Additional Topics

  1. After last week’s presentation by ODE to the current Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, more details are emerging on what the future CEO-led district might look like. The prime question in this piece is whether the elected school board will be retained and what it’s duties might be. (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/2/15)
     
  2. It is clear that folks in Lorain – the only other Ohio school district currently under the aegis of an old-style Academic Distress Commission – are looking warily at Youngstown for a glimpse of their possible future. This weird hybrid opinion piece/fact roundup is equal parts hope (“The district is pinning its hopes in Dr. Jeff Graham, who started Aug. 1 as the new Lorain City Schools superintendent.”) and propaganda (“We can’t think of anyone who would want to see Lorain Schools viewed in the same light as the struggling Youngstown City School District…”). But its authors are oddly optimistic about their own chances of avoiding state takeover (“We support any and all efforts to re-energize the struggling Lorain Schools.”) while simultaneously jumping the gun and erroneously reporting that Youngstown’s elected school board has already been disbanded. Almost as if the piece was written by a divided
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Today is the textbook definition of a “slow news day” here in Ohio, but maybe that will help us parse the few interesting stories we have a little more deeply. Of interesting note: all of today’s stories are about school choice, from very different perspectives.
 
  1. First up, we’re talking about an “oldie but goodie” in the school choice pantheon – vocational education – from the perspective of an avid purveyor of educational options. This is a guest column by the President/CEO of Great Oaks Career Campuses in Southwest Ohio, extolling the virtues of career tech education in the 21st century. This is not your father’s shop class, and the Pres seems a fine advocate for the benefits of CTE for Ohio students. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/29/15)
     
  2. Second is a relative newcomer to the school choice world – virtual schooling – from a perspective that one might call “opportunistic”, if one were feeling uncharitable. Garaway Schools in eastern Ohio has created a new virtual school in order to stem the flow of money/students from their district to online charter schools; oh, and to give students the flexibility they need to blah blah blah. It is about the district losing less
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  1. An excellent article from an unlikely source. Here’s a look at the status of Cleveland’s school turnaround plan from the perspective of a business publication. While the district CEO speaks the usual ed reform language of “let’s stop bickering over ‘turf’ and ‘ownership of kids’,” the business analysts cut through the rhetoric with this: There are over 2,750 students enrolled in mid-performing charter schools currently unaffiliated with the district. This is a “significant opportunity” for the district to align itself with some of the most promising schools, nudge them into the next category, and so move closer to the plan’s goal of tripling the number of kids in high-performing schools. The only question for them is how to seal the deal. (Crain’s Cleveland Business, 7/26/15)
     
  2. As if they have a recurring event on their Google calendar, editors in Cleveland once again opined in outrage that charter law reform remains stalled in the General Assembly. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/28/15)
     
  3. From outrage to barely contained glee: no new charter schools are slated to open in Toledo in the 2015-16 school year. And no, that’s not an op-ed. (Toledo Blade, 7/29/15)
     
  4. The current Academic Distress Commission in
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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) undoubtedly increased the federal footprint in education. As Congress debates how to rewrite the law, a new analysis from Bellwether Education Partners couldn’t be timelier.

The report starts with a look at the history of federal involvement in K–12 education and how NCLB tilted the balance of power toward Uncle Sam. Although NCLB started as a bipartisan bill with broad support, critics multiplied as the deadline for universal proficiency approached, interventions for low-performing schools mounted, and conditional waivers from the law were granted by the Department of Education. Among its shortfalls, NCLB included “over-prescriptive” provisions that mandate how a state education system should be run and a misguided one-size-fits-all approach.

But the law wasn’t all bad. Evidence suggests that NCLB’s accountability measures were effective in improving schools and student performance. These improvements were particularly evident among black and Hispanic students. The authors of this report applaud a requirement that states break down testing data into disadvantaged subgroups, thereby shining a light on students who are most at risk.

So how can policymakers keep the good (transparency and accountability) while ditching the bad (micromanagement)? The Bellwether analysts turn to the charter concept and argue...

  1. The California “similar students” measure of achievement – as proposed for charter schools in the currently-stalled House Bill 2 – gets another bashing in the media. Our own Aaron Churchill is quoted here, in favor of sticking with value added measures. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/25/15)
     
  2. Like it or not, Ohio is living in a “post-5-of-8 world”. The state board of education earlier this year removed a decades-old support staffing requirement for districts. Instead of mandating specific numbers of librarians, art and music teachers, and counselors based on student population, districts can now decide their staffing needs on their own. It’s probably a bit too soon to tell for sure, but the media says that either the sky is already falling (librarians are going the way of the printed book, says the Columbus Dispatch, 7/27/15)….or it’s not (art and music teachers seem safe…for now, says the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, 7/26/15).
     
  3. As you all may know, Ohio’s Straight A Fund survived the state budget process, but at a level much reduced from the last biennium. The governing board of the fund – designed to reward educational innovation – was last week mulling how best to proceed and get
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  1. The state legislature is largely adjourned for the summer, but that’s not stopping folks who are interested in the issue of charter schools from reporting and opining about legislation left on the table. You can read about the opining below, but here are two pieces of journalism to start with. First up is a look at what is called the California "Similar Students" measure of school performance, essentially a replacement for value-added measures, which is proposed in the currently-stalled House Bill 2. The piece links to Ohio Gadfly Daily posts by our own Aaron Churchill and guest blogger Vladimir Kogan of Ohio State University, both denouncing the proposed switch. Kogan calls the California Model “the poor-man’s value-added.” Yowch. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/22/15)  But the PD’s Patrick O’Donnell is a true journalist and wants to hear every side of the story. A companion piece to the above digs deep into the who and the why of the California “Similar Students” model push in Ohio. The model, supporters say, adjusts school evaluations based on percentages of students with disabilities, economic disadvantages, limited English proficiency, and students in their current school for less than one year. It is, they say, a
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It feels like we’ve been talking about charter sponsor evaluations and the Youngstown Plan for so long that there hasn’t been room to report on much else. Today, we leave both of those elephants back in their rooms and look at what else is happening in education news…at least in the northern part of Ohio:

  1. What’s a school district to do when it surveys the community and gets double the number of expected responses? Ask for even more. That is the situation in Orange City Schools in Pepper Pike, Ohio. While they were pleased with the large response, they felt that a broader segment of the community was not represented, specifically families of color, senior citizens, and private school families who many never have even stepped foot into an Orange district school. And they are going all out to engage those folks because “a healthy school system contributes to a healthy community”. For everyone. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/21/15)
  2. Here’s another interesting story about school districts with shrinking enrollment numbers. It seems to be
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I had an economics professor in grad school who told us that every civilized household should use the most recent edition of the “Statistical Abstract of the United States” as a coffee table book.

For one hundred thirty years, the “Stat Ab” has been was an annual federal publication packed to the rafters with data: page after page of data tables on every imaginable aspect of our lives—demographics, jobs, transportation, health, agriculture, the military, and more.

When our class laughed at the idea of replacing a book of Ansel Adams’s photos with one that included “Table 925. Energy Supply and Disposition by Type of Fuel,” our professor excitedly (and without irony) replied, “But there’s just so much you can learn from these numbers!”

The same could be said of the “2015 Condition of Education” recently published by the National Center for Education Statistics. For years, Congress has required this federal agency to annually produce a report on the state of U.S. schools. If it were up to me, it would be mandatory professional development for everyone working in K–12 to spend ninety minutes with this report.

We should all stay up to speed with the...

  1. Following last week’s firestorm over its charter school sponsor review process, ODE on Friday rescinded all previously-announced sponsor rankings, including the “exemplary” rating earned by Fordham. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/17/15) This turn of events was also covered by the Beacon Journal, and included a quote from a blog post by our own Aaron Churchill on a different but related subject. To call the ABJ story “wide-ranging” would be an understatement. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/17/15)
     
  2. The fallout continued over the weekend as the leader of the school choice section of ODE resigned in the wake of the controversy over the sponsor review process. Coverage of the resignation was widespread and included the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/19/15), the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/20/15), and various other outlets via the Associated Press (Columbus Dispatch via AP, 7/19/15)
     
  3. Even before the resignation was announced, the editorializing had begun. First up, editors in Akron opined in favor of immediate investigation of ODE, preferably by the state auditor (I know) in regard to the sponsor review process. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/18/15). Same goes for editors in Cleveland, although they went ahead and updated their opinion in light
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  1. As we told you already, the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school sponsor review process came under fire in the State Board of Education earlier this week. The piling on has begun, but obviously when State Auditor Dave Yost (I know!) weighs in, folks listen. Fordham’s VP for Sponsorship Kathryn Mullen Upton is quoted in the Dispatch’s piece, stressing once again the importance of proper sponsor reviews: “ ‘We’ve got a real quality issue with charter schools in Ohio,’ she said. And sponsors play a role in that… ‘They’re the ones that can let a bad school go on indefinitely.’” Well said. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/15/15)
     
  2. Additional coverage of the sponsor review brouhaha can be found in various outlets via the Associated Press (AP, 7/16/15), the Beacon Journal (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/16/15), and the Plain Dealer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/16/15)
     
  3. The Dispatch also touches on the charter sponsor review situation while opining – again – in favor of swift charter law reform. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/17/15)
     
  4. I’m not sure whether this qualifies as irony or satire, but teachers at three charter schools in Youngstown voted to unionize this week. Yep. That should take
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