Ohio Gadfly Daily

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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  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.
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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...

Sam Myers was among the first recipients of Ohio’s Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship, starting at Mansfield Christian School in the fall of 2012. It sounds simple, but the fight for the Myers family to access the school that best fit Sam’s academic needs was anything but easy.

For a look at that struggle, ably supported by the good folks at School Choice Ohio, take a look at this video:

 

One family’s hard work and persistence – to find an answer when others may not have even seen a problem – paid off not only for them but for thousands of others across Ohio.

Fast-forward to May 30, 2015, when Sam graduated from Mansfield Christian. A number of big-name well-wishers lined up to congratulate him. You can hear their own heartfelt words in this video:

In the words of our governor: you rock, Sam. Congratulations and best wishes for the great future ahead of you....

  1. Heavy charter school issue today. First up, a leftover from last week which discusses a pending legislative proposal to allow high-performing charter schools access to facilities funding statewide for the first time. Folks in Cleveland are concerned that the “high-performing” criteria applies to sponsors and not to individual schools. Meaning that a high-performing school in the portfolio of a low-performing sponsor would be unable to access facilities funding as the law is currently written. It’s a good question, and an important debate in the ongoing efforts to reform charter law in Ohio: sponsor-centric provisions vs. school-centric provisions. Fordham is name-checked here as one of only two sponsors in Ohio recently rated in the highest, “exemplary” category of sponsors by the Ohio Department of Education. Just sayin’. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/29/15)
     
  2. Of course not everyone thinks Fordham is the bomb when it comes to charter sponsorship. The Beacon Journal had no less than four stories this weekend about the history of charter school audits in Ohio. 15 years of audits are scrutinized in the series. Part one is a summary of the most egregious findings over the years. Fordham shows up on the Top 10 list for findings
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