Ohio Gadfly Daily

  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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  1. Not much education news to report on again today, but at least most of it is good news. Here’s an update on a Straight-A Fund project in Springfield. The CareerConnectED consortium already includes two school districts, a tech school, and a STEM academy. They are working to align students’ educational experiences with the high tech skills needed by employers in the area.  They are also looking to add at least two more partners in the next five years. Hey guys, how about a charter school or two? (Springfield News Sun)
     
  2. An opinion piece in the PD today extols the virtues of Ohio’s Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship. It is written from the perspective of a service provider (author Lannie Davis is VP of the Julie Billiart School…) and from the perspective of a choice advocate (…and is also a board member of School Choice Ohio).  Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. But there’s always some less-good news lurking around the corner. Stay with me on this one. A group of public school zealots have been working hard to create the “feeder pattern” on Columbus’ south side that they would like their children to traverse from elementary through high school. And they had their hearts set on lovely old Stewart Elementary in historic (and tony) German Village. From their base of operations just south of the expensive-old-house zone, they’ve supported renovation of Stewart over the last couple of years. It will likely be a crown jewel for the district
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  1. Not much to report on in terms of education news over the weekend. We begin with a bit of a rerun: Editors in Columbus opine again in favor of eliminating the mandatory teacher pay schedule in Ohio. They reason that “Making seniority and extra college coursework the primary basis for rewarding teachers has created a system that is incapable of recognizing and promoting those teachers who actually are best at helping their students. In a field desperate for effectiveness, a teacher who is a miracle worker is treated the same as one who is just marking time.” Why the reiteration of their position? Because the bill including this provision passed the House last week and is now on to the Senate for debate. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Ohio’s teacher evaluation system is on Patrick O’Donnell’s mind in Cleveland. He goes to great lengths to explain how value-add calculations will be done for high school teachers starting this year. He focuses on the way in which “previous year” data will be amalgamated for subjects such as physical science, American history and American government in order to compare to current year data. Skepticism abounds. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Also on the minds of Northeast Ohio reporters this weekend: population loss and declining enrollment in school districts throughout Cuyahoga County. The Greater Cleveland-Akron area's median age increased from 37.2 in 2000 to 40.3 in 2010; Ohio's birthrate has dropped from 14 births per 1,000 women 2003 to 12.6 births in 2012;
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  1. In case you missed this yesterday, the Ohio House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that would limit state testing of K-12 students to just four hours per subject per year. On the Senate, as the old song goes. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. The above news should be music to the ears of editors in Canton, who broke from the message of some of their fellow big-city editors around the state and earlier yesterday opined in favor of the testing time-limit bill. They call it “a start”, so are obviously looking for more accountability changes. (Canton Repository)
     
  3. The superintendents of Mentor and Reynoldsburg schools were among a group of school leaders who visited the White House yesterday to help the president “spread the word” about the value of online learning. He’s making a push to get high-speed internet to more schools across the country and both Mentor and Reynoldsburg were held up as prime examples of what computer-based education and blended learning can accomplish. Nice! (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. The Clyde-Green Springs school district auctioned off some vacant land, which was bought by the local church. Nice and smooth and everybody seems happy. Can someone please forward this story to the folks in Monroe schools? (Sandusky Register)
  1. Well, Governor Kasich sure impressed some folks with his appearance with a group of fellow GOP governors in Florida yesterday. Some are talking about presidential aspirations for Kasich; we’re just appreciative of his comments cutting through the BS on Common Core in Ohio at crunch time. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Kudos to journalists still keeping their eyes on the outcome of last year’s third grade reading tests. Because the process is still ongoing, and will be for the foreseeable future. New information released by ODE this week reveals that just over 4 percent of last year’s third graders were retained at some level across Ohio. The Plain Dealer looks at these numbers from the Cuyahoga County perspective, noting that Cleveland Metropolitan School District had a 600 percent increase in retention for third graders between 2012-13 and 2013-14. The Dayton Daily News includes charter schools’ scores in its local reporting. DECA Prep was top of the heap in passage rates among charters, Dayton Leadership Academy was lowest. None of this is bad news IF every one of those students is receiving the help he needs to read on grade level and move forward with the proper skills in place.
     
  3. Editors in Akron opined yesterday against the testing-time limiting provisions proposed in HB 228. They say that “a consensus has formed around the notion of repairing the testing regimen,” but are clear that a proper fix will “take time and thought, two elements in short supply during
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  1. The school choice sign-up campouts in Cincinnati are over for another year. It got very cold. This is a twisted system in more ways than one that has for some reason become a “rite of passage”. Check it out for yourself. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Editors in Cleveland opine today against HB343. Specifically, against the provision to remove minimum salary requirement language for teachers from state law. But the headline and the major objections to the provision indicate a much larger problem the editors have. See if you can spot where their cart and their horse have ended up. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. We’ve talked a bit about churches and schools interacting in the past, with some negative consequences reported for districts trying to sell buildings to churches or for districts holding school events in churches. That latter instance was exemplified in the Canton area during last school year’s graduation season. However, it seems that going the other way – churches renting out district space for services and events – is not only hunky dory in Canton, it’s downright lucrative. (Canton Repository)
     
  4. The Hubbard school district has a record retention problem. As in, an outside contractor is retaining their records and refusing to return them. It’s a twisty tale of digitizing gone awry, hard drive destruction (or did they?), and restraining orders. A giant and expensive mess that will likely be dragged out in court for a while yet. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  5. To end on a
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Flanner House Elementary, an Indianapolis charter school, closed just weeks into the 2014–15 school year by a vote of its board (under heavy pressure from the mayor’s office, which was the school’s sponsor) after an investigation revealed widespread cheating on tests in previous years. This seems like a prudent course of action, given the information known and despite the havoc it wreaked on the lives of its students. A protracted closure process would have been far worse for them.

The most striking thing about this story is the praise received by the mayor’s office in the wake of the closure decision. As reported in Education Week

[The Indianapolis mayor's office]…assigned charter-office employees to communicate with parents on a biweekly basis.

"We had a tracker that listed when we called families, the nature of that communication, next steps that we agreed to, and then we worked with those families to meet their needs," which included buying school supplies and new uniforms, Mr. Brown said.

The mayor's office also hosted two enrollment fairs where parents could talk with leaders from nearly 30 schools and could enroll their children on the spot.

"What we saw is that we had a lot of angry families at first that, over time, came to really value the support we gave them, to the point that we had multiple families call our office and say, 'We are so thankful that you made this decision,' " said Mr. Brown. "We didn't feel...

From its inception in 1996 with one unusual school in Chicago, the Cristo Rey education model set out to honor its Catholic roots while simultaneously embracing a new way of preparing economically disadvantaged high school students for future success—not an easy balancing act to pull off. A new report from the Lexington Institute profiles the Cristo Rey model and also looks at how its newest school in San Jose is using an innovative blended-learning approach to move the existing model forward. The success of the network to date has been tremendous. Today, Cristo Rey is a nationwide network of twenty-eight private schools serving 9,000 students, including one school in each of Ohio’s three largest cities. Ninety-six percent of network students are minority (largely Hispanic) and 100 percent are economically disadvantaged (defined as families earning less than 75 percent of the national median income). Each student's family contributes an average of $1,000 toward tuition. Employers in the school's corporate work-study program provide most of the balance needed to cover operations. The work-study model requires students to work at least one day a week in the community while keeping up with rigorous high school coursework; in lieu of wages, companies donate money to the schools. (More than 2,000 employers invested upwards of $44 million in the Cristo Rey Network of schools in 2013–14.) Cristo Rey’s school day and year are extended, including a summer preparatory program to get students up to speed on both academic and work life. The results are...

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