Ohio Gadfly Daily

Each year, the Fordham Ohio team does an analysis of urban school performance in August when statewide achievement data?are released. We've been doing this analysis for many years, reporting on the number of Ohio students in the Buckeye State's ?Big 8? districts (the largest eight urban districts) attending schools rated A-F, achieving various levels of expected growth (value-added), comparing this to students in charter schools statewide, and conducting city-by-city analyses that incorporate many different metrics.

With the help of our friends at Public Impact, we'll be doing it again this year and will be releasing various findings over the course of the next two to three weeks, so stay tuned.?

On tap this year are some new analyses, including: a comparison of performance and growth of charters by charter type (conversion v. start-up) and authorizer type (of which Ohio has many); a look at growth of schools over time (and exploring whether the recent changes to Ohio's value-added system impact how many schools end up meeting ?expected growth?); a look at performance and growth among high-poverty schools, and more.?

Stay tuned!

-Jamie Davies O'Leary

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File this under pieces of news that confuse my emotions. Rev. Stanley Miller, executive director of the Cleveland NAACP, is leaving that post to take on an area charter school ? a very terrible one to be specific (Marcus Garvey Academy). I am equal parts inspired by this move (Rev. Miller is a 63-year old whose heart is undoubtedly in the right place) and cynical.

The school is rated F by the state. Its achievement results are lower than literally any Ohio school I recall looking up data for: across all tested and grades and subjects, 96.6 percent of students tested ?limited? in their knowledge ? the very lowest category one could achieve. Just over three percent of students scored ?basic?; none scored proficient or advanced. Is this for real?

Beyond shameful academic results, the school has been in the news constantly for poor bookkeeping ? to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Ohio's auditor temporarily halted funding to the school last April.

And this is the school Rev. Miller wants to take on. (By the way, it seems even more tragic than normal when these kinds of schools are named after prominent African American leaders. The irony is just painful.)

According to the Plain Dealer, he's not na?ve:

Miller said he knew what he was stepping into. ?They are a school that's had some difficulties. I've been asked to come over and help fix it,? he said. ?Just because there's problems,"

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Education is and always has been profoundly shaped by demographics and economics. Ever since James Coleman's celebrated 1966 study showed that student achievement is strongly affected by nonschool factors, Americans have understood the manifold tribulations facing anyone bent on improving student achievement among our poorest children.

In Dayton, Fordham's hometown, there is no doubt that education reform efforts are entangled with brutal Rust Belt economics, poverty, job loss, fractured families, and the constant churning of children between schools. Recent news out of Dayton has not been good for children and families here.

First, the community has been on edge over the recent death of a young African-American male who died while in police custody. In speaking with community leaders who work closely with Dayton's families and neighborhoods it is clear that they have been working very hard to keep the tensions bubbling under the surface from blowing up in ways akin to what's been happening in London. There is much anger and misunderstanding in Dayton, and it is stoked by high unemployment, extreme poverty, and despair. A drive around town or a walk in some of the city's more beaten down neighborhoods make this all too clear.

Recent statistics reaffirm how needy the community is. The Columbus Dispatch reported this morning that 28 percent of Dayton families with children say they did not have enough money to buy food in the past year. The Dayton Business Journal reported yesterday that the ???Dayton-area ranked as the...

Yesterday Bellwether Education Partners released a scorecard that evaluated teacher effectiveness legislation in five different states. Given that Ohio's just-enacted biennial budget (which we did a post-op of here) forced some changes to teacher evaluation policy, we were disappointed to see Bellwether skip the Buckeye State.

The report rated Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee against specific metrics measuring the quality of the actual legislation passed (not the fidelity of implementation or progress made toward goals). Indiana received the highest rating (11.25 out of 13). Not that we needed validation, but this should reaffirm to Ohio lawmakers that our spring visit from Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett was a worthwhile one, and that the Hoosier State has some ideas worth borrowing. Illinois, which received loud praise for its unanimous/bipartisan passage of SB 7 earlier this year, rated lowest (6.5 out of 13). This isn't wholly unsurprising; we raised issue with Illinois' teacher reforms back in April:

A?quick?look at the bill raises several questions about its ability to improve teaching effectiveness when the time comes for actual implementation:?The bill requires locally-approved teacher evaluation plans in "good faith" consultation with unions serving on a joint committee with administrators, and sets a 90 day window after which all bets are off.?There's no hard requirement that 50 percent of evaluation be based on student achievement.?There's no hard deadline for developing a new plan.?Districts can request a waiver and it will be granted automatically if the state doesn't respond

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I had the good fortune to spend time last week with Stan Heffner, Ohio's new state superintendent of public instruction. I enjoyed the conversation mightily because it mostly focused on two things that don't usually get enough attention in education policy conversations ??? teaching and learning.

Specifically, Heffner shared with me his ideas and concerns for making sure Ohio's schools and teachers successfully implement and take ownership of the Common Core academic standards in English language arts and mathematics. (Ohio is one of 46 states that have adopted these common standards, which are slated to come online in 2014.)

The state will have to make some serious implementation decisions in the coming months and years around the Common Core, including which assessment consortium to join (right now, the Buckeye State has a foot in both the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and how to adapt the state's accountability system to the new tests and tougher standards.

But where Heffner sees the most potential, both positive and negative, is around the practical implementation issues that will face schools and school districts. This is because, as a lifelong educator, he clearly understands that at the end of the day what matters most for public education is student learning and that teachers are key to facilitating it.

Heffner argued to me (and previously had written in a February 2011 paper for the Council of Chief...

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By now I am sure that all of you have heard about the Save our Schools Rally that took place in Washington D.C. last weekend. The rally, organized by teachers, parents, and advocates called for an end to controversial education policies?and to ?put the public back in public schools.? The march lasted for four days with over 5,000 people in attendance. The event drew in big names such as Diane Ravitch, the financial support of the two largest unions, and even Matt Damon. While you most likely have seen the abundance of media coverage of Matt Damon's appearance at the event, see here, here, and here, you might have missed this little gem, an interview by reason.tv. The interview captured an amusing and ridiculous exchange between a reporter and a woman from Ohio who claims the government should spend a billion dollars per student. The exchange went like this:

Reporter: How much more would you like to see going to educate students?

Ohio woman: How much money do you think children are worth? There is no set price that can be set on a child's life and learning.

Reporter: So if you want the government to spend more, how much more do you want them to spend?

Ohio woman: A billion.

Reporter: A billion dollars per student?

Ohio woman: Sure, why not?!

You can watch the interview in its entirety here, pick up at the...

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Today on the Ohio Education Association's blog is a post criticizing Gov. Kasich and his team (namely assistant education policy director Barb Mattei-Smith) for their process to come up with a new school funding formula.

Earlier this year, lawmakers scrapped former Gov. Strickland's school funding model ? which was inputs-heavy, overly prescriptive, and simply untenable. In Ohio's just-enacted FY 2012-13 budget, lawmakers installed a two-year ?bridge? funding formula, and Gov. Kasich has signaled his intention to craft a thorough school-funding overhaul by the year's end, hinting that dollars should follow students (weighted-student funding!).

The timeline for designing this new funding formula is an ambitious one, indeed. Barb Mattei-Smith, a veteran of state government and an Ohio school finance guru, has been holding meetings around the state to gather input, which is where the OEA finds greatest offense. Among the blog's complaints are:

The fact that she met stakeholder groups individually (gasp!): ?Mattei-Smith held meetings at locations around the state, but kept each stakeholder group separate from one another.?

A missed meeting: ?Unfortunately Mattei-Smith was a no-show for the last scheduled meeting with teacher (sic) because she went to the wrong room.? Heaven forbid the woman should go to the wrong location.

The fact that the governor's team is not posting meeting notes online. ?After all, all of Strickland's forums were aired live on local PBS stations.?

And ? this is the best one ? the fact that Mattei-Smith did not announce the meetings...

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At the onset of the 2010-11 school year, 39 new charter schools opened their doors in the Buckeye State. These new schools bring the total number of charters in Ohio to just over 350.?? They collectively serve more than 100,000 students. No doubt some of these new schools are bringing quality education to children who need it and providing a strong return on investment for the state.?? But also among the new schools are seven operated by EdisonLearning and authorized by the Education Resource Consultants of Ohio (ERCO).

Fordham, a charter authorizer in Ohio, has long experience working with EdisonLearning. Fordham president Chester E. Finn, Jr. helped launch Edison in the early 1990s, and Fordham has served as authorizer of the two Dayton schools operated by Edison since 2005. These two schools have been in operation for nearly a decade, and despite declining enrollment that resembles a ski slope (see below) have received more than $93.5 million in public funding. Yet after all that time and money, one school's academic performance is middling at best; the other has struggled mightily to deliver students to even basic levels of achievement.??

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* The Performance Index score is a weighted average of a school's or district's students' performance on...

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You've probably heard that NCTQ president Kate Walsh and new Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman testified in Congress this week on issues related to teacher quality. (Snippets of their testimonies burst into useful sound bites all over Twitter.) One of the most quotable, shared here by Huffington Post, came from Walsh when she said it's ?easier to get into an education school than it is to qualify to play college football.?

Ouch. (No offense to college athletes.) There's no question that the quality of education schools varies greatly. Even one of the more defendable components of traditional educator training, student teaching, has come under recent fire. That teacher preparation programs are often woefully inadequate seems to be a well-accepted fact among reformers and traditionalists alike. But how to change that seems is a bit more up for debate.

There are a bevy of policies that could improve teacher quality at different points during preparation: at the front (higher entrance standards), middle (harder coursework; teacher residencies happening earlier to weed out non-performers prior to their last semester of college), or tail ends of training (check out the extraordinarily intuitive exit requirement that New York's ?Relay? School of Ed is installing ? a teacher actually has to prove that students learn under her purview before graduating).

And then there are attempts to improve teacher quality once they're out in the field, such as Ohio's just-passed requirement that teachers in the lowest performing schools statewide...

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Fordham's new paper authored by Rick Hess on ???Creating Healthy Policy for Digital Learning??? is critically important for those of us on the ground working as school administrators, school leaders, charter school authorizers and education policy makers. Rick has articulated the challenges, opportunities, and parameters for good public policy and practices that those of us in the field have been fumbling around for the last few years to come up with through common sense, intuition, trial and error, and luck.

As a charter authorizer, Fordham's experience with digital learning has been humbling and frustrating, in part because we have struggled ??? along with many others ??? to define success for the digital learning programs and policies we have supported. Rick acknowledges how hard all this is in his paper and our on-the-ground experience confirms his analysis.

We have had two direct experiences with trying to help birth quality digital learning opportunities for children in the Buckeye State through ???hybrid??? charter schools. The first was in 2007 when the two schools we authorize in Dayton piloted EdisonLearning's E2 education program. At the time Edison described the effort as a ???multi-million dollar R&D project to engineer whole school design.??? Key to the E2 design was ???a new realm of curricula that is as effective as it is efficient in meeting the individual learning needs of the next generation. Diverse software and web-based applications, like ALEKS, Achieve3000, and Rosetta Stone, expand access to information and offer effective one-on-one instruction...

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