Ohio Gadfly Daily

Last week, School Choice Ohio sued two Ohio school districts for their failure to comply with a public-records request. The organization is seeking directory information for students eligible for the EdChoice Scholarship Program from the Cincinnati and Springfield Public Schools. Actions to enforce public-records requests are rarely exciting, but the outcome of SCO’s effort could have important ramifications for tens of thousands of students and their families across the state.

Despite being a national leader in providing private-school choice options to students—Ohio has five separate voucher programs—there isn’t an established mechanism for informing families eligible for the EdChoice Scholarship program (Ohio’s largest voucher initiative) about their eligibility. The law doesn’t require school districts or the Ohio Department of Education to perform this vital function.

Enter School Choice Ohio (SCO), a Columbus-based nonprofit organization, which has worked tirelessly since the beginning of the EdChoice program to conduct outreach to families across the Buckeye State who are eligible to send their child to a private school via a voucher. SCO typically sends postcards and makes phone calls letting families know that their children may be eligible, giving them a toll-free number to call for an information packet and answering any questions...

Last week, the Ohio Senate passed House Bill 487, also known as the Education Mid Biennium Review (MBR) with overwhelming support (by a vote of twenty-seven to five). The MBR contains a wide variety of education-policy changes, including some modifications that affect Ohio’s academic content standards and assessments.

Ohio’s current learning standards, adopted in 2010 by the State Board of Education, include standards for students in grades K–12 in English language arts, math, science, and social studies. When the standards were adopted four years ago, there was public input but little fanfare or controversy. That changed about a year ago, when critics began focusing on the math and English language arts standards, a.k.a. the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

As opposition to the CCSS heated up all over the country (the standards were adopted by forty-five states), the focal point in Ohio was House Bill 237, which proposed repealing CCSS completely. The bill, sponsored by Representative Andy Thompson, received two hearings in the House Education Committee, with the last hearing in November 2013 drawing more than 500 people to the Statehouse.

The Senate’s changes in the MBR address some of the chief concerns raised at the ...

1. Lots of talk about dropout rates this weekend - in Ohio and in Akron specifically in a series published in the Beacon Journal:
● We start with a piece about charter schools’ dropout rates in the state, which the journalist says are making the overall number look particularly bad. Well, specifically dropout recovery schools…Well, specifically dropout recovery schools run by White Hat Management. This piece was also reprinted by the Dispatch this morning.
● Next up, a quick run through the numbers comparing Akron to Ohio's other urban districts…and LifeSkills Centers statewide and district-run dropout programs.
● Finally, an in-depth piece about a dropout recovery charter school that used to be part of the White Hat family, now on its own.

2. There was also a locally-written story in Columbus about dropouts this weekend as well, but the numbers previously reported by Columbus City Schools now appear to have been fictitious, caught up in the data manipulation we’re all tired of hearing about. (Columbus Dispatch)

3. In other news, Governor Kasich has made an appointment to the state...

Like the Cleveland Browns on a Sunday afternoon, the Ohio General Assembly is fumbling about with the state’s value-added system. One month ago, I described two bizarre provisions related to value-added (VAM) that the House tucked into the state’s mid-biennium budget bill (House Bill 487). The Senate has since struck down one of the House’s bad provisions—and kudos for that—but, regrettably, has blundered on the second one.

To recap briefly, the House proposals would have (1) excluded certain students from schools’ value-added computations and (2) changed the computation of value-added estimates—the state’s measure of a school’s impact on student growth—from a three-year to a one-year calculation.

I argued then that the House’s student-exclusion provision would water-down accountability, and that reverting to the one-year estimates would increase the uncertainty around schools’ value-added results.

The Senate has struck down the House’s exclusion provision. Good. But it has failed to rectify the matter of the one-versus-three-year computation. In fact, it has made things worse.

Here’s the Senate’s amendment:

In determining the value-added progress dimension score, the department shall use either up to three years of value-added data as available or value-added data from the most recent school year available, whichever results in a higher score...

  • Two new bills were introduced in the Ohio House yesterday, with the intent of changing charter school accountability. Here is a good but wonky piece talking about that legislation (Gongwer Ohio).
  • Several weeks ago, we reported that the Lorain County ESC conducted a survey of registered voters in the county on education issues. They touted the results at the time as a clear indication that state legislators were out of touch with voters on education issues and vowed to take action in their county. Before we get to the punchline today, let me note that there are over 202,600 voters in the county and that the ESC’s survey was returned by approximately 620 voters. If this month’s primary election’s turnout was “abysmal” at 14.75 percent, how much more abysmal is a survey return of this size? Anywho, the “action” part of the ESC’s master plan seems to be cranking up just as school is ending for the year. A panel discussion took place earlier this week with a group of superintendents from districts in Lorain County. Here are three takes on that event:
  1. We’ll start with the tiny Chronicle-Telegram, which
  2. ...
  1. There’s a governor’s race going on in Ohio; the candidates’ stances on education are far apart. In Akron yesterday, Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald spoke only briefly on education. You can see the full text of the ABJ coverage at the link, but here's what Mr. FitzGerald was reported to have said about charters: "He said he is not opposed to charter schools and thinks they can be an ‘important option for some kids.’ He said, though, that he thinks charter schools should be treated the same as public schools. “I disagree with the way charter schools are funded at the expense of public schools and the fact they are exempted from the same requirements and oversight,” he said.  (Akron Beacon Journal)
  2. Lorain City Schools is forecasting a big deficit for next year. Primary reasons given: open enrollment and vouchers, $5 million in property tax delinquencies, and “glitches” in the state funding formula. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
  3. There’s an open enrollment flap in West Geauga Schools as well, in which currently open enrolled students who reside in other districts are being denied renewal for next year due to
  4. ...

We are excited to share that the nationally renowned Building Excellent Schools (BES) Fellowship program is in Columbus this week to visit and study the United Schools Network (USN). USN is comprised of Columbus Collegiate Academy – Main, and Columbus Collegiate Academy – West. Both schools have been recognized for producing outstanding academic results in schools where a majority of students are economically disadvantaged (92 percent at Main, 100 percent at West).

Building Excellent Schools’ core work is to raise the quality of urban charter schools to ensure that all students have the opportunity to receive the education they deserve. Their highly selective fellowship has seeded more than 60 schools in 20 cities serving 20,000 students nationwide. Over the next two years, those numbers will grow to over 130 campuses in 30 cities.

Individuals selected as fellows focus on closing the achievement gap in some of the highest need communities across the country. Fellows spend a year studying how to design, found, and lead a charter school. During that year, fellows master school design and leadership, operations, governance, and external relations. Fellows also visit over 30 high-performing schools around the country, engage in a month-long residency in an...

We are excited to share that the nationally renowned Building Excellent Schools (BES) Fellowship program is in Columbus this week to visit and study the United Schools Network (USN). USN is comprised of Columbus Collegiate Academy – Main, and Columbus Collegiate Academy – West. Both schools have been recognized for producing outstanding academic results in schools where a majority of students are economically disadvantaged (92 percent at Main, 100 percent at West).

Building Excellent Schools’ core work is to raise the quality of urban charter schools to ensure that all students have the opportunity to receive the education they deserve. Their highly selective fellowship has seeded more than 60 schools in 20 cities serving 20,000 students nationwide. Over the next two years, those numbers will grow to over 130 campuses in 30 cities.

Individuals selected as fellows focus on closing the achievement gap in some of the highest need communities across the country. Fellows spend a year studying how to design, found, and lead a charter school. During that year, fellows master school design and leadership, operations, governance, and external relations. Fellows also visit over 30 high-performing schools around the country, engage in a month-long residency in an...

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