Ohio Gadfly Daily

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), a top-notch group of entities that are serious about sponsoring quality charter schools, issued a call this week for authorizers and state laws to be more proactive in closing failing schools and opening great new ones. They call it the One Million Lives campaign.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Number of Ohio charter schools in the lowest 15 percent of state performance.
Source: 2011-12 Ohio Report Card Results.

At the kickoff, NACSA President Greg Richmond said, “In some places, accountability unfortunately has been part of the charter model in name only. If charters are going to succeed in helping improve public education, accountability must go from being rhetoric to reality.” He then called for a policy agenda aimed at achieving both smarter growth and stronger accountability in these ways:

  • Establishing strong statewide authorizers that promote both high-quality growth and accountability,
  • Writing into law standards for authorizers that are based on NACSA’s excellent Principles & Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing,
  • Placing performance expectations for charter renewal into state law,
  • Empowering authorizers to close schools that fail to meet the expectations set in their charter contracts,
  • Holding authorizers accountable for the performance of their schools and their authorizing practices, and
  • Creating automatic school closure laws that make it impossible for education failure to persist forever.
  • ...

There’s no question about it: Students are on the move in the Buckeye State. Fordham and Community Research Partners’ recent mobility study shows the near-ubiquity of student mobility in Ohio’s metro areas (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo).

But student mobility isn’t only occurring in urban schools; mobility happens frequently in rural schools also. (Our research examines mobility in schools across all of Ohio.)

A roundup of recent newspaper reports underscores the growing need to understand mobility in all areas of Ohio--rural districts included. In addition, these news articles also begin to answer the all-important questions of what’s causing mobility (or conversely, stability) in our schools, and what the effects of mobility are.

The Chillicothe Gazette examines some of the reasons why students move among schools in the rural, blue-collar counties surrounding Columbus. District administrators pointed to the lack of job opportunities in declining rural townships as the trigger for student mobility.

For example, the Crestline Exempted Village (Crawford County) superintendent attributed a large amount of its mobility to the loss of a General Motors plant in their area. A school official at Eastern Local (Pike County) pointed to another cause of mobility, in addition to economic decline: The large number of highly-mobile, foster students living in temporary homes in her district.

The Lima News, which covers several rural counties in northwestern Ohio, focused on student mobility via open enrollment at Perry Local School District (Allen County). Perry is the state’s largest recipient of open enrollees, as...

Today, I happened upon a decades-old Rand Corporation report (McLaughlin and Berman, 1975) on the topic of educational change and school-level implementation. Of the many interesting and important tidbits of information in this report, I found this quote striking—and perhaps most relevant—for Common Core implementation:

“Indifferent and unreceptive environments were frequent in our sample of projects attempted in upper-level schools. . . . Change agent projects that included the higher grade levels experienced severe management and administrative problems as well as teacher resistance. For example, reading projects that spanned all grade levels consistently encountered resistance at the upper-level schools as they attempted to persuade science or history teachers to view themselves as teachers of reading.”

According to the Rand report, high schools exhibited more hostility to change than elementary schools, largely because of teacher resistence. High school teachers, the researchers found, "perceive themselves as having large intellectual and emotional investments in academic purity." As such, high school teachers, who often teach specialized subjects (i.e., biology or U.S. history), have less motivation to work outside their "solid subject" area, try "new ideas," and thus act as "change agents."

In 2014-15, Ohio will fully transition to the Common Core in math and English language arts for all grade levels, K-12. So, changing course from an all-grade-level implementation to a graduated implementation (elementaries first and high schools later) would be nearly impossible. The Rand findings, however, should raise awareness that high schools may strongly resist the Common Core. As a result, Common...

Terry Ryan, Fordham’s Vice President for Ohio Programs and Policy, penned a thoughtful comparison between the social narrative in which Mike Petrilli’s latest book The Diverse Schools Dilemma belongs and that in which the Ohio team’s new report on Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools fits. The parents who face the diverse schools dilemma are “socially-conscious middle-class parents” who wish for diverse and high-performing schools. The parents of “student nomads,” however, are—first and foremost—“struggling to simply find a permanent place to live.” To read more, click here for Terry Ryan’s post in today’s Flypaper.

Fordham and Community Research Partners’ student mobility project, released last week, measures the frequency and describes the pattern of student movement in Ohio's schools. The mobility data, while dense, have practical and strategic uses for school-level and district-level practitioners.

Here’s one possible use.

Our research provides educators with information about student mobility networks. This information can help superintendents, principals, and teachers know which schools they are most connected to, by way of student moves.

At a school building level, network data can help educators identify which schools they need to work closely with—perhaps aligning curricular or instructional approaches or making sure their textbooks are the same. At a district-level, network data can help administrators plan facilities or personnel. For example, administrators may find highly-connected schools easier to consolidate, if facility costs are a concern. Similarly, to save on personnel costs, districts could share staff across highly-connected schools. Rather than having a school counselor for each school building, a single counselor may just as effectively serve multiple but highly-connected schools.

To illustrate what a student mobility network looks like (see, D. Kerbow, 1996), I use Bond Hill Elementary School as an example—for no reason other than for illustration. Bond Hill, enrollment 400, is part of Cincinnati Public Schools, 91 percent economically disadvantaged, and nearly 100 percent minority. The school received a C rating (Continuous Improvement) in 2010-11 and in 2011-12.

Bond Hill had an above average one-year churn rate in 2010-11 (32 percent) compared to Cincinnati Public Schools (on...


For several years, in our role as charter school authorizer, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has worked closely and collaboratively with the governing authority (Alliance Community Schools) of the Dayton View and Dayton Liberty charter schools to encourage better results. After more than a decade of working together, the governing board fired the school’s operator, Edison Learning, at the end of the 2011-12 school year. At the start of this school year the management responsibilities for both buildings were turned over to a veteran Dayton educator and his management team. 

Because we believe there are many lessons to be drawn from this experience, we engaged veteran journalist Ellen Belcher to tell the story of these two schools and ongoing efforts to improve the education they provide some of Dayton’s neediest children. Ellen is an award-winning journalist and former editorial page editor of the Dayton Daily News, where she frequently wrote about education issues including those around charter schools.

Our task to Ellen was straightforward – talk to the board members (current and former), administrators, teachers, and parents involved in the two schools and find out their stories. Why, in their words, haven’t the schools lived up to their promise? She also reached out to current and former officials from the schools’ former operator, Edison Learning, to get their perspectives on these issues, and she spoke with Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. for his take as well. 

Ellen tackled the assignment with her usual curiosity, skepticism, and reporter’s acumen....

While the focus of Tuesday’s election was on the presidential race, many voters across the Buckeye State also gave a yea or nay for their school district’s levy proposal.  According to the Hannah Report, 192 district levies were on ballots this election day, and a little over half of them passed (55 percent). If your district asked for a renewal of a tax levy, it was more likely to pass (87 percent) compared to new levies, which passed at a 37 percent rate.

Despite these figures and the ever-tightening fiscal climate, Tuesday spelled victory for several districts asking for new levies. For example, Cleveland voters approved a $15 million levy. Cleveland Municipal will be able to reinstate regular school days and gym and music classes, which were previously cut. Akron City Schools also has cause for celebration with the support of its $7.9 million levy. To find out how your district’s levy did, see the Ohio School Boards Association’s webpage.

One in three Columbus students change schools each year. So, it’s little surprise that a group of nearly 100 of Columbus’ education and community leaders gathered to hear and discuss the groundbreaking research findings from Fordham and Community Research Partners’ (CRP) just-released Ohio Student Mobility Project.

In attendance this morning were senior staff members from Columbus City Schools, the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, The Ohio State University, Columbus’ largest charitable foundations, members of the press corps, and education policy and youth program organizations. The Columbus Foundation hosted the event.

Roberta Garber of CRP opened the event with an overview of the research findings for the Columbus metropolitan area. The findings were striking: There’s a lot of student movement—perhaps more than generally appreciated—occurring within school districts, between districts, and between charter schools and traditional districts. To measure student mobility in Columbus' schools and schools across Ohio, Garber reported that CRP analyzed approximately 6 million student records. The research found that some schools had churn rates upwards of 50 percent—a statistic that indicates a significant amount of mobility, by way of student admits or withdrawals.

After the presentation of the data, Mark Real of KidsOhio.org moderated a panel discussion to reflect on the research findings. The panel included Matt Cohen of the Department of Education, Nancy Van Meter of the American Federation of Teachers, Steve Dackin of Reynoldsburg School District, and Terry Ryan of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.


For our full report on student mobility, please visit http://www.edexcellence.net/publications/student-nomads-mobility-in-ohios-schools.html


Imagine for a moment you’re a school teacher. For the sake of argument, let’s say that you teach at Southmoor Middle School, located on the south side of Columbus.  To start your year, you have 25 of Columbus’ most eager, bright-eyed sixth graders in your classroom. Their enthusiasm is fresh like a new textbook and bubbles like a science fair volcano.

Fast forward to May and your classroom has changed considerably. During the school year (you have an average Southmoor classroom) five new students came to your class while eight students departed at some point for another school. For incoming students, you had to make mid-year assessments of those students’ learning levels and quickly integrate them into your lesson plans and classroom culture. You likely did all this without the assistance of a student record (as those can take months to find their way to you), while also maintaining the pace of learning for those students who have been with you all year.  Student mobility complicates things.

Pioneering Research

The nomadic-like nature of the Southmoor Middle School student body is not an outlier when it comes to student mobility. In fact, it’s one of many schools in Ohio—and across the nation—that copes with a revolving door of students—students who enter and leave a school during the year. 

Student mobility complicates things

Yet, despite the scale and scope of student mobility, the research on it is slim; as...

The Fordham Institute sends out hearty congratulations to Mayor Frank Jackson and his staff, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, the city’s business community, district supporters, teachers, students, and the voters of Cleveland on the passage of the district’s levy—a key component of the Plan for Transforming Schools. It was a hard-fought campaign that was successful in the end due to the day-to-day and door-to-door diligence of its supporters.

As Fordham’s Ohio VP Terry Ryan wrote on this very blog back in February, this effort to make Cleveland one of the nation's school-reform leaders – with its sights fixed firmly on finding, funding, and nurturing what works in education for the sake of the students themselves—is a significant step forward for all Cleveland families. And on this morning of November 7, implementation is now at hand.

All involved with that implementation must be mindful of what was promised and what must be delivered:

  • Increasing the number of high-performing schools, both district and charter, while closing failing schools;
  • Maximizing enrollment in Cleveland’s existing high-performing district and public charter schools;
  • Investing in promising schools by giving their leaders additional resources, the freedom to build high-performing teams, and the ability to make financial and instructional decisions based on their students’ needs;
  • Seeking (and finding) flexibility in the hiring, retention, and remuneration of teachers; and
  • Sustaining both district and public charter transformation schools.

We applaud the work done to create and to pass the plan and look...