Ohio Gadfly Daily

Fordham has served as an authorizer of charter schools in Ohio since mid-2005. Our schools have been mainly in Ohio’s urban core—including Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus—and the vast majority of their students have been poor and minority.

This year, we added two more schools to our sponsorship portfolio, both located in Scioto County near Ohio’s southern tip on the shores of the Ohio River, i.e., what most would term the Appalachian region of the Buckeye State. Families and children there face challenges as daunting as those in Ohio’s toughest urban neighborhoods. Scioto is one of the state’s poorest counties with an unemployment rate of 12.7 percent (the state average is 8.5 percent). It has also been ground zero for the state’s opiate epidemic: It has the third-highest overdose death rate of all eighty-eight counties in Ohio.

Together the Sciotoville Elementary School (Kindergarten through fourth grade) and Sciotoville Community School (fifth through twelfth grades) serve about 440 students. This represents about one in five children who attend a K-12 school in the local Portsmouth City School District (the home district for most Sciotoville students). The percentage of kids attending charters in that district matches the rate in Cincinnati.  

Sciotoville Community School became a charter in September 2001 when the district decided to close East High School. The master plan called for busing Sciotoville students to other buildings in Portsmouth, some of them more than an hour away. Rather than watch their school close and their kids be shuttled off to...

Last month, we released a few impressive statistics concerning two high schools from our hometown of Dayton, Ohio.  (These schools are being featured in a forthcoming Fordham report profiling high performing urban high schools in Ohio, a follow up to a 2010 report on high-performing elementary schools.) Today we are highlighting two schools in Cleveland that will also be included in our report. And the timing is fitting as Mayor Frank Jackson’s Cleveland Plan has been introduced in both houses of the General Assembly - SB 325 and HB 506 – and is on tap for an expected supportive vote today from a panel of the State Board of Education.)  The proposal intends for Cleveland Metropolitan School District to transition to a portfolio strategy:

  • Increase the number of high-performing district and charter schools and close and replace failing schools
  • Focus district’s central office on key support and governance roles and transfer authority and resources to school
  • Create the Cleveland Transformation Alliance to ensure accountability for all public schools in the city
  • Invest and phase in high-leverage system reforms across all schools from preschool to college and career

Though the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is in dire need of the reforms proposed in the Plan, these two high-performing high schools, John Hay Early College High Schools and Cleveland School of the Arts High School, demonstrate that not everything in Cleveland is broken. The charts below compare John Hay’s and Cleveland School of the Arts’ tenth-grade students’ performance on the math section...

The EdChoice Scholarship Program (Ohio’s voucher program) was signed into law in 2005 under Governor Bob Taft. The program awards students vouchers based on the academic standing of their assigned district school. Up until last year students were eligible to apply for a voucher if they attended a school or were slated to attend a school that was rated Academic Watch or Academic Emergency for two of the last three years. Last year, under HB 153 this eligibility definition was expanded to not only include those schools rate Academic Watch or Academic Emergency for two of the last three years, but also schools ranked in the bottom 10 percent of all public school buildings according to performance index. Students in grades K-8 are awarded $4,250 and students in grades 9-12 are awarded $5,000, or the tuition amount of the private school if it is less than the specified amount. The State of Ohio can provide up to 60,000 scholarships annually to eligible students to attend a private school of their choice (this number is up from an original 14,000 student cap).

Where are all these eligible schools located? And how many students do they serve? And will they change if the new A-F accountability system is put into place? These questions and more got us thinking at Fordham, here is what we discovered. 

Based on last school year’s academic results, for the coming 2012-2013 school year approximately 85,000 students attending 217 schools from 27 different districts are...

Hugh Quill

Fewer state tax dollars for Ohio’s local governments and schools have public administrators talking, in the light of day no less, about mergers and shared services – topics long taboo in the Buckeye State’s public sector. Most public officials fear the former and suspect that the latter is just a catchy phrase that stands for comingling their funds for the benefit of others.

Elected officials can be forgiven for their reluctance to discuss mergers and service consolidations. They didn’t create this maze of public service delivery; and until stagnant population growth, aging Babyboomers, and weakening soft economy caught up with Ohio, the status quo seemed sustainable. Citizens also have misgivings about consolidation and sharing. They view merging their local governments as a potential loss of identity and fear their sense of community will be sacrificed in the process. In Ohio, all politics really are local, and local control has been a sacred cow.

The reality is that public institutions have long succeeded in gaining taxpayers’ approval to dig deeper in their wallets because citizens fear that doing otherwise will result in bad schools, crumbling infrastructure, community decay, and lower property values. Times have changed. The economy tanked in 2008 and is only slowly recovering, state government is cutting back on local funding, property values have fallen, and it is increasingly difficult to pass school levies and other local tax increases even in the high-wealth suburbs. Local officials – and citizens – are left contemplating significant service reductions, higher local...

Our May 2010 report Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio’s high-performing, high-need urban schools profiled successful elementary schools that serve challenging populations. Due to the overwhelming positive response, we have commissioned a follow-up report that looks at high-performing urban high schools. Peter Meyer – journalist, author, and senior policy fellow at Fordham – has been traveling to the selected schools to chronicle what makes them work. (He wrote a bit about his experiences at these schools in January.)

We’ve been working to improve the education landscape in our hometown of Dayton for nearly twelve years. The work is never easy and often frustrating. We were disappointed two years ago not to be able to feature a Dayton elementary school in our report. Thus we are pleased to be featuring two outstanding high schools there in this edition: Dayton Early College Academy (a charter school) and Stivers Schools for the Arts (a district-operated magnet school).

The charts below compare DECA’s and Stivers’ tenth-grade students’ performance on the math section of last year’s Ohio Graduation Test to their peers in the Dayton Public School district. The OGT certainly isn’t known for its rigor and we don’t want to overstate a school’s excellence based on its performance on that test. But these results do make clear that DECA and Stivers are delivering their students to far higher levels of achievement than the district as a whole. We’re pleased by their successes and look forward to sharing more about these two...

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is seeking to remake and refashion the city’s long-suffering schools through a series of bold reforms that include making significant changes to the district’s collective bargaining agreement, passing a school levy for the first time in more than 15 years, and sharing public dollars with high-performing charter schools. As bold as the Jackson Plan is, however, even more audacious is the political coalition that seems to be coalescing around it.

Controversial components of the mayor’s plan include basing pay, layoffs, and rehiring decisions on performance and specialization instead of traditional factors like seniority and credentials; replacing the current 304-page collective bargaining agreement, when it expires in 2013, and using a “fresh start” to renegotiate a new and far more streamlined contract; and providing high-performing charter schools with local levy dollars to support their day-to-day operations.

The Jackson Plan’s labor flexibility and levy support for high-performing charter schools are ideas that have long been anathema to statehouse Democrats and their union supporters. Not surprisingly, more than a few legislative Democrats and union officials have pointed out in recent weeks that some of the proposed changes in the mayor’s plan to the Cleveland teacher union collective bargaining agreement mirror those that were in the contentious and voter rejected Senate Bill 5. Democrats in both the House and Senate vehemently opposed Senate Bill 5 from its introduction to its demise (as did Mayor Jackson) in November. Further, organized labor, led by the teachers’ unions, raised over $20 million to...

Allan Odden

The Harrison (CO) School District’s compensation plan, profiled in a recent Fordham report, represents another of yet a few compensation plans that totally redesign the actual teacher salary schedule. In this way, it joins Denver and Washington, D.C. in designing and implementing complete overhauls in how teachers are paid. These three districts are different from the dozens and dozens of other teacher compensation changes, most supported by the federal TIF program, which simply left the old schedule in place and added bonuses on top of them for teachers who worked in high poverty schools, in subjects where there are shortages (e.g., math and science) or for improving student achievement. Though such bonuses programs are needed and represent augmentations to how teachers are paid, the real breakthroughs will come when the overall salary schedule is redesigned, as Harrison has done.

The Harrison plan reflects the kind of new teacher salary schedule I have been recommending for nearly two decades – one that drops the current years of experience that trigger the bulk of salary increases and replaces them with metrics that reflect a teacher’s instructional expertise and impact on student learning (see my new book, Improving Student Learning When Budgets Are Tight, Corwin, 2012). Cincinnati was the first district to try such a new schedule, but the program collapsed as glitches in the new evaluation system emerged. It proposed to pay teachers largely on the basis of a performance-based evaluation score; though the compensation element was dropped, the evaluation system...

In 2009, 135 Ohio high schools were identified as “dropout factories” – schools that fail to graduate more than 60 percent of their students on time. Further, despite an increase in the state’s overall graduation rate, Ohio saw a greater increase in the number of dropout factories than any other state from 2002 to 2009 (jumping from 75 to 135). These troubling findings come from the annual Building a Grad Nation report, issued this week by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

New York and Tennessee lead the nation in their overall increase in graduate rates, which have jumped 13 and 18 percentage points respectively from 2002 to 2009. (Ohio’s rate increased 2.1 points in that time.) Nationally, the number of dropout factories has declined by 457 since 2002 (to 1,550 such schools today). Texas leads the nation in moving schools off the list, with 122 fewer dropout factories in 2009 than 2002.  Another seven states moved more than twenty schools off the list.

But back to Ohio… what schools are the Buckeye State’s dropout factories? The report doesn’t list them, but using publicly available graduation rate data we can get an idea of what buildings they are and where they are located.

In 2009-10, 805 Ohio public high schools received a graduation rate calculation from the state. (Ohio, like many states, provided two graduation rates for that year: a state-calculated rate and a federally...

Cities and states across the country are in direct competition for education talent (teachers, school leaders, and key administrators) and great charter school models and operators. This struggle for talent and expertise is especially acute in the country’s mid-section.

We see it up close and personal in Ohio in our work with local school districts and as a charter school authorizer. There isn’t a week that goes by that we aren’t asked for names or contacts of potential school leaders, curriculum directors, or even teachers who are an expert in a foreign language, special education, or other high-demand subject. Great charter school models, especially those with an interest in trying to turn around long-suffering district schools, are also highly sought after and wooed.

MindTrust in Indianapolis is arguably the Gold Standard for groups in the country that are expert, strategic, and successful at recruiting talent to launch schools, work in schools, or serve needy students and families in different ways. But others are also doing great work, including New Schools for New Orleans, Charter School Partners in Minneapolis, 4.0 Schools in Louisiana, and Lead Public Schoolsin Tennessee.

Ohio’s efforts pale in comparison and scale to other states.

Ohio has made some gains in recent years in the competition for talent and the recruitment of successful charter school models to the state—for example: Teach For America (placing corps members in Ohio for the first time in 2012), KIPP, SEED Academy (planning to open...

The major tenets of Governor Kasich's "mid-biennium budget bill" were unveiled yesterday. There has been much speculation that November's sound defeat of S.B. 5 by Ohio voters would cause Republicans to shy away from thorny or controversial measures, like streamlining state and local government and enacting additional reforms to education. A quick review of the budget plan shows that isn't the case.

Among the governor’s K-12 education proposals are:

  • a strengthened third-grade reading guarantee—while Ohio has had a version of this guarantee on the books for years, it has been decried as an “unfunded mandate” by local districts and largely gone unenforced;
  • performance standards for drop-out recovery charter schools—these schools have been excepted from Ohio’s charter school academic death penalty and other accountability measures since their inception more than a decade ago;
  • a more straightforward, A-F school-rating system—the new system would be easier to understand and more accurately reflect schools’ true performance;
  • adjustments to teacher evaluation and testing requirements—while the evaluation requirements put in place through the budget bill last summer are well-intentioned, they need tweaking to be more meaningful and workable at the local level; and
  • passage of Mayor Frank Jackson's reform plan for Cleveland's schools—the city’s schools are suffering mightily, both academically and financially; Mayor Jackson’s plan—which carries the support of the district superintendent and business community—would put the district on the path toward academic improvement and fiscal stability.

Governor Kasich still has yet to tackle a few areas of education policy that need attention...