Ohio Gadfly Daily

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
  • ...

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...


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
  • ...

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....


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...


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



Since their inception in 1997, charter schools have been at the
center of some of the most politically contentious debates about
education in Ohio. The past year offered yet another example of charter
school controversy, but this time with a twist. The 2010 elections were
very good for Buckeye State Republicans, with John Kasich winning the
governor’s race (replacing Ted Strickland who had been a charter adversary throughout his four-year term). Republicans also took control of the House while expanding their majority in the Senate.

Almost immediately GOP lawmakers set out to make the Buckeye State
more inviting to charter schools. Governor Kasich’s budget proposals in House Bill (HB) 153
offered a solid plan for not only increasing the number of charters in
Ohio but improving their quality. Crucial elements included encouraging
successful operators to clone good schools; leaning hard on authorizers
to fix or close failing schools and banning the replication of failure;
placing schools’ ostensibly independent governing boards in clear charge
of any outside organizations that they engaged to run their education
programs; creating professional and ethical norms for all parties;
insisting on transparency around academics, governance, and finances;
channeling fair funding into successful schools; and introducing best
practices and expert advice into every step of the process. This was a
vision that excited us and many others in Ohio and beyond because it


Matthew Kyle
is currently a policy and research intern with Fordham’s Columbus team.
He is working on his master’s degree in education at Antioch
University, after recently earning a bachelor’s in economics from The
Ohio State University.  In pursuit of his master’s degree, he has begun
student teaching and will be entering the field as a full-time
professional in 2012.

I still remember when I was 13 years old and began my first job
bailing hay for a local farmer.  I remember the heat, the dirt and the
sweat that went into that job; it was hard work–for some of us.  As much
as I remember the difficulties of that job, I remember some of my older
co-workers that had been working for this farmer for a couple of
summers sitting down watching a few of us younger kids do most of the
work.  To this day I remember the frustration I felt when I found that
not only were some of them getting paid as much as me, but many were
getting paid more simply because they had been there longer.

A week after Issue 2
was voted down, I’ve had some time to ponder the reasons why I
supported it in the first place, and they still hold true. Here are my

  • As an up-and-coming teacher I desperately want to work in a system
    that rewards me
  • ...

Ohio teachers and administrators work tirelessly to deliver an
excellent education to the state’s 1.8 million students, said State
Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner at the annual Ohio
School Boards Association’s  conference earlier this week.  So why are
fewer than one in three of Ohio’s fourth graders reading at a proficient
level (according to
the National Assessment of Educational Progress)? Worse, why are
achievement scores unimpressive among not only the Buckeye State’s urban districts, but even among wealthier suburban districts, especially in contrast to students internationally?

Heffner argued lackluster performance in K-12 isn’t a product of
laziness, ineffectiveness, or incompetence on the part of educators and
leaders. Rather it results from an outdated system that “traps them in
mediocrity,” and has everyone working to the lowest common denominator. 
But this wasn’t just a hollow declaration, or a convenient way for
Ohio’s school chief to shift blame away from demoralized educators and
cast it vaguely on “the system.”

Ohio’s educational framework quite literally is the problem.
Namely academic standards, expectations, accountability structures,
proficiency cut-offs, and the fact that the “system” shields us from
brutal realities rather than serving as a true yardstick of how our
schools and children are doing. According to Heffner, student
performance in Ohio is middling because academic expectations for
students are set too low. Ohio’s education system focuses on getting
students over a...