Ohio Gadfly Daily

The high-quality implementation of the Common Core standards, its aligned exams, and an evaluation framework that measures how effectively teachers teach these new standards ought to be the goal for Ohio’s public schools. This is a heavy lift, however, and there is little doubt that the implementation of these reforms—all of which are intertwined and taken on simultaneously—will pose challenges for state education and school leaders.

One such implementation challenge is the switch in assessments. Starting in 2014-15, Ohio’s schools will implement new math and reading exams that align to the Common Core standards. The Buckeye State is presently one of twenty-two member states of PARCC, a consortium that is working together to develop these new assessments.

PARCC
Goodbye OGT, hello PARCC

It is expected that the PARCC exams will differ considerably in comparison to Ohio’s old math and reading exams (the OAAs and OGTs), which are being phased out. The differences include anything from the content and difficulty of the tests, to the “cut score” that is required to pass them, to the online format in which the tests will be administered.

Ohio’s switch to the PARCC exams is likely to affect teachers’ value-added scores, for their scores are based on students’ present and past test results. (Value-added is a statistical model that estimates a teacher contribution to her students’ learning over...

Two recent Dayton Daily News articles cast the spotlight on important education reform discussions. As a sponsor of eleven charter schools in Ohio, the Fordham team understands the importance of accountability. This article mentioned financial oversights in some of Ohio’s charter school laws and Terry Ryan, Fordham’s vice president of Ohio programs and policy, said Ohio needs to rewrite charter school law.

The second article focused on retaining Ohio’s graduates. While Ohio had previously experienced a brain drain and lost graduates to other states, a rebounding economy and job opportunities could keep graduates in the state. Ryan said while some larger cities have appeal to graduates, their primary concern is finding employment. Stay tuned for upcoming articles and discussions related to these evolving topics and share your thoughts below!

Ohio has put the welcome mat out for charter schools that provide career technical education. Building on criteria from the federal Carl D. Perkins Act Ohio’s biennial budget (HB59) provides a significant increase in funding for charter schools that provide career technical courses. Table 1, is based on the “Estimated Formula Aid for Community (aka charters) Schools” released by the Senate earlier this month. It shows some of the big winners under the plan.

Table 1: Bumps in Career Technical Funding for Selected Ohio Charter Schools (FY2014 and 2015)

Source: All numbers come from “Comparison of Estimated Formula Aid for Community Schools Under H.B. 59, As Reported by Senate Finance and Actual Aid Under Current Law, FY2012

It is not just charters that benefit from this new emphasis on Career Technical education. The state’s Joint Vocational Education Centers, STEM Schools, and district high schools with career technical programs will see increases in funding comparable to the charters if they meet the Career Technical requirements for Perkins and the Ohio Department of Education.

This increased support for career technical education is not without controversy, especially when it comes to the charters gaining from these new dollars. For example, some of the state’s highest performing charters are likely to see a reduction in state aid, while those charters deemed providers of technical education will see state funding increases of 10, 15 or even 20 percent. Also controversial is the fact that some...

Ohio’s cities are rife with people pushing forward education reforms. As education leaders look outwards to new ways to improve education they are also beginning to turn inwards to see what components of the “education machine” are failing the system. In the wake of a very public data scandal, Columbus mayor Michael B. Coleman spurred the creation of the Columbus Education Commission to hold discussions on how to improve the governance of Columbus City Schools and increase the supply of high-quality schools. Amid the discussions, the Commission brought in experts to discuss alternative forms of school leadership which would involve the mayor’s office appointing people to the board or having a hybrid elected and appointed board.

While complete mayoral control of the school board is not likely to come to Columbus, the discussion did open an important policy discussion— what are the impediments to the current structure of school boards in Ohio and how can we work to improve them? In a scathing review of local governance structure in the United States, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy Marc Tucker states that “it is our system of local control that, more than any other feature of our education system, stands between us and the prospect of matching the performance of the countries with the most successful education systems.”

School boards are a part of the issue in Ohio and elsewhere in the nation, and it is systemic problems that do not allow them...

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) school board will vote tomorrow night to approve the hiring of up to nine Teach For America (TFA) members. These new hires will begin teaching in fall 2013, and will be the first year in which TFA teachers are placed in CMSD classrooms. During the past school year, fifty TFA teachers were placed in Cleveland-area charter schools and another 34 TFA teachers taught in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas. The past school year, 2012-13, was the first year TFA operated in Ohio.

This is more encouraging reform news for Cleveland, whose school system has and continues to struggle mightily. Within the past month, the Cleveland Teachers Union and the Board of Education agreed to a new teachers’ contract that, most significantly, stripped away the seniority- and college-credit-based salary schedule and replaced it with a “differentiated compensation” system that awards salary bumps mostly based on how a teacher performs on the state’s new teacher evaluation rating system. This change was required as part of Ohio's recently-enacted law, House Bill 525 (cf., Ohio Revised Code section 3311.78).

The new contract also changes lay-off rules so that performance is now the dominant criteria, rather than seniority, and also calls for 40 minutes of additional instructional time. Cleveland’s teachers will also receive a 4 percent raise in the first year of the contract and a $1,500 bonus when they enter the new compensation system.

Finally, a new 15-mill levy, passed last November, will inject roughly $85 million into the...

By July 1st, Ohio law will require public school districts (charter and district) to establish a teacher evaluation policy. The evaluation policy must conform to a framework that depends half on student growth on test scores and half on classroom observations.[1] Based on these measures, teachers will earn an overall rating: accomplished, proficient, developing, or ineffective.

In our recent survey of superintendents, Ohio’s teacher evaluation policy received mixed reviews. Nearly three out of four (73 percent) said that teacher evaluations would become accepted practice five years hence. And, 42 percent said that teacher evaluations would lead to “fundamental improvement” in the state’s K-12 school system. So, there’s modest optimism toward teacher evaluation.

But there’s undeniable angst about the policy details. Nearly all superintendents (93 percent) think that there will be lawsuits when personnel decisions are based on Ohio’s evaluation framework. And nearly all (86 percent) think that the classroom observation mandate will “put too much pressure on principals.” One superintendent said

“It will over-tax the principals and render them useless. They will need to spend so much time on evaluations, they will not have time for anything else.”

When one looks at the Ohio Department of Education’s website, one can see from whence this sentiment emerges. For example, the “teacher evaluation resource packet,” which operationalizes the classroom observation portion of the policy, clocks in at 22 pages. By simple extrapolation, this suggests a small mountain of paperwork for a principal who supervises 20 teachers.

Is there...

It’s no secret that Dayton’s economy has taken its lumps and presently limps along. The chart below reveals this all the more clearly, by looking at per capita income trends--one indicator of economic health--for Dayton and four other Ohio metro areas.

Chart: Widening income gap between Dayton and other Ohio areas – Per capita income by metropolitan statistical area, 1995 to 2011

SOURCE: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland  NOTE: The percent differences, author's calculation, compare Dayton and Cleveland's incomes and are shown relative Dayton’s income for 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2011 (the last year of available data).

It’s striking to see that in 1995, Dayton’s per capita income was roughly on par with Akron, Cincinnati, and Columbus. (Cleveland is noticeably ahead of this group in 1995.) But during the late 1990s and early 2000s, a growing gap begins to emerge as Columbus and Cincinnati race ahead, even catching up to Cleveland’s per capita income level. Meanwhile, Dayton grows at a snail’s pace in comparison. As a result, the gap between Dayton and its peer cities develops into a small chasm, so much so that by 2011, Dayton’s per capita income was some $3,000 below Akron, Columbus, and Cincinnati, and $5,000—or 13 percent—below Cleveland.  

Terry’s blog post earlier this week spotlighted the bold, citywide education reforms in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. One city was conspicuously absent: Fordham’s hometown of Dayton. Its absence doesn’t portend well for the...

While there are still a couple of steps to go before it is law (everybody sing along), Ohio’s next biennial budget was voted out of the Senate Finance committee yesterday and heads now to the full Senate with nearly 1000 pages of amendments.

One of these amendments addresses an important provision which has not received much media attention, added in the House version of the budget: a change to the way students are counted in traditional and joint vocational school (JVS) districts. By now we have all heard from the Ohio Auditor of State about “count week” – that magical five days every October where districts pull out all the stops (Spirit Day! Pizza Day! Pajama Day!) to get as many of their kids as possible to show up to school…in order to maximize the money the state provides to districts based on average daily membership, or ADM. Doesn’t matter how many kids are there in November or March or May, districts receive the same amount of money throughout the year whether there are more or less students in the school than in “count week.”

The House version of the 2014-15 biennial budget calls for traditional and JVS districts to certify ADM during the first full school week of each month, and to receive funding based on those rolling counts. By calculating ADM in this way, it is almost certain that school attendance on a random day in March will generally be very different than on Spirit-Pizza-Pajama-Baby-Animal-Day in...

Bianca Speranza

Last week I began my long awaited journey as a 2013 Teach for America Corp member in Southwest Ohio (SWO). Fellow corps members from all over the state, country, and even world convened in Cincinnati for a weeklong induction. The week served as an introduction into the region where we will be working for the next two years, as well as time for us to get to know each other and the motivation behind our reasons for wanting to join TFA.

We spent the week focusing on two major themes: heart and getting started. Heart: Who are the people we are working with, what are we trying to accomplish, and why does this work matter to us and to others? Over the course of five days we dove head first into the history of Cincinnati, Dayton, and Covington, discovering the people that make up these great cities and the unique challenges associated with each of them. The experiences ranged from visiting the Freedom Center to learn about the racial inequalities that have plagued Cincinnati for many years, as well as eating dinner in the home of a single-parent mother and hearing from her first hand what is important to her as a parent in Covington, KY. We also visited high-performing charter schools such as the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), hearing from their leaders, students, and teachers that the stale status quo of under achievement in a city can be just that and that there are ways to reach above...

This week I am joining members of CEE-Trust for a conversation on some of the nation’s most promising city-based school reform efforts. CEE-Trust is a coalition of 33 reform organizations like MindTrust in Indianapolis, Mayor Karl Dean in Nashville, Charter School Partners in Minneapolis, New Schools for New Orleans, and the Rogers Family Foundation in Oakland. Fordham is a founding member, and this is one of my absolutely favorite groups to spend time with because the people involved are leading implementers and practitioners of school reform. They are all doers.

In years past I always left the CEE-Trust meetings wishing more were happening in Ohio’s cities. But, this year is different. Ohio’s big cities are rapidly becoming leaders in school reform. In fact, I’d argue there is no state with three major cities doing more than what is happening in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Consider the following.

Cleveland: In early 2012 Mayor Frank Jackson (who appoints the school board) unveiled his “Plan for Transforming Schools.” The Jackson Plan required changes to state law and in July 2012 Governor Kasich signed House Bill 525, which gave the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and its superintendent Eric Gordon new flexibilities to deal with the city’s long-suffering schools. Key elements of the plan included:

  • Keeping high-performing and specialized teachers during layoffs by making tenure and seniority only secondary factors in those personnel decisions.
  • Paying teachers on a “differentiated” salary schedule based on performance, special skills and duties, as opposed to years of
  • ...

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