Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. We and others have noted that the success of recently-passed charter law reform in Ohio is dependent upon implementation and oversight. From the “devil’s in the details” department, a presentation from the Ohio Department of Education at this week’s state board meeting raised questions about a possible expansion of the geographic areas in which exemplary sponsors could open new charter schools. This possibility was a surprise to board members, and even ODE seemed a bit skeptical. When reached for comment on this, our own Aaron Churchill said, “I don’t see how you can do it. It would seem to be in contrast with existing law.” Situation developing, as they say. (Dayton Daily News, 10/20/15)
     
  2. Sticking in Dayton for a moment, no testing irregularities have been found at two Dayton charter schools, despite some headline-blaring allegations from last year. So say the results of an investigation into said headline-blaring allegations from the state auditor’s office. Despite the involvement of the auditor (never get tired of hearing from that guy, amiright?), expect no blaring headlines of this story. The piece doesn’t even list an author. Make of that what you will.  Horizon Dayton. (Dayton Daily News, 10/20/15)
     
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Thank you, President Gunlock and state board members, for giving me the opportunity to offer public comment today.
 
My name is Chad Aldis. I am the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-oriented nonprofit focused on research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C. In full disclosure, the Institute’s sister organization, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, is a sponsor of 11 charter schools, some of whom have been past winners of the federal Charter School Program (CSP) funds I am about to discuss.
 
CSP is a federal program dating back to 1994 that enables states to run their own state-level grant competitions for new charter schools. Since its inception, the US Department of Education has invested over $3 billion in charter schools nationally. The recently announced round of grants went to several states and directly to some high-performing charter school management companies. Ohio earned the biggest award--$32.5 million in FY15 towards a recommended total of $71 million.
 
I was surprised—more on that later—by some of the backlash Ohio’s win generated. Critics openly questioned whether Ohio’s charter sector deserved the award and whether the Ohio...

It’s been a busy year for the Ohio charter sector. The long-awaited passage of House Bill 2 is finally a reality, and Ohio charters are back on the road to national respectability. Despite this good news, the state is still dealing with the hangover caused by its reputation as the wild, wild west of charter schools. People are still talking about the recent omission of e-school grades on sponsor evaluations, and there have been calls for a review of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and its staff. So when the U.S. Department of Education announced the recipients of new grants through the Charter Schools Program (CSP), some folks (in Ohio and elsewhere) were shocked to find that Ohio was not only a winner but also the recipient of the largest grant—over $71 million.

While debates rage over whether or not Ohio deserved the grant, the real question should be how the Buckeye State can best use the windfall. CSP funding is intended to enable states to “run state-level grant competitions” to support new and expanded public charter schools.[1] The department has...

Nearly everyone agrees that high-quality pre-kindergarten is a worthy investment. Calls to expand it at public expense are born from a handful of well-known (and very costly) intensive models that appeared to deliver long-term positive effects for poor children: improved school readiness, increased graduation rates, and even the mitigation of risk factors like teen pregnancy and incarceration. These oft-cited outcomes are compelling. So is the urge to level the playing field for children who arrive at school with a thirty million word gap. But an actionable definition of “high quality” remains elusive, and studies of large, scaled up pre-K programs have shown mixed results.

The latest study from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute adds valuable evidence to the discussion of whether, when, and how pre-kindergarten is a worthy investment. In 2009, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Education, the institute launched a rigorous study of the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program (TN-VPK). This is a full-day program targeted toward exceptionally at-risk four-year-olds; researchers tracked two cohorts of children (those applying in 2009–10 and 2010–11) through the end of their third-grade years (2013–14 and 2014–15 respectively). Oversubscribed programs enabled a random design whereby children enrolled in...

  1. A guest commentary ran under Chad Aldis’ byline in the ABJ this weekend, extolling the virtues of HB 2/charter law reform in Ohio. Particularly interesting for the rundown of all the “parents of success” involved in the long process. (Akron Beacon Journal, 10/18/15)
     
  2. Speaking of charter schools in Ohio, remember the sponsor evaluations that were preliminarily issued and then rescinded by the department of education earlier this year? Well, those evaluations still must be done and a new advisory group has been impaneled to advise the department. And the troublesome question of how to rank large online schools within a sponsor’s portfolio remains. Chad is among the voices advocating for the importance of rating sponsors the right way. The most important reforms of HB 2 are, he says, “premised on this [evaluation] system working.” (Columbus Dispatch, 10/18/15)
     
  3. A guest commentary ran under Chad Aldis’ byline in the PD this weekend, discussing the ways in which Ohio’s new $71 million Community Schools Program grant could materially improve the charter school sector in Ohio…if used correctly. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/18/15)
     
  4. Editors in Cleveland decided to “balance” Chad’s commentary with an opinion piece of their own
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Monumental reform of Ohio’s charter school law, which began in earnest back in December 2014, culminated on October 7 with the passage of House Bill 2.

Throughout that process, journalists, editors, and bloggers across the nation reported and opined. Here is a selection of recent media coverage:

Remember that you can keep up with these stories and more through a subscription to Gadfly...

The relationship between teacher experience and quality has been widely studied, as has the relationship between teacher experience and salary. The relationship between experience and total compensation—which includes both salary and retirement benefits—is often overlooked. In a new report, researchers from the Manhattan Institute have thrown open the curtains by calculating the total compensation for teachers with master’s degrees and varying years of experience in the country’s ten largest public school systems. They explain that, although most research demonstrates that quality differences between teachers based upon experience tend to plateau after 5–7 years, most public school teachers still earn salaries according to fixed schedules that are based entirely on years of experience and advanced degrees. Retirement benefits are distributed in a similar way. Approximately 89 percent of public school teachers earn retirement benefits under final-average-salary-defined benefit (FAS-DB) pension plans, meaning that teachers earn a lifetime annuity available only after they reach their respective plans’ threshold. These thresholds, like a salary schedule, are based on a combination of age and years of service. As a result, FAS-DB plans often backload retirement benefits.

The scale of backloading varies across plans. In New York City, for example, a teacher earns an average...

  1. As you may know, a monumental charter school reform law passed the Ohio General Assembly last week. Our own Chad Aldis was a guest on All Sides with Ann Fisher on Wednesday, discussing said reform. If you’re wondering where the “monumental” part is discussed during the hour-long program, don’t. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 10/14/15)
     
  2. Lorain City Schools has “poured time, attention and transportation” into an all-out effort to help 90 students in the district’s New Beginnings and Credit Recovery Academy. The goal: passing the Ohio Graduation Test and having the students actually be prepared for college or a career on the other side. Good luck to everyone involved. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 10/15/15)
     
  3. No mention of Academic Distress Commissions in that Lorain piece, above, but it can’t be far from their minds. Lorain, as of yesterday, is the only district operating under the aegis of an old-style ADC. Graduation rate is just one of the factors that needs to improve there to avoid going down the path that Youngstown City Schools has blazed, into the new-style ADC. Speaking of Youngstown, a new community group has launched in the wake of the court-allowed implementation of the new ADC
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Ohio’s recent win of federal Charter School Program (CSP) funds has garnered much backlash. Former Governor Ted Strickland went so far as to send a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requesting that he reconsider giving Ohio the grant. All five Democrats in Ohio’s congressional delegation sent their own letter to Duncan asking questions about the conditions of the grant and whether it will be used to help charter oversight.  

Two facts are overlooked by critics in the midst of the naysaying: 1) the overall track record of CSP grant recipients in our state is solid (as we’ll see below), and 2) by infusing much-needed resources into Ohio’s charter sector, the program enables the best schools to replicate, could draw in top-notch charter school models from other states, and might even crowd out the state’s worst schools—both of the district and charter variety.

The calls to delay or rescind the money are absurd. Most of those speaking out publicly have clear political agendas. Ohio certainly needs to restore public confidence in its charter sector, and the legislature’s bipartisan passage of comprehensive charter school reform is a good start. A...

Since last December, charter schools have been a hot topic in Ohio. Because of scandals in the Ohio Department of Education and the missteps of some Ohio charter schools, many folks in Ohio have a negative view of the entire sector. Fortunately, there are several networks across the nation that challenge the assertion that charters are mismanaged, failed experiments. Even better, recent developments in the Ohio charter sector—including better laws, better funding, and new grant money—increase the possibility that Ohio could woo some of these high-performing charter networks to the Buckeye State. Let’s examine a few of the networks that Ohio should consider recruiting.

Noble Network of Charter Schools

Who they are: The Noble Network operates seventeen schools in Chicago (sixteen high schools and one middle school) and serves approximately eleven thousand students from more than seventy Chicago communities. The first Noble school was opened in 1999 by two Chicago Public Schools teachers. The network’s mission is to prepare low-income students for college and life; the student population is 98 percent minority and 89 percent low-income. Noble uses extended school days (and years) and offers athletics and arts programs. Its...

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