the bill’s text calls for the adoption of Massachusetts’s pre-Common Core standards. (We've talked before about why Massachusetts decided to move away from its previous standards in favor of Common Core, and questioned why Ohio would want to pick up another state’s standards when that state has already decided they were no longer good enough.) In an effort to align standards with assessments, HB 212 also calls for the use of Massachusetts’s pre-Common Core tests—which is logical in this circumstance and definitely not the worst option as far as tests go. (This past year, Massachusetts allowed districts to choose between the state test, MCAS, and PARCC). Unfortunately, HB 212 also allows for the adoption of another test—the state assessments administered in Iowa prior to 2010. Currently, Iowa is...

When it comes to the raucous debate over standardized testing, cooler heads might just prevail. In a recent move, PARCC announced changes to its exams starting in 2015–16. PARCC is a consortium of states working to design assessments aligned to the Common Core standards in math and English language arts; Ohio and ten other states administered PARCC for the first time in the 2014–15 school year. Dr. Richard A. Ross, Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction, sits on its governing board.

On May 20, the governing board voted in favor of two key changes that should alleviate some of the logistical burdens schools faced when administering these exams: eliminating one of the two “testing windows” and reducing the amount of testing time by roughly ninety minutes in all tested grades.

Collapsing two testing windows into one

The spring 2015 testing window for PARCC extended from mid-February to mid-May. That’s a long time. Of course, schools were not required to administer exams throughout the full testing window—they could use as few or as many of the days within the window as they needed. But for students, parents, and educators, the three-month window probably made “testing season” feel unusually long...