Ohio Gadfly Daily

The big squeeze continues. Ohio’s charter sector shrinks again as reforms enacted in 2012 and 2015 are fully implemented. The Buckeye State will see a record-low number of new charter schools open this fall, a slow-down that persists for the third year in a row. Meanwhile, twenty-two schools shut at the end of the 2016-17 school year, the fourth highest number in Ohio’s almost twenty-year charter history. A handful of law changes essentially have accomplished what decades of “self-policing” among authorizers could not: Authorizers have been forced to act more judiciously when determining who should be allowed to start a school and what it takes to keep a school open.

While we are encouraged to see that Ohio’s charter sector has become more quality focused, contraction of the sector alone won’t deliver great options for kids who desperately need them. These numbers point to a worrisome lack of capacity in the state around launching new schools and replicating high-quality models—a situation that warrants attention and action. Let’s take a quick look at the data.

Closures

Twelve of the twenty-two charter schools that closed their doors this June were overseen by traditional public school districts. This provides further evidence that...

Last month, several urban Ohio school districts began sounding alarms over Ohio’s third-grade reading guarantee—a policy put in place several years ago that requires students who don’t reach reading proficiency by the end of grade three to be held back—fearful that a much larger number of their third graders won’t meet the requirements for promotion. The policy was put in place for good reasons; research shows that students who can’t read by third grade often fall behind in other skills, like writing, and are at a high risk of failure for the rest of their schooling careers. In addition, another brand-new research study found that retaining students can boost their high school readiness years later.

Here’s what’s happening: Students who fall short on Ohio’s state reading test can take and pass “alternative” assessments from national test vendors (e.g., NWEA MAP and Terra Nova) that in the past have been arguably easier than state tests (judging by the large number of students being promoted based upon passage of alternative tests). However, those test vendors recently set higher targets—and now an increasing number of students are missing the alternate bar. Yet rather than taking responsibility for Ohio’s youngest students’ dismal...

Somewhere between the right and the left – between the un-nuanced mantras of personal responsibility and big government – lie most of the problems related to poverty, as well as most of the solutions. So said Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in his opening remarks at a Columbus Metropolitan Club event in Columbus last week. He framed the discussion titled “On Poverty” by noting that putting both problems and possible solutions at the extreme end of either political ideology ignores reality and stymies understanding and effective action. Any successful effort to address poverty required individuals to leave their extreme positions and to meet somewhere between. Fordham was proud to co-sponsor the event with the hope that Vance’s new and increasingly important take on the topic would find room at the table for education issues as well.

And education quickly became key to the personal stories shared during the panel portion of the event. Vance referenced the now-familiar story of his own difficult upbringing in Middletown, Ohio, as detailed in his New York Times bestselling memoir. Cynthia Dungey, Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), was co-panelist, and her personal story provided both counterpoint and amplification of...

  1. Contract talks in Dayton resume today with some distance still between the two sides. Folks seem upbeat but it will be a long day today and probably Wednesday too, the only other scheduled bargaining day. In between – a school board meeting. Now THAT should be interesting either way. (Dayton Daily News, 8/6/17)
     
  2. Speaking of teachers, there are changes in the works for the state’s resident educator training program – a mentoring/support/development program for new teachers which escaped the budgetary chopping block a month or so ago. Kudos to the Ohio Department of Education for understanding that improvements were needed. Let’s hope that the results of said changes are properly analyzed down the road so as to make sure they are actual improvements. Your humble clips compiler has someone in mind for the gig should anyone be interested in a referral. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/4/17)
     
  3. The “disappointed” president of the Lorain school board has filed an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink data request with a bunch of folks involved in the selection process for the new district CEO. You can read about the request generally in the Morning Journal. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 8/4/17) You can read a from-the-horse’s-mouth
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  1. Contract negotiations between the teachers union and district administration resumed in Dayton yesterday after nearly two months off. Those negotiations were to begin with the two sides sitting in separate rooms. That way nothing could go wrong. Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 8/2/17) Clearly at least one of those rooms was not hermetically sealed, because this document of outstanding issues leaked out of one of them and into Jeremy Kelley’s eager hands. (Dayton Daily News, 8/2/17) How’d it go? That information leaked out too. Fortunate for Jeremy for sure. (Dayton Daily News, 8/3/17)
     
  2. Sir Ken Robinson flew across the pond and landed in Stark County this week, stirring up the editorial board of the Rep to opine against standardized testing. (Canton Repository, 8/3/17)
     
  3. Back in the real world, the district school bus transportation monopoly is being used as a weapon against families exercising school choice in North Ridgeville. Again. (Oh no he didn’t just write that!) There’s already a list of schools – mostly charters – to which the district deems it “impractical” to transport students. They are now adding to that list two private schools in Avon. That’ll show ‘em who’s boss.
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  1. Dayton school board members are not the only ones preparing for a possible teachers strike to start the school year: the union ratcheted up the tension to at least “triple dare” by voting this week to authorize a 10-day strike notice ahead of resumed contract negotiations. That means the deadline is August 11, leaving mere days before the start of school in the district get everyone’s tongues unstuck from the flagpole. (Dayton Daily News, 8/1/17) Not that this is related in any way, but the charter school STEAM Academy of Dayton began their school year today. Prolly got some spaces available in grades 1-8. Prolly not goin’ on strike on August 11 either. Just sayin’. (Dayton Daily News, 8/1/17)
     
  2. In Youngstown, Krish Mohip announced the formation of the CEO’s Citizen Coalition to help advise him in his work going forward. He was probably inspired to do so by the enthusiastic community turnout – the largest so far! – for his recent meetings on possibly changing high school mascots. At least something real will come of those meetings. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/31/17) Meanwhile, editors in Youngstown opined this week on Mohip’s choice of superintendent, what his selection
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Nestled within the General Assembly’s final budget plan as sent to Governor Kasich on June 28 was an under-the-radar provision that would have eliminated Ohio’s teacher residency program. This didn’t get a lot of coverage. Neither did Governor Kasich’s veto, which saved the program.

The limited coverage was likely a symptom of unfamiliarity: Unless you have direct contact with this program, you probably don’t know much about it. Yet the legislative change would have had a significant impact on the experiences of new Ohio teachers. Let’s examine what the residency program is and why the General Assembly should look to fix it rather than continue to seek its elimination.

Background

Back in 2009, Governor Ted Strickland’s education reform and funding plan proposed both a teacher residency program and a licensure ladder to ensure that only “top-quality” teachers would stand in front of Ohio pupils. In response, lawmakers created a residency program based on the idea that new teachers need robust support and training and that far too many schools were leaving their newbies to sink or swim.

Ohio now implements a ladder licensure system with an embedded residency program. In general, the licensure system...

  1. There is a new superintendent in Youngstown City Schools. In a surprise to almost no one, it is not one of the out-of-towners recommended by the school board. It is instead, the current interim supe, a district veteran. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/29/17)
     
  2. Speaking of school districts under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission, Lorain’s police chief continued his sudden and inexplicable opining against said ADC in the Morning Journal over the weekend. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 7/30/17) Back in the real world, here is a very very detailed discussion of the new Freshmen Academy in the Colossus of Lorain (a.k.a. – the schmancy new-ish high school), which it appears is so “huge” and “giant” that last year’s high school freshmen got lost in the shuffle. I must admit I can’t understand most of it, but I am assured by a trusted adviser that all of the plans described here are solid efforts to make sure they will be lost no more. Good luck to everyone! (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 7/30/17) Sounds like a similar story back in Youngstown, where supporting students with special needs is the focus of teacher development efforts and a new Multi-Tiered
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  1. Let’s start today with some statewide education news. To wit: this question. Is the state board of education ready for its close up? Let’s hope so because televised board meetings are coming soon to a modestly-watched Buckeye-centric sub-CSPAN basic cable channel near you very soon. The upside, however, is clear: it will be much easier for observers of their ridiculous shenanigans to observe and, perhaps, comment in public. Whoever that might me. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/27/17) A new statewide taskforce on educating students living in poverty met for the first time yesterday. You can read coverage of that meeting in the D if you want to, but I personally wouldn’t advise you to do so. It could lead to rage. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/27/17) Why might it lead to rage? Because according to the Gongwer coverage of same, it contained the quote which is our headline today, from an educator working in a town that I called home for a couple of years. And I was outraged. But that’s probably just me. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/27/17)
     
  2. Back in the real world, there was a surprising development out of this week’s Youngstown Board of Education
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Last month, the Center for Research on Educational Options (CREDO) at Stanford University released a new analysis of the performance of charter management networks, entities that may be engaged to oversee the day-to-day operations of a charter school. (See here for a short review of the report.) As in past CREDO studies, the results showed wide variations in performance depending on several indicators: network type, state, demographics, years spent in charters by pupils, etc.

Despite dozens of analyses and myriad ways to parse the CREDO data, most of the buzz around this study has focused on the analysis of network type, by profit status. Here are four takeaways that venture beyond the flashy headlines.

1) The for-profit versus non-profit discussion needs lots of nuance. CREDO’s comparison of charters based on the profit status of their operators snatched many of the headlines. This was unsurprising, given the current political milieu and much larger rifts within the charter coalition, where “profit” seems to be playing proxy for other issues. Still, it’s simplistic at best and misleading at worst to say—as EdWeek did—“for-profit charter schools show poor academic growth.” In comparison to their nonprofit counterparts, schools overseen by...

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