Additional Topics

  1. Before we get to the action from this week’s state board of education meeting, let’s take a look at a pretty important Ohio Supreme Court ruling in the case of Hope Academy Broadway Campus v. White Hat Management which came down yesterday morning. We’ve discussed this one before and you can find a concise summary here, but outside of the legal arena the story goes like this: charter school opponents think of it as a referendum on the fundamental structure of charter school sponsors/operators/boards while charter school supporters – and a majority of supreme court justices, it appears – think of it as fundamentally a case of contract law with a public-funding twist. The court’s decision swung toward the latter, ruling in favor of the management company. Our own Chad Aldis (J.D.) is quoted in two stories in regard to the contractual issues in the case. One from the ABJ (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/15/15) and one from Ohio public radio (WKSU-FM, Kent, 9/15/15). Here’s hoping the term “judicial gymnastics” doesn’t conjure up any weird images for you. And if you’re interested in coverage of the ruling without Chad or that term, you can check out Gongwer.
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  1. Chad is quoted in this piece looking at improvements in passage rates on reading tests for third graders in central Ohio school districts. Without exception, fewer third graders are being held back in reading in these districts due to poor scores on tests. Chad warns, however, of the possible downward creep of not only test quality but also scores regarded as passing. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/15)
  2. School funding in Ohio is complex and not well-understood by most folks. The last couple of weeks have seen analyses – along with resultant news coverage – of charter school funding by both opponents and supporters of charter schools. Neither side can agree on which way to look at it. Case in point, this guest commentary from a charter school supporter published this weekend in the Enquirer, from the weekend, responding to an article on the subject published last week. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/13/15)
  3. There’s a state board of education meeting today and tomorrow here in Columbus. Journalists across the state are hoping for some fireworks relating to the rescinded charter school sponsor ratings from earlier this year. They have been prepping this weekend. First up, the PD appears to have
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  1. Our own Aaron Churchill was among the panelists for a surprisingly-cordial discussion of charter schools in Ohio held in Dayton earlier this week. In discussion of the charter reform bill still pending in the legislature, Aaron said, “I think (the bill) tried not to impinge on charter schools’ autonomy and their ability to be flexible and nimble — some of those very benefits that we think are inherent in the charter school model.” Nice. (Dayton Daily News, others, 9/10/15)
  2. Speaking of that stalled charter reform bill, editors in Cleveland got their Google calendar alert and opined, again, urging the legislature to pass that bill as soon as they return from summer recess. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/9/15)
  3. Speaking of op-eds, here are two on the rescinded charter sponsor ratings (well, mainly just on the process of it) at the Ohio Department of Education. Editors in Columbus mainly just put their own sheen on the information made public so far but finally opine in favor of the state board of education keeping “a close eye” on the next round of sponsor ratings. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/11/15) Editors in Canton simply opine in favor of the state supe’s
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Lisa Hansel

“Programmatic series of studies”—that’s how one of my psychology professors described research on learning and memory around twenty years ago. Do a study, tweak it, try again. Persist.

I was reminded of that while reading this new volume by Tony Bryk and colleagues. After thirty years of constant reform and little improvement, it’s clear that there’s a fundamental flaw in how the education field goes about effecting change. Quick fixes, sweeping transformations, and mandates aren’t working. Ongoing professional development isn’t working either.

What might work much better is a sustained, systemic commitment to improvement—and a willingness to start with a series of small pilots instead of leaping into large-scale implementation. Guided by “improvement science” pioneered in the medical field, Learning to Improve shows how education could finally stop its reform churn. As Bryk et al. write:

All activity in improvement science is disciplined by three deceptively simple questions:

  1. What specifically are we trying to accomplish?

  2. What change might we introduce and why?

  3. How will we know that a change is actually an improvement?...

A set of general principles guides the approach: (1) wherever possible, learn quickly and cheaply;...

  1. Gadfly Bites is back on the beat after a long Labor Day break. Let’s cast our net back to last week, in the wake of the Ohio Department of Education’s release of 10,000 pages of emails and attachments (!) in regard to the withdrawn charter sponsor evaluations from earlier this year. It is unclear whether this piece from the Enquirer is opinion or journalism on the part of the cadre of authors, despite being tagged as the latter. What I do know is that our own Chad Aldis is quoted here, with two items standing out. First, he says, “Charter schools have gotten a lot of bad press over the last couple of years.” Truer words have rarely been spoken. And much of that bad press has been warranted. Also true, and likely more important in the context of this particular journalism/opinion piece: “Pointing fingers doesn’t get us one step closer to providing a better charter-school experience for our kids.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/6/15) Other Gannett outlets also ran this piece.
  2. Here’s another piece from last week, in the immediate aftermath of ODE’s release of its emails. It contains a frankly incomprehensible chart but really concerns the question
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When we surveyed more than eight hundred college students six years ago, we found that most of them were planning to leave the state after graduation. This was a startling finding—and, recognizing its implications, Ohio leaders have made a concerted effort to retain college graduates (see here for an example). Meanwhile the job market has improved since the nadir of the Great Recession, making the Buckeye State a more attractive location for young people.

But what do the statistics say about Ohio’s ability to retain college-educated young people? According to a new Manhattan Institute analysis, a growing number of them reside in Ohio’s urban areas—what the author calls a “brain gain.” To arrive at this finding, the study focuses on twenty-eight U.S. cities that lost population and/or jobs from 2000 to 2013. Five metropolitan areas in Ohio fit those criteria: Akron, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown. According to Census data, the number of college-educated young people—in the 25–34 age bracket and with at least a bachelor’s degree—increased in all five cities. Akron was the leader among Ohio cities with a 13 percent increase in college-educated young people, while Toledo was the laggard with an increase of just...

  1. Lots of charter school-related news today. First up, our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece about the status – and the process – of charter law reform in Ohio. “The most important thing is that we get this right," he says. Yup. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 9/3/15)
  2. Meanwhile, State Auditor Dave (with the most) Yost released a report yesterday detailing the results of a special audit of the operations of three charter school sponsors. The results, he said, “[highlight] the need for increased sponsor oversight of schools.” He also acknowledged that the sponsor-centric charter reform bill pending in the state legislature “is a step in the right direction to increase accountability and transparency in our broken system.” Yup again.  (Columbus Dispatch, 9/3/15)
  3. Sadly, the Auditor’s press conference got short shrift in the media due to the late-day release of tens of thousands of pages of emails and attachments from the Ohio Department of Education in regard to the flawed sponsor-rating efforts undertaken by the department earlier this year. If you are so inclined, you can check out initial coverage of the emails’ contents in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/3/15) and the Dispatch,
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The latest report from the Center for American Progress opens with a detailed effort to define the problem of truancy. The causes are myriad: Family duties and instability at home can pull students out, while bullying and zero-tolerance policies can push them in the same direction. Regardless of the reason, chronic absenteeism has consequences for students, schools, the economy, and society. The authors successfully identify the problem for readers who do not deal with it daily, as many educators do. The definition of truancy differs from state to state, while districts and schools have wide latitude to address absenteeism. Unfortunately, these factors have conspired to virtually require the development of “customized” approaches to addressing truancy when a common menu of solutions might lead to better outcomes. The report highlights successful efforts in California (defining “chronic truancy” for the first time in state law and tracking data on it statewide), Washington, D.C. (early warning and intervention program), New York City (improved data collection, incentivizing attendance), Baltimore (student-centered non-judicial “truancy court”), and Hartford (mentoring programs for students who trigger early absenteeism warnings). From there, the authors extrapolate a variety of policy recommendations applicable to the federal, state, or local levels: Develop...

  1. Proceeds from a new craft beer are earmarked to help support a cash-strapped high school band in rural central Ohio. The beer company CEO is an alum. Kudos to everyone involved and let’s hope that… Wait. What? (Columbus Dispatch, 9/2/15)
  2. It’s a tale of two online education programs in eastern central Ohio. First up, a profile of one teenage parent who got back on track for high school graduation and college thanks to district-run Newark Digital Academy and its staff. Says the student: “They are working to get you through school and won’t stop bugging you until you get it done.” Sounds about right. (Newark Advocate, 8/31/15) Meanwhile, the digital academy run by nearby Southwest Licking Schools is facing a student shortage. Judging by the well-meaning efforts to keep it operating, district officials see the value in it for the students they have, but if they don’t add at least five more students (up to 25) before September 15, the academy will receive no state funding for the month of October. And that would seriously test the resolve of the district to keep the program going. Why yes, this IS the same district using beer sales
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