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Ohio has exemplary charter schools – beacons of quality that are helping students reach their full potential. Who are these high flyers and what can we learn from them? How can Ohio replicate, expand, and support great charters in every part of the state? Fordham partnered with Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett of the FDR Group to survey the leaders of these exemplary schools to capture their thoughts on charter policy, hear what makes their schools tick, and learn what we can do to make sure that good schools flourish and expand.

Quality in Adversity: Lessons from Ohio’s best charter schools will be released on Wednesday, January 27, 2016, in conjunction with this event. A fitting way to celebrate National School Choice Week!

PRESENTER

Ann Duffett, Ph.D., the FDR Group

PANELISTS

Andrew Boy, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, United Schools Network

Hannah D. Powell, Executive Director, KIPP Columbus

David Taylor, Chief Academic Officer, Dayton Early College Academy

MODERATOR

Steve Farkas, the FDR Group

DATE/TIME

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Coffee and pastries will be available

Program begins at 8:30 am

Program concludes at 9:45 am

 

LOCATION:

Chase...

  1. The first pieces of Ohio’s state report cards – which will be incomplete anyway due to “safe harbor” requirements – are due this week, many months late thanks to the switch to PARCC tests last year. The remainder of what information we do get will arrive late in February. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/10/16)
     
  2. No news on the Youngstown Plan this weekend – the definition of “teacher” remains unsettled and therefore the entire Academic Distress Commission mechanism remains stalled.  But in Lorain City Schools, the only other Ohio district currently under the old-style Academic Distress Commission, they have a different conundrum around a definition. They know that they don’t want the “Youngstown Plan” to become the “Lorain Plan”, and they know that a clock is ticking on them to make that happen. But why exactly do they oppose the Youngstown Plan? Because the district supe defines the plan as the death knell for the public common school in Lorain (i.e. a problem for adults) and not as an effort to actually fix the schools there (i.e. a problem for kids). While the article is ostensibly about some efforts to avoid a new-style ADC in Lorain via business, community,
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Truancy has long been a problem in schools across the nation. Because of its myriad causes, the economic and educational cost, and unhelpfully harsh policies, it continues to be a broad and complicated problem. In Ohio, school officials have been trying to support chronically absent students for years. Unfortunately, despite good intentions and several attempts, the state’s attendance issues still haven’t been resolved—and much of that can be attributed to Ohio’s problematic legal provisions regarding truancy. Persistent difficulties in data collection and reporting keep the true size and nature of the problem unknowable, and an outdated punitive mentality makes designing productive solutions close to impossible.

For a closer look at the issue, consider the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). During the 2013–14 school year, Cleveland’s 89.1 percent attendance rate was the lowest of all Big 8 urban districts. That rate has been flat for quite a few years.[1] An 89 percent might not seem so bad—it would indicate a B grade on a test. But attendance percentages are different than grades; in a district the size of Cleveland, an 89 percent attendance rate means that thousands of kids...

  1. Chad is quoted in this PD piece on the new charter sponsor evaluation framework coming online soon here in Ohio. Not soon enough to be able to avoid two years’ worth of evaluations basically happening at the same time. This unusual, regrettable, and currently unavoidable situation gives the usual suspects even more scope to complain. Not Chad, though. He is his normal pragmatic self, although his usual sunny optimism is put to the test. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/7/16)
     
  2. Chad’s sunny optimism is also tested in this piece, where he is quoted discussing the newly-released Quality Counts report. Ohio’s numbers are fairly grim, especially in terms of the achievement gap between students on either end of the income scale. “Recent reforms” are held out as a valuable tool in helping shrink said gap going forward. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/7/16)
     
  3. OK, I think “sunny optimism” is pretty well absent from this piece. Chad is one of a number of stakeholders quoted in regard to HB 420 – intended to “protect” schools’ report card grades if they have a large number of parents opting their children out of standardized testing. "We have to count all the students in a
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As Ohio goes, so goes the nation—at least when it comes to the 2016 Quality Counts ranking. Called to Account is the twentieth edition of Education Week’s annual ranking of states based on a bevy of (somewhat random) indicators. Each year’s rankings are accompanied by a thematic commentary on American education—effectively a backdrop of national trends, events, or priorities against which to view state data. This year’s theme is accountability, and researchers examined trends in achievement and poverty-based gaps according to NAEP.

The latest scorecard for the Buckeye State is nearly impossible to differentiate from the national one. Ohio’s overall letter grade (C) and individual grades on the report’s three main indicators—the Chance-for-Success Index (C-plus), K–12 Achievement Index (C-minus), and school finance analysis (C)—match national grades right down to the pluses and minuses.

Ohio falls in the middle of the pack nationally on all counts, though not all grades are especially insightful. For instance, a state earns a perfect score on the “spending index” if all of its districts spend above the U.S. average, yet we know that more spending does not always translate to better outcomes. Still, it’s worth noting Ohio’s rankings relative to peers and areas of possible...

  1. I’m not sure when it became de rigeur for school choice supporters generally and charter school advocates specifically to lead with charter school bashing in any discussion of charters in Ohio, but that does seem to be the new norm. Luckily for these noobs, charter school opponents have seeded tons of references in the past for use today. Feel free to copy/paste. Case in point, this piece from the 74 Million blog – in which our own Chad Aldis is quoted – talking about the Buckeye State’s new sponsor evaluation system and how it relates to larger charter reforms enacted in 2015. The author seems less than optimistic about the potential success of said reforms. Luckily, Chad is sunny and positive as always. (The 74 Million blog, 1/4/16)
     
  2. So, what’s going on with the legal wrangling holding up the first meeting of the new Academic Distress Commission in Youngstown? Not much. Well, more like legal maneuverings which look to the rest of us like “not much”. Who has/doesn’t have standing to object, why can’t the commission just meet while these things are being hammered out, and the old chestnut what is the definition of “teacher”. All these
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  1. Journalist Doug Livingston’s dogged investigation into the closed Next Frontier Academy charter school gave him two more bylines as 2015 came to a close. First up, two business owners who did construction/maintenance work on the building that housed Next Frontier are still owed money. (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/30/15). More oddly, a church moved into the building after Next Frontier closed its doors. And good old shoe leather work revealed that a small group of kids somehow connected to the church were attending online classes (via an e-school) elsewhere in the church building. This seems an odd set up (unless some information is unclear here) and worthy of further questioning. Enquiring minds want to know. (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/30/15)
     
  2. As the old year closed editors in Cleveland opined in favor of ODE’s new charter sponsor evaluation system. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/31/15) Editors in Akron opined similarly in regard to the sponsor evaluation system as the new year opened, but took their argument much further. (Akron Beacon Journal, 1/3/16)
     
  3. There’s so much to consider in this piece about interdistrict open enrollment in the Mansfield area that I hesitate to point out any of the specific
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  1. Everything about the Youngstown Plan may be stalled for the moment, but that can’t stop folks from writing about it. This, however, is decidedly a third-stringer/journalism student writing this confused comparison between what’s (supposed to be) going on in Youngstown and the ongoing transformation of education in Cleveland. The author appears to have little clear or objective information about either city. Call us next time, Matt. We’re always good for a quote. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/30/15)
     
  2. The Beacon Journal still has its ace reporter grinding axes even over the holidays. Case in point: this piece looking into the additional information provided by ODE to US Department of Education officials (and ace reporters) regarding the stalled Community School Program grant Ohio was awarded back in November. There is some detail provided on one Akron area charter school whose audit info was so shoddy it couldn’t be accurately reported to the feds (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/29/15), but the “questions” referenced in the lede appear to 1) be the reporter’s own and 2) boil down to the definition of “resolved”. I do love a reporter who’s willing to get into the weeds, but that headline though. (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/29/15)
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Spending time with nieces and nephews this holiday season—teenagers who are making decisions about where to go to college, what to study, and which vocations to pursue—has reminded me of just how lucky I am to have one of the best jobs in the world. On top of working with an amazingly talented, committed, and kind group of colleagues at the Fordham Institute, and in the larger world of education reform, I get paid to do what I love: write about big ideas. I am truly blessed.

As I look back on 2015, these are the blog posts, essays, and editorials that I think (hope?) will stand the test of time. Some of them are topical (the ones about ESEA reauthorization especially), but my favorites go after the tough, overarching issues: How can we stimulate upward mobility? How do we raise the college completion rate? Why are America’s test scores so mediocre?

For sure, I’ve made my share of mistakes this year. Here’s hoping I also got a few things right.

Happy New Year!

  1. The case against federal accountability mandates in education (January 26)
  2. Backfilling charter seats: A backhanded way to kill school autonomy (February 3)
  3. How Can Schools Address
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  1. Fordham Ohio is all over this wide-ranging piece on charter schools. It is the personal story of a Cleveland grandmother’s efforts to find the right academic fit for her granddaughter, it is 2015-in-review for statewide charter school policy, and it is a look ahead to charter accountability in 2016 and beyond. CREDO’s 2014 report on Ohio charter school performance, our blockbuster school closure report, Jamie Davies O’Leary’s blog post on Ohio’s past CSP grant winners, and an interview with Chad Aldis are all quoted extensively in the piece, along with several charter critics. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 12/24/15)
     
  2. Speaking of Fordham’s blockbuster school closure report, this fascinating opinion piece from a former classroom teacher quotes said blockbuster school closure report while discussing the stormy relationship between teachers unions and charter schools nationwide. (California Political Review, 12/22/15)
  3. Governor Kasich popped back home last week to sign a passel of bills into law. One of those was a “clean up” of some provisions passed in last year’s state budget. Among other things, the new bill corrected budget language which erroneously delayed access to vouchers for students in three suburban Cleveland private schools.  Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/24/15)
     
  4. Also last
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