Additional Topics

  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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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...

  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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For viewers eager to hear the Democratic presidential candidates’ stances on K–12 education policy, the Tuesday’s primary debate was a disappointment. However, the two front-runners, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, did speak at length about the necessity of college affordability and their plans for tuition-free campuses.

“A college degree today is the equivalent of what a high school degree was fifty years ago,” Sanders said. “And what we said fifty years ago and one hundred years ago is that every kid in this country should be able to get a high school education regardless of the income of their family. I think we have to say that is true for everybody going to college.”

Clinton had previously criticized the senator’s proposal, saying that it would force taxpayers to pick up the tab for children of billionaires like Donald Trump. Sanders remarked that under his policies, billionaires would pay significantly more in taxes.

Clinton supports free college tuition, but said that students should work at least ten hours a week while in school to attain it. She also said that she wants to give the forty million Americans carrying student debt the opportunity to refinance...

A new study out by the National Center for Education Statistics uses data from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress to examine the black-white achievement gap. Authors use the eighth-grade math assessment and evaluate how the size of the gap corresponds to a school’s percentage of black students (what they term “density”).

They find that on average, white students attended schools that were 9 percent black, and black students attended schools that were 48 percent black. The highest-density schools were mostly in cities and Southern states; low-density schools were mostly in rural areas. Seventy-seven percent of public schools qualify as “lowest-density” (0–20 percent black students), while 10 percent are designated “highest-density” (60–100 percent black).

After controlling for various school, teacher, and student characteristics, the authors found that only white and black male achievement was affected by black student density; black male outcomes were worse in the highest-density schools than the lowest. Interestingly, the average achievement for white males in moderate density schools (40–60 percent black) was higher than the average achievement of their peers in lowest-density schools. In the end, the black-white achievement gap for males is greatest in the highest-density schools; for females (regardless of race), the gap...

  1. Editors in Columbus opined happily over the weekend in regard to the passage of HB 2. They seem to agree with our own Chad Aldis that the bill strikes an important balance: [It] “significantly strengthens the accountability structures…without compromising the school-level autonomy…” Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/15)
  2. Meanwhile, folks far and wide were interested in talking about Ohio’s win of a $71 million grant from the USDOE’s Community School Program. To wit: two heavy-hitters from the Dispatch cover a variety of perspectives on the grant, including that of Chad Aldis. Says Chad, “Recruiting charter schools is much like attracting business to the state. They will look to bring in groups known to raise student performance.” He tells the formerly-Big D that a rigorous application will be key. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/15) The folks at EdDive also were talking with Chad about CSP last week. He points out that “low performing charters are just about as likely to replicate and expand as the high performers” in Ohio. He is hopeful that the CSP grant can be used  to change that woeful dynamic. (Education Dive, 10/12/15)
  3. Two other outlets covered the passage of HB 2 this week. First up,
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The Asian American Achievement Paradox, a new book by Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, prompted New York Times columnist Nick Kristof to pen a provocative column on Sunday. Kristof agreed that “the success of Asian-Americans is a tribute to hard work, strong families and passion for education,” but went on to caution that “because one group can access the American dream does not mean that all groups can.”

I’m not that bleak. Though nobody’s education system can completely compensate for heedless parents, slothful ways, and an apathetic attitude, the truth is that policy does matter. Schools can do more than Kristof seems to think to help more kids climb the ladder toward the American dream.

My new book with Brandon Wright, Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students, looks closely at why American public education has been doing such a lackluster job helping smart children reach their full potential; how this failure of will, policy, and program is particularly devastating to high-ability youngsters from disadvantaged circumstances; and how a number of other countries do better than us.

The Asian nations in our study (Singapore, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan) do all of this especially well. And yes, family...

  1. Anyone got more bandwidth for reading about HB 2? Yep, me too! Editors in Cleveland opine today – not on repeat this time – in praise of the bipartisan, bicameral effort that led to the passage of a strong bill earlier this week. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/9/15) The Enquirer ran a guest column from the new CEO of the Accelerate Great Schools project in the Queen City, also in support of HB2’s reforms. Awesome and welcome input from a great new partner on the education reform scene in Ohio. Now, about your website, Patrick… (Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/8/15)
  2. Lest you think that everyone is holding hands and singing round the same campfire regarding charter schools in Ohio, that is not so. Case in point, a tussle has arisen between the State Auditor (I know!) and the President of the state Board of Education regarding some documents that the auditor would like and which the board president says are protected by attorney-client privilege and would show no more than has already been admitted to by the board on the topic. That topic is the rescinded charter sponsor evaluations conducted by the Ohio Department of Education earlier this year.
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