Ohio Gadfly Daily

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...


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...


I had the good fortune to start my day at the Omega Baptist Church in Dayton with a group of young scholars and their 20-something mentors who were leading Harambee. Harambee means ???pull together??? in Swahili. (See here for an explanation.) It was inspiring to see 60 young scholars getting ready for a day of learning, inspiration, and activities as part of the Children's Defense Fund's Freedom School.

I spoke with some of the scholars ??? ranging in ages from 5 to 13 ??? who came from across the Dayton area and its schools. Some were Dayton Public School students, some were from area charter schools, and others were from local parochial schools. All seemed to be enjoying this summer learning program, and the families involved felt fortunate to have their kids in the program. Two years ago there were more than 200 children in Freedom Schools summer program in Dayton, yet this year there were only 60 spots available because of state funding cuts and fewer philanthropic dollars.

The Freedom School is a 30-day program that runs over the summer from 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM. I asked one of the program leaders if they had data showing the impact of the program on academic achievement. She admitted this is something they wanted to try to measure, but simply didn't have the resources to do it this year. She also made clear that if the kids weren't in the Freedom School they'd most likely be...


Ohio lawmakers have introduced a bill aimed at stemming Ohio's brain drain and keeping college graduates in the state after they earn their degrees. The legislation would allow Ohio college graduates, whether or not they are an Ohio native, who obtain a job in the Buckeye State to have their earned income exempted from state income taxation for five years.??

The bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Cheryl Grossman, says 40 percent of Ohio's college graduates leave the state after graduation.?? That figure could be much higher, depending on the particular college and community.?? For example, a 2009 Fordham Institute survey of students at top Ohio colleges found that 58 percent of students planned to leave the state after graduation (a whopping 79 percent of out-of-state students said they intended to leave Ohio, and 51 percent of native Ohio students were set on departure).??

But that same survey also showed support for incentives like the one proposed in House Bill 258.?? When offered a menu of incentives designed to encourage young college graduates to stay in Ohio, respondents to our survey found ???A state income tax credit of up to $3,000 per year for 10 years for college graduates who stay in Ohio??? most appealing (65 percent).

The bill, which is currently pending in committee, has the support of the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents Jim Petro. Petro cites (subscription required) the economic benefit of keeping graduates in the state:

It's a simple calculation. Right


Ohio's biennial budget put some significant education policy changes into effect this month, many of which we're still sifting through. See our previous analyses on how many students are newly eligible for a private school voucher (hint: not many), and how many teachers will be re-tested in subject-area knowledge (hint: quite a few).

When it comes to charter school start-ups, eligibility would expand (based on last year's data) to include 16 new school districts. This is up from 23 school districts, for an increase of 41 percent. Under previous law, a start-up (as opposed to converting an existing district school to a charter ? which can happen anywhere geographically in the state) could only open in a ?challenged? school districts. This was defined as any of Ohio's Big 8 districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, or Youngstown), a district rated D or F (see here for a list of such districts last year), or a school district in Lucas County that was part of the original charter school pilot area a decade ago (eight school districts in total, one of which is Toledo and already counted under the Big 8 list).

The budget added to the definition of challenged school districts any that rank in the bottom five percent of all districts statewide (according to Performance Index score), regardless of their grade (A-F). If you haven't noticed by now, there's an obvious affinity for ranking systems in this year's budget; various sanctions (and...

With Ohio's biennial budget (HB 153) now in effect, we're still wrapping our brains around all of the implications of various provisions (recall that there were several hundred pages of education policy changes in the legislation).

We've already analyzed the budget in broad brush strokes, and concluded that much will depend on the quality of implementation and leadership from the department of education, new state superintendent, and from districts themselves. Now we're getting down to a more granular level; to keep the painting metaphor alive, we're now breaking out the tools and working in small dabs to figure out precisely how Ohio's schools, educators, and students will be affected.

The budget increased the number of slots available for the EdChoice scholarship (from 15,000 to 30,000 this year and 60,000 next year and beyond). EdChoice is a voucher program that allots stipends of $4,250 for K-8 students and $5,000 for high school students to attend private schools of their choice. Access to vouchers has always been limited to students attending chronically failing schools, specifically students in district public schools rated D or F by the state for two or more of the last three consecutive years. This year, lawmakers broadened that eligibility to include not just D/F schools, but school buildings ranked in the bottom 10 percent of performance (according to Performance Index, an average of students' proficiency in tested grades and subjects) for two of three consecutive years.

But, according to available data (see the Ohio...

As Jamie previously mentioned, with Ohio's budget (HB 153) now in effect Fordham is busy dissecting all the different provisions and what they mean for Ohio's students. Jamie looked at the expansion of the EdChoice Scholarship Program and how many new schools and students are eligible due to recent legislative changes. ?

The budget is chock full of other provisions that will impact not just students but teachers. One such provision requires that all core subject-area teachers working in public school buildings statewide (including charter schools) ranked in the bottom 10 percent of performance (according to Performance Index, an average of students' proficiency in tested grades and subjects) must re-take any written tests prescribed by the State Board of Education for licensure.

Across the state last year, there were 353 such school buildings. Of those 353 schools 126 are charter schools and another 166 are located in the Big 8 (Ohio's largest eight urban districts). Additionally, Fordham's home town of Dayton has 15 schools located in the bottom 10 percent.? This means that core teachers in those schools will be mandated to re-take their licensure tests. How many teachers does this really impact, and will it result in them becoming more effective teachers?

Since not all teachers in a school building teach a core subject, such as reading, math, or science we had to estimate how many teachers this impacts. Assuming that each teacher on average teaches 22 kids and about half of those teachers teach...


After a several-month-long debate in the Buckeye State over teacher personnel policies, Ohio now stands at a crossroad. The biennial budget bill (HB 153) calls for the state to develop a model teacher evaluation framework by the end of this year and to adopt policies tying teacher evaluations to other key personnel decisions like dismissal, placement, tenure, and compensation. Likewise, school districts and charter schools must implement their own local evaluations, based on the state model, starting with the 2013-14 school year.

It's no surprise to anyone that a teacher's effectiveness has a tremendous impact on a child's learning and academic trajectory ? more so than any other in-school factor. The quality of the evaluation framework developed by the Ohio Department of Education - and the integrity with which districts and charters implement them and design other teacher personnel policies informed by them? has the potential to dramatically improve Ohio's teaching force and enhance student achievement.?

For this reason, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, along with the Nord Family Foundation and Ohio Grantmakers Forum, is convening two free, public events in northern Ohio around assuring highly effective teachers for all Ohio students. Mark your calendars for September 12 (Lorain County Community College, late afternoon) and 13 (downtown Cleveland, early morning). Additional details are forthcoming.

Featured speakers will include Mike Miles, superintendent of Harrison School District 2 in Colorado, a district on the cutting edge of teacher compensation reform, will share about the teacher effectiveness work his district...


In a surprise move, Ohio's State Board of Education today tapped Interim Superintendent Stan Heffner as the state's new schools chief.?? Heffner never actually applied for the job when it opened up last spring and instead announced he'd be leaving Ohio in August for a job with ETS.?? But at this morning's meeting, with their other top candidates seemingly dropping like flies, the board voted to offer him an interview.

While Heffner's appointment may be a surprise, it isn't a disappointment.?? He has experience at the local and state levels in Ohio (and in other states).?? Having served as associate superintendent of curriculum and assessment since 2004, he knows the Ohio Department of Education and its staff and operations well and is better-poised than perhaps any of the other candidates to hit the ground running when it comes to implementing the slew of important and tight-timelined new education policies passed in the state budget bill last month.

And speaking as someone who doesn't want to see academic accountability rolled back in the Buckeye State, I think he is an outstanding choice.?? He appreciates the value of having robust, accessible data about public schools and knows the importance of assessments and accountability in improving K-12 education. His work as Associate Superintendent helped make Ohio an early leader in the use of value-added data and other accountability metrics, and there is no reason to think he won't make Ohio a leader in other reform areas now as state superintendent.


Yesterday, two days before the state board of education was slated to announce Ohio's new state superintendent, a second of the three finalists for the job removed himself from consideration. And the word on the street is that he exited the race over money, something the board could have prevented.

Last month the board selected three finalists from forty applications: Steve Dackin, superintendent of Reynoldsburg (Ohio) City School District; Robert Schiller, education consultant & former Michigan and Illinois state superintendent; and Robert Sommers, Director of (Ohio) Governor's Office of 21st Century Education.

Sommers was an early favorite. He has experience in virtually every sector of the K-12 education system. Further, as Governor Kasich's point-person on education, who could be better to implement the governor's education policy reforms? As it turned out, Sommers was too close to the governor to serve as state superintendent, at least in the eyes of the Ohio Ethics Commission. The commission advised Sommers that if he became state superintendent, the state's ???revolving-door??? rules would prevent him from communicating with his former employer for one year. Being state superintendent is challenging enough, but to do it without regular access to the governor and his staff, who are driving much of the state's reform work? That's a recipe for impossibility. (Yes, Ohio's revolving-door rule is a bizarre one, at least when applied to cases of people moving jobs within state government; as Mike Petrilli commented to me, ???That's like saying Margaret Spellings couldn't have...