Ohio Gadfly Daily

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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Hearken back to junior high and high school for a moment.  What
“historical documents” were you taught in social studies and American history
classes?  The U.S. Constitution? Your state’s constitution?  What
about the Declaration of Independence or the Federalist Papers?  The
Northwest Ordinance (especially if you grew up in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Michigan, Wisconsin, or Minnesota)?

My entire K-12 education was in Ohio public schools.  When it came to
history, I didn’t take any electives or special courses beyond whatever was
required for me to earn a diploma.  Yet, I was taught all of these
important historical texts, multiple times, from seventh grade through
twelfth.  So I was surprised to see a bill
moving through the Ohio legislature that would require schools to teach what I
thought were standard fare for Ohio’s students. In fact, at first blush it
seemed implausible to me that many schools weren’t already doing so.

My husband, also an Ohio public school alum (from a quote-unquote better
district than I attended), had a different reaction when I told him about the
legislation. He guessed at least two-thirds of students learn virtually nothing
about the Federalist Papers in high school. And he said he wasn’t taught
anything about the Ohio Constitution in K-12.  Huh, maybe there ought to
be a law.

This issue isn’t a new one for Fordham.  The bill’s sponsor in the Ohio
House, Rep....

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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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This morning the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA)
results for Mathematics and Reading were released. The TUDA results look
specifically at 21 large urban school districts that volunteered to have their
NAEP scores reported separately (three of which participated for the first
time; see the complete rundown of cities here).

The TUDA results for both reading and math in the fourth and
eighth grade followed the same trend as the national results that were released
last month: scores show little to no significant change since 2009. At the
fourth-grade level average reading scores did not significantly improve in any
of the 18 districts that previously participated. In eighth grade, the results
are almost the same, with only one district, Charlotte, showing a significant
improvement in its scores from 2009. The results in mathematics are somewhat
more encouraging. Four districts -- Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore City, and Boston
-- demonstrated higher scores than 2009, and ever more encouraging is the fact
that, at the eighth-grade level, six districts performed better than they did
in 2009.

Cleveland, Ohio’s second-largest district, is a TUDA
participant. And like most of the other TUDA cities, its scores in both reading
and math at the fourth and eighth grade level were not significantly different
than 2009.  The district also had lower
overall average scores than the state of Ohio. (For a recap of how Ohio did...

White Hat Management, a major for-profit charter school operator, is fighting for its life.  At least that’s the story told in a recent memo by founder David Brennan.  Brennan told employees of White Hat that his family has committed over $50 million to sustaining White Hat, but that they simply cannot afford to do so anymore. Their financial commitment will only see the company through 2013. Brennan’s memo also pointed out that White Hat has not made a forecast for the bank in the last 5 years, and in order to start to turn things around they must produce in excess of $2 million every year.

White Hat runs 33 schools in Ohio, broken down into three brands: Life Skills Center for dropouts and alternative high-school students, The Hope Academies for elementary and middle grades, and OH-DELA- an online school serving students statewide. The 17 Life Skill Academies have lost more than 1,170 students since 2006-2007 equating to a loss of at least $6.7 million dollars according to a Columbus Dispatch analysis.

Much of the pain that White Hat is experiencing can be attributed to an increase in competition. When White Hat first got in the business of charter schools in Ohio the late 1990s there was very little competition in the charter school market, making it easier to attract students to its schools. Fast forward twelve-plus years and the Buckeye State now has 339...

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One could argue that 2011 has been the year of “digital learning”
across America but in fact digital learning has been big business in
Ohio for more than a decade. Lessons from that experience should inform
the Buckeye State’s approach to new digital learning opportunities that
are generating excitement and optimism.

In September, the White House announced its “Digital Promise” campaign, while a number of states have been embracing initiatives and campaigns in this realm, aided and encouraged by the Digital Learning Council, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Fordham itself (via our “Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning” series.)

Ohio’s biennial budget launched the Digital Learning Task Force
charged with ensuring that the state’s “legislative environment is
conducive to and supportive of the educators and digital innovators at
the heart of this transformation.” There have been many conferences this
year on fresh digital-learning possibilities and prominent innovators
in this field – people like Sal Kahn, Tom Vander Ark, John Chubb, Rick
Hess, Susan Patrick, and John Danner—have been much in demand to offer
insights and share possibilities with Ohioans. 

Education visionary Paul Hill captured the opportunities when he wrote for Fordham:

Capacities like these open up vast possibilities for
improved instructional delivery. Students who do not want to attend
school can access entirely self-managed online learning. Self-managed
‘virtual’ schools can match a student’s interests, learning rate, and
even

...
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