Ohio Gadfly Daily

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Columbus Preparatory Academy, a K-8 Mosaica-run
charter school on Columbus’s west side that is a poster child for the
successful turnaround of a troubled school.

In 2008, the school was rated F by the state and student
performance on state assessments was abysmal. Today the school is rated
A+
(aka, Excellent with Distinction) and boasts achievement levels that best
that of nearly all of the area’s top-performing schools (and are leaps and
bounds above the state’s definition of “proficiency”). This transformation was
achieved while the school continued serving a challenged student population – about
72 percent of students are economically disadvantaged and eligible for free or
reduced-price lunch – and retained nearly all of the same teachers and staff
members who were working in the school when it was failing (in a school that
now employs 30 teachers, the principal said just seven or eight teachers have
left during his four-year tenure).

So what are the keys to CPA’s success? Two things
immediately stand out:

Leadership. Principal
Chad Carr (who has led the turnaround since taking over the school four years
ago) is committed to the success of his students, staff, and school like few
others in his field. I don’t say that lightly as I know a lot of absolutely
terrific school leaders, but spend five minutes with Carr and...

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What
does online learning really cost? Can it, in fact, be both better in terms of
improving student achievement and overall less expensive than traditional
bricks and mortar schools? These fundamental questions are what the Fordham
Institute’s new paper, “The Cost of Online Learning”, gamely tries to tackle. In
short, paper shows that online learning has the potential to save education
money while also improving the quality of instruction available to students.

The
Parthenon Group
(the national research firm that helped craft Ohio’s
winning Race to the Top application) provided the research. They conducted more
than 50 interviews with entrepreneurs, policy experts and school leaders across
the country to come up with “an informed set of estimates regarding the cost of
virtual and blended schools” across five categories – labor (teacher and
administrators), content acquisition, technology and infrastructure, school
operations, and student support.

Using
these five categories as the basis of comparison the researchers compared a
“typical” traditional model (brick and mortar school where instruction is
delivered by teachers), a “typical” blended model (students attend brick and
mortar schools where they alternate between online and in-person instruction)
and a “typical” full virtual model (all instruction takes place online). In
blended schools like Carpe Diem, Rocketship, and KIPP Empower, technology is
used as a tool to personalize instruction for students who spend part of their
...

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Just over a year ago, Ohio won $400 million in Race to the
Top grant dollars and promised to implement a number of significant reform
programs. The U.S. Department of Education just released a progress report
for the Buckeye State detailing how it has fared in year one, as well as the
work that remains.

First, it might be helpful to revisit the major commitments
Ohio made. They were to:

  • Increase the high school graduation rate by 0.5
    percent per year with an eventual goal of an 88 percent graduation rate. Right now
    only 84.3 percent graduate from Ohio’s high schools.
  • Reduce the graduation rate gap between white and
    minority students by 50 percent. The current gap is 16 percentage points.
  • Reduce the performance gap between Ohio students
    and some of the nation’s highest performers like Massachusetts.
  • Double college enrollment for Ohioans under the
    age of 19. Ohio ranks 35th in terms of adults with a two-year degree
    of higher.
  • Adopt and implement high-quality academic
    standards aligned assessments.
  • Ensure great principals and teachers in every
    school (however that’s measured).

Ohio has more than 600 school district, 3,500 district schools
and over 300 charter schools so it had its work cut out for it when it applied
for RttT dollars and then won. The list of goals stated above is no easy
task.  So how is Ohio doing...

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The Dayton Public Schools are caught in the middle of a
financial crisis… yet again. A recent Dayton
Daily News
article
delivered the somber news that DPS officials must find a way to avoid a $12
million deficit in 2014. Last year DPS cut
294 positions, including 139 teaching spots, in an attempt to fill a $9 million
hole. Less than a year later, the district is back in the same spot, leaving DPS
leaders with a couple of options.

Property Tax Levy

One option
to fill the gap is putting a new tax levy on the ballot in the November
election. Dayton voters last approved a 4.9 million operating tax levy in 2008
which was supposed to generate $9.3 million annually. However, due to a
decrease in student enrollment, high foreclosure rates, and delinquent taxes,
the district is actually collecting less in property taxes than it did before
the levy. Consider the following: in 2001 DPS had 20,147 students enrolled in
their schools; fast-forward to the 2010-11 school year and only 14,174 students
remain in DPS. The news doesn’t get much better when you look at the amount of
tax money that is not collected. In 2010 DPS lost out on almost $5 million
dollars (collecting only 85.5 percent of taxes due to the district).
Considering the track record of tax collection and the not so bright future...

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Good morning and welcome to a new year and a new look for the Fordham website, and a new approach to our blog. In the past Flypaper has served as the main and only blog for the Fordham team, allowing for a variety of voices to share their opinions on various topics in the ed-policy world. But we at Fordham believe that a group blog has its limits (i.e. as new posts get added every day, posts that are still timely and relevant get pushed to the bottom, making it difficult for the reader to keep up with the swarm of blog posts) so Fordham now has six separate blogs, each with their own authors, focusing on specific topics. Read Mike Petrilli’s explanation of the new blogs here for a better understanding of the new blog approach and what topic each new blog will focus on.

Most exciting out of this change for our small (but mighty!) team in Ohio is that we now have our own blog, Ohio Gadfly Daily. This blog, which will be co-authored by the entire Fordham-Ohio team (with occasional guests bloggers), will allow for keen insight into Ohio’s education policy scene, where we not only advocate for educational excellence for all students, but attempt to put those policies into action with  the sponsorship of eight charter schools.

Be sure to stay tuned to Ohio Gadfly Daily for what is sure to be an exciting and busy year, and...

More students move between Columbus City Schools and
neighboring school districts than move between the district and area charter
schools, according to data from Community
Research Partners
(reported in today’s
Columbus Dispatch).

This is sure to come as a surprise to many, given the
decade-long cry from Ohio’s school districts about charter schools “stealing” their
students (and funding).  But it’s no
surprise to us at Fordham.  Last year, we
commissioned a study
of student mobility
in our hometown of Dayton.  Among the many findings:

-         
Far more students moved among Montgomery County
districts, or left the county altogether, than moved between Dayton Public
Schools and the city’s charter schools.

-         
No charter school or district was “creaming”
good students.  High-performing and
low-performing students alike were mobile, and families didn’t appear to be
selecting new schools based on the school’s academic performance.

-         
The greatest indicator of a student’s mobility
was his/her score on the state’s third-grade reading test.  The lower the score, the more likely the
child was to be highly mobile.

Our Dayton study generated much conversation and debate in
the city around questions like, “If nearly half of our students will attend
several different schools between kindergarten and fifth grade, should we have
a city-wide elementary curriculum to provide education stability?” and “How
should we develop and amend the state’s school- and teacher-accountability
...

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STEM education in Ohio is a growing component of
the state’s K-12 system. Metro Early College High School opened as a STEM
school in Columbus in 2007, and since then STEM schools have opened their doors
in metro regions like Dayton, Cincinnati, Akron, and Cleveland. The schools have
drawn millions of dollars in support from state government, local school
districts, the private sector and philanthropy (see here for details).

So far, however, the state’s STEM network has
not yet opened a school that is aimed at the state’s dynamic agricultural
sector and all that supports it. Senator Chris Widener (a Republican from
Springfield who chairs the Senate Finance Committee) hopes to tackle this void
in the state’s STEM sector. There is a whole lot of merit to this effort.

As I learned (somewhat surprisingly) in talking
with Sen. Widener, one in seven jobs in Ohio is connected to the “AgBioscience”
sector. This sector comprises food, agriculture, environmental, and bio-based
products industries. As a whole the sector employs about a million workers statewide
with an annual economic impact of over $100 billion a year. It is one of Ohio’s
fastest growing sectors with thousands of jobs going unfilled because there
aren't enough skilled Ohioans to do the work. Consider the following statistics
provided last week by Sen. Widener:

  • Ohio
    has added on average 59 new bioscience companies a year since 2004,
  • ...
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The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers have joined the chorus of charter school advocates and others who are calling for the Ohio Senate to fix the charter provisions of HB 153 as passed by the Ohio House.

In a joint letter to Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Chris Widener, Peter Groff and Greg Richmond, presidents of NAPCS and NACSA, respectively, say:

Many of the provisions in HB 153 contradict the charter school model, thwart efforts to strengthen charter school accountability and quality, and will ultimately undermine popular support for Ohio's community schools.?? As passed by the Ohio House, the charter provisions of HB 153 represent a significant risk for Ohio's community school sector.

They go on to explain their opposition to the House changes in detail and offer up recommendations for how the Senate can improve HB 153's charter provisions.?? Many of these recommendations echo the 2006 report Turning the Corner to Quality: Policy Guidelines for Strengthening Ohio's Charter Schools, which was issued jointly by NAPCS, NACSA, and the Fordham Institute. They include:

  • Removing the ability of schools to seek direct authorization from the Ohio Department of Education, and strengthening the department's oversight of current and future charter sponsors;
  • Guaranteeing school governing boards are independent and have control over the operators they hire, and strengthening ethics and transparency rules;
  • Eliminating the provision that allows for-profit entities to become governing bodies;
  • Providing greater funding equity and access
  • ...
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Earlier this week The Thomas B. Fordham Institute along with the Nord Family Foundation, Ohio Grantmakers Forum, the ESC of Central Ohio, Ohio Education Matters, and Public Performance Partners presented Working Smarter Together: Enhancing savings and performance for local schools and governments. The event featured several keynote speakers (including Auditor of State, Dave Yost) and a panel discussion about real-world examples of efficiency and cooperation in local government.

C. Jack Grayson, founder and chairman of the American Productivity and Quality Center, kicked off the event with a discussion about the need to increase efficiency and productivity in the public sector. Grayson stressed that local governments must think differently when it comes to cutting costs. The commonly used across the-board cuts hurt both efficiency and effectiveness, and more times than not lack a process of who to cut and why, resulting in a loss of talented people and knowledge. Instead, Grayson advocated for the need to focus more on process and performance management (PPM). Everything involves a process and in order to improve the outcomes we must evaluate the entire process from the beginning to the end.? Grayson also discussed the need to reduce functional silos and the tremendous amount of waste associated with them.? He noted that most educational organizations are organized functionally with different silos focusing solely on individual task such as HR, instruction, and IT. Downsides of functional silos include redundancy, focusing more on improving the function instead of the customer or outcome, which...

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The Mind Trust in Indianapolis released a plan
over the weekend that proposes a bold and dramatic transformation of
public education akin to what has taken place in New Orleans and New
York City. The plan, an amalgamation of some of the nation’s most
promising school reform strategies looks to transform Indianapolis
Public Schools (IPS) which have been chronically underperforming for
several years. The plan hopes to diminish a 20 percentage point
achievement gap between IPS students and the state in English and a
dismal 58 percent graduation rate.

The Mind Trust report observes that great schools across the country
share a set of core conditions that enable them to help all students
achieve. Among these core conditions are the freedom to build and manage
their own teams, refocus resources to meet actual student needs, hold
schools accountable for their results(and close those that don’t
perform), and create a system of school choice that empowers parents to
find schools that they want their children to attend.

In an attempt to halt the status-quo of under achievement among too many Indianapolis schools the Mind Trust proposed:

  • Downsizing the Indianapolis Public Schools district office while
    allocating resources to school level leaders. According to the plan the
    IPS central office would be reduced by about 450 jobs and its budget
    would be cut by $53 million, and these resources would flow to building
    level
  • ...
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