Ohio Policy

We look back at an important two weeks in Ohio charter school policy

This fall, the editorial boards of two of Ohio’s most widely read newspapers issued stinging missives urging legislators to make sweeping changes to the state’s charter school law. In September, the Plain Dealer opined that lawmakers should “work together on a bill to improve charter schools.” One month later, in light of revelations about a questionable charter-facilities deal, the Columbus Dispatch argued that charter reform “should address questionable lease deals along with other loopholes, conflicts and oversights in Ohio’s...

It’s been a busy month in the world of Ohio charter schools.

First, on December 9, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a report on Charter School Performance in Ohio, supported by Fordham-Ohio. Using test data from 2007–08 through 2012–13, CREDO concluded that Buckeye charters produce mediocre results that haven’t improved much in recent years. In fact, the low academic performance of Ohio charter students is estimated to be the equivalent of fourteen fewer days of learning in reading and forty-three fewer days in math each year compared to traditional district students. Our summary...

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice recently released the latest in its School Survey Series—this installment features data compiled on Ohio’s private schools. Because private schools are less regulated than public schools, there’s a dearth of information available. What does exist is largely demographic in nature or the result of surveys voluntarily completed by school leaders. The Friedman report uses a combination of data from the U.S. Department of Education (survey) and the Ohio Department of Education (demographic), most of it presented in terms of percentages. While there are some differences between the two sets of numbers, no...

The 2014 version of the State Teacher Policy Yearbook from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) focuses heavily on the “critical issue” of teacher preparation. And in the glare of that spotlight, NCTQ finds that, while the average state grade for teacher preparation policies has improved from a D in 2011 to a C in 2014, there is still far more work to be done to ensure that new teachers are prepared to help students meet the demands of college and career-ready standards. Three states—Florida, Indiana, and Rhode Island—are ahead of the pack and earned grades of B+. Two...

  • Cheers to proper investigative journalism. By which I mean journalists digging deep to investigate a question to which they don’t have an answer at the start. Alison Matas and Kelli Young of the Canton Repository did just that to produce a story on the most private of private schools in Ohio. These entities – prosaically dubbed nonpublic, non-tax-supported schools – are not well-known to the general public, and the reporters did a fantastic job of finding, interviewing, and interpreting the comments of the leaders of the ultimate opt-out “schools” operating in Stark County. Their follow-up piece looking at
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Over 120,000 charter students in Ohio deserve the opportunity to receive an excellent education. But far too often, Ohio charters have produced mediocre results. In the most extensive evaluation of Ohio charters to date, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) recently found that Ohio charter-school students, on average, make less academic progress than their district counterparts.

Part of the problem has been Ohio’s incoherent charter-school law—a law that has too often failed to put students’ best interests first. Instead, in too many ways, it has protected powerful vested interests, smothered schools with red tape, starved even the best schools, and tolerated academic mediocrity.

But fixing Ohio’s charter law is no easy task. The law itself is roughly 40,000 words and has been amended nineteen times since its enactment in 1997. It contains many peculiar exceptions, loopholes, and restrictions.

Policymakers must know exactly what needs to be repaired and how best to make the fix. Authored by Bellwether Education Partners, a national education-consulting group, this report offers ten policy recommendations that, if implemented, will lead to stronger charter policy in Ohio.

These recommendations pivot around three central objectives that policymakers must focus on in a charter-reform bill:

  • Define governing relationships: Currently, Ohio charter law too vaguely defines the powers and responsibilities of each actor in the
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Charter schools are quickly becoming a defining feature of Ohio’s public-education landscape, educating over 120,000 children statewide. The “theory of action” behind charters is fairly simple. Empower parents with choice, give schools greater freedom, and hold schools accountable to a contract—and higher student achievement, more innovation, and stronger parental engagement will follow.

But how does theory stack up against reality? Are Ohio charters actually producing better results than their district counterparts? One way to answer this question is by analyzing student achievement data, and since 1999, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has been the nation’s foremost independent evaluator of charter-school performance.  

In the most comprehensive analysis of Ohio charter school performance to date, CREDO looks at student test-result data from 2007-08 to 2012-13 to evaluate the academic impact of Ohio charters. 

The 2014 Fordham Sponsorship Annual Report is our opportunity to share the Fordham Foundation’s work as the sponsor of eleven schools serving 3,200 students, and our related policy work in Ohio and nationally. We are fortunate as an organization that our policy work benefits our sponsorship efforts; and, that our lessons from sponsorship inform our policy and advocacy strategies.

In the pages of this report, you will see that Fordham as a whole is committed to increasing the number of quality seats available to children - both as a policy and as a concrete goal within our portfolio of schools. We report candidly on the performance of our portfolio, our approach to sponsorship, and key policy publications from 2014. 

Next-generation learning models—“technology-enabled” education, if you will—are designed to personalize education in any way necessary to help students at all performance levels meet and exceed goals. As with any innovation introduced into American education, next-generation models have met resistance and in many cases have been either halted altogether or subsumed into the by-the-book system. In their new issue brief, Public Impact’s Shonaka Ellison and Gillian Locke argue that charter schools are the ideal place for next-generation learning models. Charter-school autonomies, inherent in their DNA, provide the best platform for tech-driven innovations like ability grouping, mastery-based promotion, student-paced learning, separation of administrative and instructional duties for teachers, and online learning. The researchers show these practices are carried out in various combinations at a number of charter schools around the country. No mention is made in the brief about solely online schooling, whose model would seem to be synonymous with much of the innovation described here but whose results have too often fallen short of expectations. In fact, having a building in which to attend school seems to be an unstated requirement for creating the type of next-generation models the authors examine. And while Khan Academy and ASSISTments can extend the school day into the home, building a brick box just so students can come inside and use these tools inside seems somehow less than innovative. But the use of technology also requires the hard work of quality implementation. “Positive student results heavily depend on quality implementation,” the authors note. They make...

These days, the words “Massachusetts standards” cause hearts to flutter among some in Ohio. And not without reason. The Bay State had solid pre-Common Core academic-content standards. But less known is how demanding Massachusetts set its performance standards—the cut-score for achieving “proficiency” on its state tests. This bold action bucked the No Child Left Behind trend, whereby many states, including Ohio, set dismal performance standards. (Under NCLB, states were allowed to set their own bar for “proficiency.”) In this new study, we see just how high Massachusetts set its performance standard relative to other states. To rate the “stringency” of state performance standards, Gary Phillips of AIR created a common scale by linking state NAEP results from 2011 to international tests. Looking at fourth-grade math and reading, Massachusetts had the most stringent performance standards in the land. And in eighth grade, Massachusetts tied with a few other states for the most-stringent standards. Meanwhile Ohio’s performance standards were woefully mediocre compared to other states. Importantly, the study also points out that higher performance standards also led to lower state-reported proficiency rates. Massachusetts, for example, reported roughly 40–55 percent proficient in these grades and subjects; in contrast, Ohio reported 70–85 percent proficient. But this doesn’t mean, of course, that Ohio students actually know more than Massachusetts students: The NAEP results—a standardized test given to a sample of students in all states—actually show the reverse. Higher “standards” are not just content standards—i.e., the expectations for what students should know at...

Always a hot topic for debate, charter school issues—especially those involving funding—are hotter than usual.

Let’s start at the national level, which we can see in the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ new report The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: A State-By-State Analysis. NAPCS reports on twenty-five states and the District of Columbia, assessing the overall “health of the movement” by focusing on eleven indicators, including student-enrollment growth, innovation, and academic quality. Washington, D.C.’s and Louisiana’s charter schools come out on top, in part because of equitable funding for charters compared to district schools. Oregon and Nevada finish last for a number of reasons, not least of which being poor learning gains. Ohio finished in the middle of the pack, getting high marks for charter growth but struggling with student achievement.

The state of New York ranked fifth in the NAPCS analysis, just ten points behind Louisiana, but has experienced some well-publicized tussles over charter school issues in recent months, including a lawsuit filed by a group supportive of charter schools alleging that New York’s method of funding charter schools violates the state constitution and disproportionately hurts minority students. Buckeye state officials should keep an eye on this case, as Ohio charter school students receive similarly disparate funding.

As reported elsewhere in this issue, funding of charter schools is being debated in Fordham’s home state of Ohio as well. The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools has issued their analysis of recently released Ohio report...

With any luck, the “Know Your Charter” website from Innovation Ohio (IO) and the Ohio Education Association (OEA) will go the way of Pets.com and Geocities.com. The new website’s stated aim is to increase the transparency around charter-school spending and academic results by comparing them to traditional public schools. While greater transparency is a worthwhile goal, it looks like Innovation Ohio—a liberal advocacy group founded by former Strickland administration officials—and the Ohio Education Association (OEA)—the state-level affiliate for the nation’s largest labor union—let political spin get in the way of presenting information in a meaningful way.

The website misinforms the public by failing to report essential information about public schools, calling into question how much the website actually helps anyone “know” anything. In particular, Innovation Ohio (IO) and the OEA make the following crucial omissions in reporting basic school information:

1.) They ignore district funding from local property taxes. You’ll notice that the IO-OEA website reports only state per-pupil revenue for districts and public-charter schools. But remember, school districts are funded jointly through state and local revenue sources.[1] By reporting only state revenue, they flagrantly disregard the fact that school districts raise, on average, roughly half their revenue through local taxes (mainly property). Meanwhile, charters, with only a few exceptions in Cleveland, do not receive a single penny of local revenue, which leads to funding inequity between district and charter schools. When local, state, and federal revenue sources are combined, recent research from...

On September 12th, Ohio released school report-card ratings for the 2013-14 school year. This report compiles and analyzes the statewide data, with special attention given to the quality of public schools in the Ohio Big Eight urban areas: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown (both district and charter school sectors). Using the state’s key report-card measures, the performance-index and value-added ratings, we assess the overall quality of each public school receiving these ratings in these areas—and calculate the number of students in high-quality seats in each area.

The key findings:

  • There are too few high-quality seats in Ohio’s urban areas. On average, just 16 percent of public-school seats—including both district and charter—were high-quality in the Big Eight. In contrast, 36 percent of public-school seats were low-quality.
  • High-quality seats by sector: A higher proportion of charter seats were high quality (22 percent) compared to district seats (13 percent) in the Big Eight urban areas.
  • Low-quality seats by sector: A slightly lower proportion of charter seats were low quality (32 percent) compared to district seats (38 percent) in the Big Eight urban areas.

There is also variation in the performance of the charter-school sectors across the Big Eight. The charter sectors in Cleveland and Columbus had considerably higher proportions of high-quality seats than the district-run schools located in those cities. In Cleveland, 28 percent of charter seats were high quality, compared to just 12 percent in the district. Meanwhile, in Columbus, 32 percent of charter seats were high...

Yitz Frank

Earlier this year, two articles published in the Columbus Dispatch claimed that students using vouchers to attend private schools in Ohio perform worse than their peers attending public schools. The focus of the March 8 article and the subsequent March 16 editorial was on extending the third grade reading guarantee to students using vouchers (a measure eventually signed into law). In an effort to bolster this argument, the article referenced data suggesting that 36 percent of third-grade voucher students would be retained compared to only 34 percent of public school students. Other articles in the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Canton Repository made similar comparisons that negatively portrayed the performance of students using an EdChoice Scholarship. However, Test Comparison Summary data released this week by the Ohio Department of Education shows a very different picture of how voucher students are performing. The key is using the right comparison group.

The data used in the articles referenced above incorrectly grouped the results of all public school students in the state, including many affluent public schools, and then compared their results with those of voucher students. However, these scholarships are not available to all students. Students are only eligible for a traditional EdChoice Scholarship if they attended or otherwise would be assigned to a “low-performing” public school. Many such schools are located in Ohio’s less-affluent urban areas. Accordingly, the most accurate comparison is to examine the test results of students receiving EdChoice vouchers with the...

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