Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Patrick O’Donnell tried to get to the bottom of just what the Ohio Department of Education’s new and evolving charter sponsor evaluation framework is – noting that two sponsors have been announced as “ineffective" and three have been announced as “exemplary” (including Fordham) using the framework so far. This is a well-done piece – a tour-de-force of journalism really – that gets at the heart of Ohio’s efforts to improve its charter school sector. And it draws some very stark differences between sponsor-based accountability and school-based accountability. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/14/15)
     
  2. Speaking of charter schools, late breaking news from Friday seems to indicate that White Hat Management is indeed selling off management of a group of its schools to a Virginia-based company. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/12/15)
     
  3. Staying in Akron for a moment, the Beacon Journal’s editorial page editor opined this weekend against caps and guarantees in school funding. He seems skeptical that any version of the new state budget gets it entirely right, but he’s sure that what we’ve got isn’t right. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/13/15)
     
  4. We end with another opinion piece, this one from Cincinnati, in which editors there opine in praise
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  1. Not to toot our own horn, but…TOOT! Fordham Ohio’s latest report, Getting Out of the Way: Education Flexibility to Boost Innovation and Improvement in Ohio, was released yesterday and we held a launch event in Columbus. Report and event generated some great response. Check out the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/11/15, plus other Gannett outlets) for quotes from Aaron Churchill and a response from something called the Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition. Check out the (still, for now) Big D (Columbus Dispatch, 6/11/15) for a nice summary of some key points from the morning’s panel discussion and a response from the state teacher’s union that goes in something of an unexpected direction. That same line of thinking is followed by public media’s StateImpact (StateImpact Ohio, 6/11/15), who quote Aaron and then look to the State Senate for a response. The Dayton Daily News’ Jeremy Kelley made the early morning trek to Columbus for the event and produced a wide-ranging piece (Dayton Daily News, 6/11/15, plus a few other outlets in the publishing group) that covered a number of other issues besides teacher licensure and tenure. Thanks to the good folks at Education First, our intrepid panelists, and
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For decades, Ohio policymakers have piled regulations onto public schools. Up to a point, this top-down, input-driven approach made sense, back in an era when too many students weren’t receiving even a rudimentary education, and when we weren’t nearly as fussy about academic results.

But times have changed. We now realize that students need strong minds—not just strong backs—to compete for jobs in a competitive and knowledge-based economy. Rigorous academic expectations are the “coin of the realm” in contemporary education policy—but there is also now near-universal consensus that youngsters deserve schooling experiences tailored to their individual needs, gifts, and interests.

These powerful forces demand a radically different approach to public education—and especially to the old regulatory regime that ruled it. The state must demand that schools raise their academic performance to ready all Ohio students for success in college or career. (Currently, 40 percent of Ohio’s college-going freshmen require some form of remediation.) In return, educators should have the autonomy to design instruction aimed at achieving these ambitious goals and to customize their approaches to accord with their pupils’ needs, capabilities, and circumstances. This means that the compliance-based approach to public education must give way to more flexible arrangements.

Ohio...

  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
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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,
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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
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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
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