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The charter school sector in the United States encompasses forty-two states and the District of Columbia, with 6,400 charter schools serving 2.5 million students. More than 1,000 authorizing entities oversee these schools, working under state laws that (ideally) balance the twin goals of school autonomy and accountability for results. This report, produced by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), examines the quality of those laws. NACSA has identified eight policies that facilitate the development of effective charters, including performance management and replication, default closures, and authorizer sanctions. States are awarded points based on the strength of each of these policies in their charter school laws. Since each state has a unique charter-authorizing landscape, NACSA has divided the states into three groups based on their similarities and then ranked states within each group. The groups are: 1) district authorizing states, 2) states with many authorizers, and 3) states with few authorizers. Ohio—with its 70 authorizers—was placed in group two along with four other states (Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, and Michigan). NACSA awarded Ohio a score of 18/27, enough to tie for third in its group (along with Missouri). While Ohio earned top marks for its default closure policies and its (relatively new) authorizer sanctions, it received zero points for its charter-renewal standards. More specifically, current law allows “reasonable progress” to be sufficient evidence for an authorizer to renew a charter. This low standard is particularly worrisome given Ohio charter schools’ “documented history of poor performance.” The report also notes...

Cheers to Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy, an early college high school which draws students from nearly a dozen districts in its region. The school is prepping to move into a new, larger facility next school year, and is looking to recruit around one hundred new students to help fill it. This is another example of an education option that doesn’t have to divide a community. Instead, all districts with kids in the school can be proud of their students earning college credits while being challenged with a strong STEM curriculum.

Jeers to seemingly unquenchable bias in education reporting.  What do you call a charter school that manages to tick every box in the “wow” column (inner-city location, focus on special-needs students, strong arts program, dazzling tech component, on-target for enrollment, leader with solid school-district credibility, fiscally sound, sponsored by the state, managed by a local nonprofit)? If you’re not biased against charter schools, you call it awesome. If you are, then you call it a product of “divine intervention,” reducing to insignificance the hard work of the dozens of dedicated professionals who created and run it every day.

Cheers to Sciotoville Community School senior Taylor Appling, one of six Scioto County winners of the Honda/OSU Partnership Math Medal Award. Fordham sponsors SCS, and so we applaud Taylor, his teachers, and his school administrators.

Jeers to the persistence of an archaic school transportation model in Ohio. Amid reports of continuing bus driver shortages in Dayton City...

It’s a busy day here at Fordham Columbus, so Gadfly Bites will be brief today. Expect a bumper issue tomorrow, in which we ourselves hope to feature prominently.

  1. The other big news of the day is the fact that the state Board of Education is likely going to vote on the so-called “5 of 8” rule. Yesterday saw some testimony and discussion, which focused on a revised version of the rule which will be submitted to Ohio’s rule-review body if approved by the board today. Here is coverage from the Columbus Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer (which includes what I think is the first hashtag in a headline I’ve ever clipped, in case you’re wondering what’s driving this debate), and the Cleveland Plain Dealer (which includes the text of a resolution passed by Cleveland City Council of all people, urging more time for public input on the issue). Crazy times in Ohio indeed.
     
  2. As if the above pieces (and the others statewide) weren’t enough, editors in Cleveland decided to opine on the “5 of 8” rule as well, urging the board to leave it as is for the sake of poor school districts across the state. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. In other news, a local reporter in Marion has decided to take a look at Common Core implementation from an unusual angle for an adult: a desk in a third-grade classroom. That’s right, she’s gone “back to school” to see what an elementary classroom
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If you stop and listen, you can hear it: The country yearning, praying, hoping for some sign that our political leaders can get their acts together and get something done, something constructive that will solve real problems and move the country forward again. In 2001, in the wake of 9/11, that something was the No Child Left Behind Act, which was the umpteenth renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). A reauthorization of the ESEA (on its fiftieth anniversary no less) could play the same role again: showing America that bipartisan governance is possible, even in Washington.

Thankfully, both incoming chairmen of the relevant Senate and House committees—Lamar Alexander and John Kline—have indicated that passing an ESEA reauthorization is job number one. And friends in the Obama administration tell me that Secretary Duncan is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work on something the president could sign. So far, so good.

So what should a new ESEA entail? And could it both pass Congress and be signed by President Obama? Let me take a crack at something that could.

First, let’s set the context. For at least six years, we at the Fordham Institute have talked about “reform realism” in the context of federal education policy—recommending that Washington’s posture should be reform-minded, but also realistic about what can be accomplished from the shores of the Potomac (and cognizant of how easy it is for good intentions to go awry). While Secretary Duncan gave...

UVA RAPE STORY CONTINUES
In the wake of growing doubt over the authenticity of certain claims lodged in Rolling Stone’s article about campus sexual assault at the University of Virginia, as well as the magazine’s recent acknowledgement that it had “misplaced” its trust in the subject of the piece, national organizations have issued a call for the university to end its sanctions on fraternities and sororities.

PHONING IT IN
Charter authorizers in Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts are using a creative new tactic to test the enrollment strategies of their schools. To ensure that schools are not unfairly turning away special needs students, anonymous callers posing as parents are testing the system. The program is in response to fears that publicly-funded, independently run charters may turn away these students to maintain higher test scores. But the “mystery caller” approach also has its detractors. Last month, Fordham’s own Andy Smarick said that it “could verge on entrapment and/or discourage schools from providing the best advice to families.”

BECAUSE FOUR YEARS OF COLLEGE IS PLENTY
Colleges in North Carolina, Texas, Florida, and Virginia are re-evaluating strategies to ensure students graduate in four years. By capping credit hours at 120 and charging for additional hours taken, students and institutions save money and prevent others from accessing classes needed to graduate. Most students rack up additional courses because they change majors or enroll in “interesting” but not mandatory classes; allowing students to register for multiple semesters at one...

  1. How complicated is school funding in Ohio? According to the legal arguments in this state Supreme Court case pitting a group of local taxpayers vs. their Cincinnati-area school district, very complicated. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. How complicated is verifying student data in Ohio? According to the conflicting responses to a fairly simple question about superintendent sign-offs across the state, very complicated. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Speaking of school funding, last week there was a flurry of stories about a new study (of oddly mysterious provenance) which showed that students in rural areas around the state had less access to AP classes than their urban and suburban counterparts. This was attributed mainly to funding disparities between rich and poor local tax bases. The Vindicator takes on the same study today (with even less detail about where it comes from), but focuses straight-up on the DeRolph rulings of two decades ago and that good old “thorough and efficient” bugbear. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  4. CRPE last week released the results of a survey of “public school choice” parents in a number of cities, including Cleveland. The PD took up the story and focused on affect: more of the surveyed parents in Cleveland believe their schools are getting worse than believe they are improving. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. The Beacon Journal also took a look at CRPE’s report and noted, with their usual doggedness, that 83 percent of the Cleveland parents surveyed sent their children to charter schools. Now, it makes sense in
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BUILDING A BETTER MATH GEEK
Researchers from the Indiana University School of Education are studying what attracts students to STEM fields and, moreover, what keeps them there. While they haven't found a single compelling factor that will predict whether a student will pursue a STEM route, interest and passion have the most staying power and are more often linked with obtaining a STEM degree.

MIND THE GAP
A new report by the New America Foundation helps policy makers visualize where educational inequities exist in communities across the country. The report highlights the deeply fragmented efforts to bridge opportunity gaps, such as building high-quality child care centers and increasing enrollment in distance-learning education programs.

EDUCATION'S WASTED ON THE YOUNG
The United States Census has released new information on how young adults have changed over the last four decades. The report, which features an interactive mapping tool, found that a higher number of young adults now hold a college degree but are more likely to be unemployed and living in poverty. And while today’s bullish jobs report might come as a relief to observers of the economy, those negative trends will take time and work to turn around.

NUTMEG POWER
Earlier this week, an estimated 6,000 Connecticut parents, educators, and advocates gathered in New Haven to rally for better schools. Led by a number of education advocacy groups, the event was meant as a call to action to improve the state’s public and...

  1. School Choice Ohio’s Executive Director Matt Cox penned a terrific editorial piece that ran in the Enquirer today, focusing on the little-reported financial aspects of voucher use in Ohio. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Here’s a fantastic story about the I Know I Can program, whose long-time efforts to link Columbus high school students to college could take a huge leap forward if they achieve their goal of putting a college adviser in every district high school. Laudatory and awesome, but let’s not forget about charter and career tech high schools too!  (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. We told you yesterday about the status of Columbus’ parent-trigger pilot – in two months, not a single parent has reached out to the group charged with providing information on options in 20 bottom-of-the-barrel district schools. There was a lot of speculation in that piece as to why this is, and today Dispatch editors put forward their own opinion on the matter.
     
  4. As we mentioned yesterday, charter schools are often criticized for “slick advertising” and “recruiting”, especially when they use state funds to do so. The argument is that school districts can’t do the same. We showed that early college high schools can do it (not charter schools, yes, but not traditional districts either). Today, we see that districts can do it too. Strongsville schools have a PR firm on retainer. Why? The board wants to reach Strongsville residents with a positive message about the schools. Well duh. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
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HOOSIER HAVOC
Following several years of inter-governmental conflict over the direction of education policy in Indiana, Governor Mike Pence has formally called for state lawmakers to elect a replacement for Board of Education Chairwoman Glenda Ritz. “I think the coming legislative session should be (an) education session and we should focus on our kids and teachers and what’s happening in our classrooms in Indiana,” Pence remarked in his announcement. 

THE STUDENT ACHIEMENT METRICS ARE ALWAYS GREENER
Education reformers often find inspiration in the education systems of other countries. However, Dr. Tom Loveless reveals the potential perils in this practice; namely, the trickiness of identifying variables that translate across borders and the dangers of confirmation bias. While these overseas investigations often yield new insights, its important that we be careful in choosing what we take away.

NEW TESTING STIRS DOUBTS IN CALIFORNIA
The 2014–2015 school year marks the first year that the new Common Core- aligned Smarter Balanced tests will be administered to students across the country. Some experts are concerned that the recalibrated Academic Performance Index, which...

  1. With about three weeks until the deadline, not a single Columbus parent has contacted the group responsible for providing information on “parent trigger” options available to them. The Dispatch is attempting to figure out why. There’s a bit of finger pointing and probably too much “us vs. them” here, but the comments are instructive of how choice in general has historically (dis)functioned around here. Check it out and see what you think. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. There’s an undercurrent of “us vs. them” in this piece too. It’s an update on the so-called “5 of 8 rule” under consideration for elimination by the State Board of Education. The story dredges up some previous “us vs. them” stuff from Toledo school history, but I have to say I’m with the small-district supe who supports the elimination of the rule in favor of districts determining their own staffing ratios. He knows that the very real backlash stems from a question of trust between districts and their teachers. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. A continued bus driver shortage in Dayton City Schools has left routes uncovered, caused kids to be regularly late to school, and made at least one parent pretty upset. I’m imagining that charter school parents in Dayton are having an even rougher time. Can we please find some better way to do school transportation? (Dayton Daily News)
     
  4. Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy – an early college high school which draws from nearly a dozen districts – is on
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