Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. There is a new voucher bill on the horizon here in Ohio, looking to make some radical changes – some might say improvements – to the existing programs. First up with coverage was Patrick O’Donnell. In his initial summary of the impending proposal, he seems to focus on who might stand to benefit from the changes. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/17/17) In his second look, Patrick focuses more on proposed structural changes. Specifically, a provision that would allow families to save any of their unused K-12 voucher funds for college expenses. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/20/17) The view from Columbus was published yesterday. Although not written by a Dispatch staffer, it has more than a whiff of the typical skepticism. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/21/17) The view from the Statehouse was also published yesterday. In true Gongwer fashion, the reportage is calm and to-the-point. In fact, it is the only piece published thus far that uses the term “needs-based scholarship” (i.e. – what the new proposal mainly is). (Gongwer Ohio, 2/21/17)
     
  2. Meanwhile, as Ohio’s new graduation requirements inch ever closer to reality – study group recommendations notwithstanding – the state is gearing up to require (and to offer for
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  1. Mike Petrilli and Fordham are namechecked in this guest commentary about the role of the local chapter of The Exchange Club in boosting civics education in Dayton. Fascinating. (Dayton Daily News, 2/15/17)
     
  2. Your humble clips compiler will admit to knowing nothing at all about the ins and outs of what might be termed “protest culture.” Case in point: I was both surprised and baffled by both sides of the argument in this editorial from the Toledo Blade in which editors implore parents not to homeschool their kids as a means to “avoid dealing with” new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. That's a thing? (Toledo Blade, 2/16/17)
     
  3. We noted earlier this week that the state board of education heard from organized groups of district superintendents regarding flaws that they perceive in the state’s proposed new ESSA accountability plan. That theme continued yesterday as state supe Paolo DeMaria was questioned on same (and in a very similar manner) by legislators on the Joint Education Oversight Committee. (No, it’s pronounced “JAY-ock”.) (Gongwer Ohio, 2/16/17)
     
  4. Meanwhile, back in the real world, a veritable plethora of new security cameras was installed in Youngstown’s East High School this week.
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  1. The state board of education met this week and members heard testimony from a number of organized groups of superintendents on the state’s draft ESSA plan. Coverage was sparse. First up was a group of mostly-suburban districts from Northeast Ohio who said that the current version of the plan “ignores” public input and requested a rethink on certain items. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/13/17) What do they (and, by extension, “the public”) want instead? According to a whitepaper released along with their testimony, the they want fewer state tests, an end to A through F grades on state report cards, and changes to graduation requirements, among other things. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/14/17) Concurrently, a group of Akron-area superintendents opined upon the draft ESSA plan, with more (and more detailed) requests, including: keeping student subgroups at 30 (rather than the proposed drop to 15), not requiring the reporting of high school exam retakes for excused absences, and making wraparound services universal. (Akron Beacon Journal, 2/14/17)
     
  2. We have already noted that in his new biennial budget Governor Kasich has proposed requiring school boards to include 3 ex-officio members from the business community. As an extension of this new “business
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The recent unveiling of Governor Kasich’s budget plan for the 2018-19 fiscal years has kicked off Ohio’s biennial ritual of debating school funding. Caps and guarantees have long been a central part of that discussion, and it’ll be no different this spring. As I’ve argued before, state leaders should get rid of these pernicious policies.

To allocate state dollars to school districts, Ohio lawmakers have crafted an intricate funding formula designed to drive more aid to districts that need it most (e.g., those with more students to educate, more pupils with special needs, or less capacity to fund education locally). They’ve done a pretty decent job of it, too. Don’t just take our word for it: EdTrust has said Ohio is one of the best in the nation at it. Both caps and guarantees throw a wrench into this system.

Caps limit the increase in a district’s state formula aid from year to year. Conversely, a guarantee ensures that a district won’t receive less funding than it received in a previous year. Caps are generally associated with districts experiencing enrollment growth, while guarantees typically apply to districts with declining enrollment. Changes in district property values...

Ohio just released its draft ESSA plan. While there’s much to applaud, the state’s proposals for improving the most chronically underperforming schools are underwhelming—serving to further remind us that sixteen years after the federal government began pushing states to turn around failing schools, our ideas for doing so are still scattershot.

Compared to past federal requirements for school improvement, ESSA is turnaround-lite—intentionally backing away from prescriptive solutions regarding school turnarounds embedded in NCLB and the School Improvement Grant program (SIG). Schools failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under NCLB faced a series of consequences including replacement of school staff, new curriculum, decreased authority of school administration, help from outside turnaround specialists, or restructuring of the school. Restructuring (similar to the more rigorous options that SIG put in place) included alternative school governance, reopening the school as a public charter school, replacement of most or all of school staff and leadership, takeover by an outside entity, or state takeover.

In Ohio, hundreds of millions in SIG dollars were spent with little to show for it. Low-performing schools were allowed to choose from a slate of turnaround options in exchange for funds; unsurprisingly, the majority of Ohio...

  1. Fordham Ohio staffers were quoted in some out-of-the-way places over the weekend. First up, Chad was among those quoted – and our HB2 implementation report was cited as welll – in a Crain’s piece discussing the state of play with regard to charter schools in Ohio generally (and in Cleveland specifically). There are a lot of moving parts for the business-minded to grapple with and the piece does a good job of laying them out. (Crain’s Cleveland Business, 2/12/17)
     
  2. Indeed the sheer volume of information seems to have overwhelmed the reporter for the West Virginia newspaper who interviewed our own Jamie Davies O’Leary in regard to the history of charter schools in Ohio. But the reporter is to be commended for going big in her efforts to interview charter sector players in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland as well as from the National Association of Public Charter Schools for her piece. Kudos! (Clarksburg (WV) Exponent-Telegram, 2/12/17)
     
  3. We end a slow news day with some good news/bad news in terms of teacher contract negotiations across Ohio. The (tentative) good news comes from Cleveland, where a possible contract agreement may have been reached after 8 months of
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On February 2, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released the first draft of its state plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA, the year-old federal education law, is the successor to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). While many of ESSA’s accountability provisions are similar to those found in NCLB, a new requirement is for states to have an indicator of “school quality or student success” that goes beyond state standardized test scores or graduation rates.

Ohio’s plan proposes two measures that meet this requirement. The first measure, Prepared for Success, is a carryover from the state’s current report card. It uses multiple indicators to determine the number of students ready for college or career at the end of high school, and is exclusively used for districts and high schools. The second measure, on the other hand, will be used by all schools and districts: student engagement as measured by chronic absenteeism.

Although the threshold for being considered chronically absent depends on the state, the idea behind the term is the same—chronic absentees are students who miss too much school. In Ohio, these students are known as “habitual truants.” They earn this designation...

  1. With less than a month to go until a new CEO-style Academic Distress Commission comes to Lorain City Schools, one elected school board member has decided to reach out to the ACLU to see if a possible civil rights case may be an option to halt ADC implementation, as if he’s just hearing about this situation for the first time. So weird. Additionally, I am shocked at the number of folks quoted here (and in the online comments section) who cannot seem to think of anything else the district could have done to avoid an Academic Distress Commission before yesterday. Academic… Distress… (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/9/17)
     
  2. It seems that Jefferson Township Local Schools’ books are in such poor shape that even StateAuditor Man! can’t figure them out. Akin to Lorain, above, it appears that no one quoted here can think of any way this situation of unauditable books could have been avoided prior to yesterday. But boy do they sound committed to fixing it after the fact. (Dayton Daily News, 2/9/17)
     
  3. Finally, some good news. World-renowned violinist Vadim Gluzman made a small tour of some awesome charter schools in Columbus yesterday. According to Twitter,
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Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA) is preparing Cleveland middle schoolers for success in high school, college, and life—and not just academically. CLA, whose population is 79 percent economically disadvantaged and made up almost entirely of students of color, is second among all public schools in the city on student growth. The school’s eighth graders reach and surpass proficiency at a rate that is more than three times that of their peers across the city. Reading and math proficiency rates at CLA are more than double those of Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s.

No matter how you slice the data, CLA is providing academic preparation that would likely be unavailable to them if the schools—and its broader high-performing charter network (Breakthrough Schools)—did not exist. And yet its academic prowess is just the tip of the iceberg.

The school’s model—as captured in its name, Citizens Leadership Academy—prioritizes and cultivates broader attributes and mindsets necessary for long-term success. As you’ll read in this profile about one student, Keith Lazare Jr., CLA asks students to consider what it means to be active, engaged citizens and community members. Students are asked to grapple not...

  1. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger published an op ed this week in which he opines on the necessity and early efficacy of charter law reform in Ohio. For the latter, he cites our recent report looking at the early implementation of HB 2. Nice! (Washington Court House Record Herald, 2/7/17)
     
  2. Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy is on the grow! The non-district, non-charter, public STEM high school is expanding to middle school starting next year with a $13 million building project which is on time, under budget, and looking pretty darn cool. Check it out. (Springfield News Sun, 2/7/17)
     
  3. Dayton’s school board this week unanimously approved a new three-year contract for Superintendent Rhonda Corr, citing some important positives that occurred during her first year on the job. While the biggest ones – a better-than-expected state report card and removal of the threat of an Academic Distress Commission – admittedly happened on the watch of the previous supe, the board president hinted at some further good news on the horizon: “We’re really excited about some reports you’re going to receive, and feel that this community will become even more confident in us moving ahead…” Well, played, Mr.
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