Ohio Gadfly Daily

From its inception in 1996 with one unusual school in Chicago, the Cristo Rey education model set out to honor its Catholic roots while simultaneously embracing a new way of preparing economically disadvantaged high school students for future success—not an easy balancing act to pull off. A new report from the Lexington Institute profiles the Cristo Rey model and also looks at how its newest school in San Jose is using an innovative blended-learning approach to move the existing model forward. The success of the network to date has been tremendous. Today, Cristo Rey is a nationwide network of twenty-eight private schools serving 9,000 students, including one school in each of Ohio’s three largest cities. Ninety-six percent of network students are minority (largely Hispanic) and 100 percent are economically disadvantaged (defined as families earning less than 75 percent of the national median income). Each student's family contributes an average of $1,000 toward tuition. Employers in the school's corporate work-study program provide most of the balance needed to cover operations. The work-study model requires students to work at least one day a week in the community while keeping up with rigorous high school coursework; in lieu of wages, companies donate money to the schools. (More than 2,000 employers invested upwards of $44 million in the Cristo Rey Network of schools in 2013–14.) Cristo Rey’s school day and year are extended, including a summer preparatory program to get students up to speed on both academic and work life. The results are...

Can a state’s charter school sector improve over time? Yes, finds this new study of Texas charter schools. Using student data collected from 2001 to 2011, a period of explosive charter school growth in Texas, researchers examined trends in the charter-quality distribution, as measured by value-added results on math and reading test scores. They discovered that in the early- to mid-2000s, charter-sector quality fell considerably short of district quality. But by 2011, the charter-quality distribution improved, converging to virtual parity with district quality. The magnitude of the quality shift in Texas charters, note the researchers, is large and substantial (0.11 and 0.20 standard deviations in math and reading, respectively). What is the source of the quality improvement? The main reason is strikingly straightforward: Lower value-added charter schools tended to shutter over time, while higher value-added schools entered the sector. Meanwhile, schools that remained open throughout the whole period also demonstrated improvement over time. The researchers next peel back the layers of the sector-improvement onion. They discover three contributing factors: First, Texas charters have attracted students of higher achievement levels (i.e., positive “selection”), possibly leading to positive peer effects captured in the value-added results. Second, charters have experienced less student turnover as the sector has matured. Third, the analysts find evidence that the growth of schools classified as “no-excuses” charters has propelled overall sector quality. The policy takeaways for Ohio are twofold: One, it takes time for high-quality schools to edge low-quality ones out of the school marketplace. (And authorizers...

  • Cheers to Katie Nethers of Cincinnati. When life circumstances required her to leave high school before finishing in 2013, Katie strove to earn her GED. She ended up having to travel to West Virginia to do so because Ohio law required a superintendent sign off on GEDs for people under the age of 19, and her district’s supe wouldn’t sign. But rather than stopping there, she campaigned and testified to change that sign-off requirement (and the minimum age for a GED as well). The changes were signed into law and just went into effect this fall.
     
  • Jeers to kicking the can down the road. The failure of a property tax levy in the Ledgemont school district earlier this month seemed a strong indication that district residents were interested in merging with nearby Cardinal schools—an outcome already favored by both districts’ superintendents and made easier by legislation passed in Columbus earlier this year. However, neither district’s board took the action required of them to set the plan in motion. By voting down a “territory transfer,” elected board members are leaving it up to outsiders—the county ESC and/or the state of Ohio—to actually force the transfer that most folks already want.
     
  • Cheers to the Beavercreek school board, who voted last week to accept as a gift from FedEx (which also earns a cheer) a decommissioned Boeing 727. The intention is to convert the plane to a STEM classroom for students anywhere to visit and study in. “That
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis has been having a sort of radio revival this week, returning to a number of radio stations to talk Common Core for the second or even third time. Sadly, the questions haven’t really changed, and even discussion of the status of the latest legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio isn’t prevalent. Odd. First up today, WSPD-AM in Toledo, where Chad answered questions from host Scott Sands and callers for nearly half an hour. Next up, WFIN-AM in Findlay, where it was just Chad and host Chris Oaks. Chad’s part starts at about the 2:45 mark.
     
  2. Chad’s testimony on HB228 from last week, urging the legislature to slow down on their efforts to place an arbitrary time limit on the amount of state testing, is referenced in this piece from Marion published yesterday. A bit old news, but we’ll take it. (Marion Online)
     
  3. So, what’s the up-to-date haps on HB228 (the kids still say “what’s the haps?”, right?)? It was recommended by the House Education Committee yesterday by a vote of 12-3 to send the bill to the full House. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Editors in Cleveland opine on NCTQ’s latest report, evaluating a number of teacher training programs across the country. Ohio universities whose programs were graded low are bothered by several points. The PD’s editors are not unsympathetic, but they fall upon the side of rigor and anything that legitimately detracts from rigor should be investigated and improved.
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis had a whole 30 minutes on the air on WHBC radio in Canton on Saturday morning, talking about the Common Core with host Joe Palmisano. Link is here. Common Core discussion begins at about the 38 minute mark, but stick around for the caller Q&A afterward too. Fascinating discussion. (WHBC-AM, Canton)
     
  2. Speaking of Common Core, math teachers and administrators in Heath are uneasy about the uncertainty surrounding Common Core. Most seem optimistic that repeal won’t happen in Ohio, but just the possibility that years of work and $100,000 in materials and training could go for naught (and may have to be repeated twice more) is still disconcerting. (Newark Advocate)
     
  3. We’ve all heard the stories of parents having difficulty helping their children with their “Common Core” math homework. Apocryphal or not – Common Core or not – math teachers in Newark really want to make sure that parents have all the tools they could want in order to help their elementary school students succeed. Thus, the Parent Math Academy was born. The online academy “teaches parents the concepts their children are learning in school, including new vocabulary words and an overview of any graphics or strategies the students might see.” Nice. (Newark Advocate)
     
  4. Journalists retrenched after the internet blowup over Ohio’s “5 of 8” rule last week, and spent the weekend digging in and trying to understand what the rule means in its present form, how it manifests itself in local practice,
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis testified in the House Education Committee yesterday on HB 228. There are a number of provisions in the bill, including funding and kindergarten readiness, but Chad was testifying on the provision that would limit testing in Ohio to four hours per student per subject per year. He was against a quick fix with an arbitrary time limit. You can read his full testimony here. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. In other sausage-making news, HB 343 was stuffed like a lame-duck-flavored kielbasa in the House Education Committee yesterday. The possible remove of teacher pay schedule requirements from state law is getting the most play (check out the Plain Dealer’s coverage here – over 300 comments already! – and the Dispatch’s coverage here for a taste of that smoky link). The debate on this provision of the bill sounds eerily similar to that of the so-called “5 of 8 rule” from the state board of ed earlier in the week. But seriously, there was a lot more crammed into this bill than just pay schedules. That includes provisions on zero tolerance, safe harbor, third grade reading cut scores, and state report card changes. You can see a nice summary of everything in Gongwer Ohio.
     
  3. No matter how stuffed that HB 343 sausage is, it’s the teacher pay schedule removal provision that’s getting the most grilling. Here’s a guest commentary from a former Cincinnati-area district administrator opining that the schedule should not only remain, but
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Editor’s Note: On Thursday, November 13, Chad Aldis testified before the Ohio House Education Committee on the substitute bill for House Bill 228. His comments focused on a small but substantial change that would limit the length of a state assessment, even if administered in several parts at multiple times during the school year, to four hours. A portion of his testimony is below.

I would like to commend the legislature on its decision to examine the issue of over-testing. In recent months, concerns over the amount of classroom time allocated to standardized testing have risen with a fervor and urgency that is understandable. Testing impacts thousands of students, parents, and educators across our state. As a parent of children in a traditional public school, I understand the concerns surrounding testing. I am equally concerned though that in our rush to find a solution we could potentially swing the pendulum too far the other way.

I oppose placing a testing time limit in statute for three reasons.

First, the provision limiting testing hours on the state assessment is a quick fix that may not solve the issue of over-testing. Under HB 487, enacted in June, the state superintendent is required to study the state’s assessments and report back to you by January 15. This report should give you valuable information that can be utilized in making decisions about testing. I urge you to be patient and wait for...

  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis appeared on WLW radio with host Scott Sloan yesterday morning, talking about the Common Core. (WLW-AM, Cincinnati)
     
  2. More radio for the nostalgia buffs out there. And more Common Core for the more modern reader. All Sides with Ann Fisher gave a full hour to Common Core yesterday, starting with Rep. Huffman and discussion of the latest legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio. The rest of the time included enlightening discussion of math instruction in the Common Core era as well as some in-the-trenches talk about finding the best curriculum materials. Interesting listen. (WOSU-FM, Columbus)
     
  3. Editors in Toledo opined on their expecations of the Ohio General Assembly during its lame duck session, now underway. Specifically, they advised legislators to avoid taking up the Common Core repeal bill in favor of more pressing and important issues. Probably something to do with ensuring safe drinking water for large cities on large lakes in the northern part of the state. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. Editors in Cleveland opined in support of Ohio’s so-called “5 of 8” rule which prescribes certain staffing ratios for “support personnel” in schools and which has been recommended for removal by the state board of education. Perhaps you’ve heard about this issue? Maybe via social media? (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. I know loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers have heard all about the ongoing drama in the Monroe school district in regards to their long-mothballed old high school. Latest news: Monroe City Council
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  1. Chad appeared on Columbus’ WTVN radio yesterday morning, talking about Common Core in the wake of last week’s House Rules Committee vote. You can also check out the audio clip of Rules Committee Chair Matt Huffman, who also was interviewed by host Joel Riley, about the outlook for HB597 in the full House. (WTVN-AM, Columbus)
     
  2. Editors in Columbus got a two-fer in their opining today: objecting to both the pending bill to limit standardized testing time (“reckless”) and to repeal Ohio’s New Education Standards (“political posturing”). Fordham is namechecked in terms of the latter item. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. More drama at the state board of education meeting yesterday, including unscheduled testimony, points of order, and a temporary walkout by four board members. Thanks again, carpetbaggers. Check out coverage in the Dayton Daily News, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
     
  4. What does it mean when a parent is thankful for the opportunity to camp outside for nearly two weeks to get a chance to apply for the school of their choice? It means that lots of stuff is messed up in Cincinnati. There’s a lot to unpack in this guest essay, published as the annual school choice campouts begin, but I’ll leave that to my readers to do. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

A firestorm has erupted in Ohio on a proposed state board of education administrative rule. The headline on Diane Ravitch’s blog cries, “Ohio Alert! State Board of Education Will Vote on Whether to Eliminate Arts, P.E., Librarians, Nurses at Elementary Schools.” The headline, though sensational, is flat wrong and misleading.

Let’s set the facts straight. The Ohio state board of education is proposing to eliminate the staffing-ratio mandates for non-classroom-teaching staff. (These include counselors, gym teachers, elementary art and music teachers, etc.) The board, then, is not pronouncing a death-sentence on music or art. Local schools may hire as many non-classroom-teaching personnel as they see fit. Rather the proposal aims to give districts more flexibility over how they staff their schools.

Here is the rule in question, as presently written [OAC 3301-35-05 (A)(4)].

A minimum of five full-time equivalent educational service personnel shall be employed district-wide for each one thousand students in the regular student population as defined in section 3317.023 of the Revised Code. Educational service personnel shall be assigned to at least five of the eight following areas: counselor, library media specialist, school nurse, visiting teacher, social worker and elementary art, music and physical education.

In other words, the current regulation requires districts to hire at least five employees per 1,000 students in the eight areas defined under the rule. But this is a rigid human-resource policy, leaving schools with less flexibility in how it delivers educational services. For instance, what if a district...

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