Ohio Gadfly Daily

This is a tricky story, but stay with me.

A 10-year-old charter school in the Cincinnati area ended up in court against the Ohio Department of Education back in July in an effort to find a sponsor (after being dropped) and to reopen as usual for the 2014-15 school year. The tussling ended in a court-ordered limbo, but the legal questions remained an active concern.

A July 29 piece in the Cleveland Plain Dealer summarized the story to that point and quoted Fordham’s Vice President for Sponsorship and Dayton Initiatives Kathryn Mullen Upton laying out the legal issues under consideration: "(1) The accountability system and an authorizer's judgment about the quality of a school are meaningless; (2) if you're a school that is non-renewed by any authorizer, not just ODE, you can simply go to court and up your chances of finding a new sponsor; and (3) despite recent actions to try to improve school and authorizer quality, ODE in reality has scant enforcement ability/authority… In a nutshell, it's a huge step backward for Ohio."

The limbo dragged on with no resolution but on August 12 the school announced it would not reopen due to financial distress....

  1. Editors in Columbus have checked out Fordham’s new Hidden Half report, and opined favorably upon it. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Sticking with the realm of opinion, lots of editors and commentators weighed in on the coming legislative battle against Common Core in Ohio. Check out the arguments of editors in Cleveland in favor of Common Core (Cleveland Plain Dealer), commentary from a Cincinnati resident against the Common Core (Cincinnati Enquirer), and editors in Akron in favor of Common Core (Akron Beacon Journal). Gonna be a crazy couple of weeks around here
  3. In other news, echoing a question we’ve been debating around the office, the alternative tests being used in Ohio this summer to assess third graders’ reading track third graders’ reading scores have come under the microscope of the Big D. (Columbus Dispatch)
  4. This is a fascinating article on the state of competition among public schools in Toledo at the start of the 2014-15 school year. There are fewer charter schools in Toledo this year than last and only one new startup opening its doors. What this might mean for TPS’ enrollment numbers is parsed, as is the effect of the last two
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  1. As if the protracted will-they-close-or-won’t-they hasn’t been bad enough for the families of approximately 600 students at the now-closed VLT Academy in Cincinnati, now these poor families have to endure the opportunism of a new charter school looking to attract them when their own sponsorship contract is in question. And that despite the fact that there are district, charter, and even voucher options for most or all of the former VLT students. Oy vey! (WLWT-TV, Cincinnati)
  2. Speaking of opportunism, a couple of state legislators on the D side are pointing to the VLT Academy saga as proof that Ohio’s charter school law is broken – as if they think it’s sad that VLT didn’t stay open!  I do like this though: the senator in question “welcomed Republicans to introduce their own legislation to overhaul charter laws if that is what it takes to get a discussion started.” Don’t mind if they do, brother. See you at the table. (Gongwer Ohio)
  3. Not sure why this story didn’t get bigger (or more grammatically-correct) coverage, but a group of Dayton Public Schools teachers protested at the annual start-of-school convocation earlier this week due to contract issues over pay.
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  1. ODE has finally come to the end of its active data review in districts across the state with the release of revised report cards for all districts involved in data scrubbing and all school buildings affected. The complex effort to truthfully report Performance Index scores, numerous academic indicators met, AYP, and individual building grades is now complete and Gongwer does a good job of describing the work involved. The main upshot noted is that students in three additional schools across the state are now voucher-eligible due to the revised report cards. The new EdChoice application deadline, recently extended for just this reason, is September 5. (Gongwer Ohio). The Big D also covers this story, from a Columbus perspective. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. As noted in the Gongwer piece, some schools’ scores actually improved by recalculation of proper data. I’m not sure it’s something to crow about, but then I don’t run a school district. (Toledo Blade)
  3. We noted yesterday that school started in many districts across Ohio, with a number of policy changes taking hold. One of those is the hold-back provision of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a topic we’ve been covering since the end
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After more than two years  of community-wide and bipartisan struggles to raise the bar for everyone in Cleveland schools, a sudden and incongruous shift has dropped expectations to a new low, at least for some of its freshman, just in time for the start of a new school year today.

The Freshman Fresh Start was recently approved by the school board of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). The resolution allows incoming freshmen to participate in extracurricular activities (sports and clubs) despite low grades that, under the current regulations for all other grades, would make them ineligible. Instead, incoming freshmen are now only required to pass (receive a “D” or higher) a minimum of five subjects in the preceding grading period. (For the first quarter of the year, eligibility would be based on the last quarter of the preceding year.) Formerly, the policy required that students a) not receive a failing grade in the previous grading period, b) maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher in the previous grading period, and c) maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 throughout the year.

It sounds innocent enough, but upon closer inspection, the implications are far-reaching and appalling. Incoming...

Gadfly Bites is back from vacation and catching up on some older news reported during the hiatus:

  1. The deadline for candidates to run for State Board of Education seats in November has come and gone. State Board of Education President Debe Terhar did not file paperwork and so will not run for another term. Newly-appointed board member Ron Rudduck will be running for a full term, as promised, and an open seat will be contested by two others besides former State Rep. Robert Hagan, as we noted last week. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. This is probably the stalest of old news: more piling on to the “investigate Horizon/Concept Schools for X” bandwagon. But, I include this for variety. (Gongwer Ohio)
  3. I say “variety” because the rest of our old news is about the Common Core. I went on vacation sure that hearings on the new legislative assault on the Common Core in Ohio would start while I was gone. But no. Turns out that the legislators leading the assault actually want to have some text in their bill before debate begins and so have delayed the start of hearings
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Representative Andy Thompson and Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman have introduced new legislation to repeal the Common Core, and hearings start today (Monday, August 18). But they’re not telling you the whole story. Read on to find out what they don’t want you to know and why their reasoning doesn’t make sense. 

[All opponent statements are direct quotes from this press conference]

1. Ohio was ahead of the game in wanting change: It began reviewing its academic standards back in 2007—long before governors and state superintendents started to talk about creating Common Core.

What opponents said:

[We] want to make sure Ohio is in the driver’s seat in this process.

The truth: By the time the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) started work on replacing state standards that were sorely lacking, the Buckeye state had already begun to respond to educator concerns about Ohio’s standards. In fact, the Ohio Department of Education conducted an international benchmarking study in 2008 (published in 2009) that laid out some guiding principles for revised Ohio standards—principles...

Ohio’s new teacher-evaluation system requires evaluators to conduct two, formal thirty-minute classroom observations. Yet these legally prescribed observations seem ripe for compliance and rote box-checking; in fact, they may not be quite the impetus for school-wide improvement that policymakers had hoped for.

If this does end up happening in practice, all is not lost. Rather, as I discuss below, informal channels for teacher feedback might actually be more conducive to helping teachers (and their schools) improve than formal procedures.

Consider Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer’s recent work on New York City’s charter schools. The research duo takes great pains to uncover what school-based factors make a great school tick. In my estimation, one of their key findings is how strongly the frequency of informal teacher feedback correlates to school effectiveness.

Dobbie and Fryer measure school effectiveness in two ways. For the full sample of thirty-nine schools, they use a statistical model (a matched student-pair approach) to estimate a school’s impact on achievement. Second, for twenty-nine of the schools, lottery-admissions data were used to estimate school effectiveness. Lottery-based computations are typically considered preferable, because researchers can approximate a random experiment. The researchers then probe the schools’ “inner-workings” during the...

NOTE: Gadfly Bites is going on vacation from Wednesday, August 6 through Tuesday, August 12.

  1. Governor Kasich has appointed a former Montgomery County judge to fill the final open seat on the State Board of Education. (Dayton Daily News)
  2. Here’s a well-intentioned commentary opining that STEM/technology is good but shouldn’t be sent to the fore at the expense of basics like literacy. But there’s little evidence that the author is concerned about anything more than a few hashtags finding their way into book reports. OMG. (Amherst News Times)
  3. I think this should assuage our Amherst columnist: ODE awarded $45 million in 21st Century Community Learning Center grants to 247 schools and community organizations - 61 of which are new to the five-year-old grant program. These are federal funds to support programs aimed at literacy, career readiness and drop-out prevention. For the first time, applicants were required to propose programs that would focus on literacy skills for K-4 students or literacy in addition to college and career readiness for middle and high school students. Sounds like the right way to go. (Gongwer
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In Ohio, like many states across the nation, reading achievement has largely stalled. The state’s reading scores on the domestic NAEP assessments haven’t moved over the past decade: In fourth-grade reading, the state’s average score was 222 in 2003 and 224 in 2013. The story is the same for eighth grade. Meanwhile, on state assessments, reading proficiency rates have improved noticeably in fourth grade (from 77 percent in 2006 to 88 percent in 2013), but fifth- and sixth-grade reading proficiency rates haven’t budged. In fifth grade, for instance, statewide reading proficiency was 75 percent in 2006 and 74 percent in 2013.

Test data suggest that strong and concerted efforts must be made to stem the tide of mediocre reading achievement. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee is one policy initiative aimed at improving early literacy. And in 2010, the state board adopted new English language arts (ELA) standards—part of the Common Core—in order to increase the rigor of what students are expected to know and be able to do when it comes to reading, writing, and grammar.

State leaders have created a policy framework—Third Grade Reading for foundational early-literacy skills and long-term growth under the Common...