Ohio Gadfly Daily

NOTE: The Joint Education Oversight Committee of the Ohio General Assembly is hearing testimony this week on Ohio's proposed ESSA accountability plan. Below is the written testimony that Chad Aldis gave before the committee today.

Thank you Chairman Cupp, and members of the Joint Education Oversight Committee, for giving me the opportunity to provide testimony today on the Ohio Department of Education’s proposed ESSA plan.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C. Our Dayton office, through the affiliated Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, is also a charter school sponsor.

I’d like to first applaud the department for their hard work on this plan. ODE staff worked tirelessly to gather a massive amount of stakeholder feedback, and many of the recommendations that they heard throughout the state can be either seen as a part of this plan or are identified as areas meriting further study. I know you’ve listened to testimony from a...

Ohio’s Gap Closing report card component reports how students in certain subgroups perform on state tests and their schools’ graduation rates compared to the collective performance of all students in the state. The subgroups include racial/ethnic groups, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged pupils. Gap Closing is one of six major report card components and makes up 15 percent of a school district’s rating in Ohio’s current summative grading formula, set to officially begin in 2017-18.

Currently, Gap Closing compares subgroup proficiency on state assessments and graduation rates to a set, statewide standard—also known as an Annual Measureable Objective (AMO). These objectives rise gradually over time, heightening expectations for subgroup performance. When a school’s subgroup meets the AMO, the school receives the full allotment of points (“full credit”). When the subgroup fails to meet the objective, the school receives no credit—unless it makes improvements relative to the prior year. In such cases, the state awards partial credit. Those points are tallied across subgroups and divided by the points possible to compute a component grade reported on an A-F scale. In certain circumstances, schools’ Gap Closing letter grade could be demoted (e.g., A drops to a B).

Without...

School funding debates are as predictable as the seasons, and right on cue, the release of Governor John Kasich’s biennial budget has precipitated hand-wringing from various corners of Ohio. Why? Like many other states, Ohio’s budget is tightening and his plan would reduce the amount of state aid for dozens of districts that have been consistently losing student enrollment.

No public entity anywhere has ever been happy about receiving less money than the year before; every elected leader worth their salt is going to fight for more resources for their own constituents. The challenge ahead for thoughtful policy makers is to distinguish the typical bellyaching from legitimate and serious problems in Ohio’s school funding policies.

To help, we are pleased to present this analysis of Ohio’s school finance policies. It gets under the hood of the Buckeye State’s education funding formula and tax policies and seeks to understand how well they promote two essential values: Fairness and efficiency. Why these two? Consider:

  • Ohio must lift student achievement to meet the demands of colleges and employers—an especially urgent imperative for children from low-income backgrounds. According to last year’s state test results, proficiency rates for economically disadvantaged students fell a staggering 30
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  1. The Middletown newspaper today caught up with local-boy-made-good: J.D. Vance. (Middletown Journal-News, 3/8/17)
     
  2. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria visited a number of rural northwest Ohio school districts this week. He had some important things to say about the state’s current school funding scheme while doing so. Those comments may be even more important to some folks after 12:01 a.m. tomorrow morning. Just sayin’. (Lima News, 3/7/17)
     
  3. On the complete opposite side of the state, the only candidate on the ballot for Lancaster mayor right now is a local high school student. Given the current mayoral turmoil in the little town I used to call home, dude’s got to be looking pretty good to a number of voters. (Lancaster Eagle Gazette, 3/8/17)
     
  4. Sticking with our semi-rural theme of the day, tiny Denison University in bucolic Granville, Ohio, has awarded full-tuition scholarships to 18 high-performing, low-income Columbus City Schools graduates. These are the first such scholarships awarded through a new partnership between Denison, the Columbus district, and the I Know I Can college-access organization. Its funding was seeded by two Denison alums with the hope that others will follow suit. Nice! P.S. – ANY dinner at
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  1. Interesting coverage of a convening in Dayton last week in which education stakeholders got together to discuss ways to close the racial achievement gap and to end implicit racial and cultural bias in area schools. (Dayton Daily News, 3/3/17)
     
  2. In the first of two pieces on the end of the old-style Academic Distress Commission in Lorain, several stakeholders – including commission members – talk about what went right and what didn’t during the ADC term. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 3/4/17). The second part, published today, takes a similar sad tone, but pay attention to the comments of Dr. Zelei, former commission member AND former supe. Kind of sounds like he’s secretly OK with a CEO-style distress commission. Or maybe it’s just me. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 3/5/17)
  1. Sad news from Cincinnati this week: due to a “declining pool of applicants” two Catholic girls schools will merge at the end of the 2017-18 school year, eliminating activity at the century-old Mother of Mercy school building. Is it just me or does it seem like we hear similar news every year about this time lately? (Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/2/17)
     
  2. The board of the I Can charter schools network voted this week to hire a new operator for all of its schools in Ohio, citing the need for more efficient operations. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/3/17)
     
  3. We end the week with a look at the adult diploma program in Youngstown. In just one year of operation, 30 adults have completed long-delayed graduation requirements via the state’s 22+ Diploma program. Some, like the woman profiled here, are far above the age of 22. She, for one, has a new direction in life because of the program. Nice. (Youngstown Vindicator, 3/2/17)
  1. The reach of Fordham’s Aaron Churchill is wide. Case in point: his guest commentary on the influence of union interests in the current LAUSD school board race. (LA School Report/The 74, 2/28/17)
     
  2. Speaking of union interests, the Rep reports in a glass-half-full kind of way that nearly all actions relating to the Louisville teachers union strike have been “concluded” in one way or another…except for that one grievance and that one court case still pending. Oh, and those three teachers still suspended for deleting files before heading to the picket lines. (Canton Repository, 2/26/17) Union reps, lawyers, and negotiators from districts around Stark County say that they are doing everything they can to avoid a repeat in their districts of the ugliness and division experienced before, during, and after the Louisville strike. (Canton Repository, 2/26/17) Unfortunately, that spirit appears not have wafted outside the county borders, as the current, deteriorating relationship between union and board in Brecksville-Broadview Heights bears a strong resemblance to that in Louisville. Hopefully the incoming mediator will do better here than he did – initially – in Louisville. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/28/17)
     
  3. Finally, we conclude this downer of a clips
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Ohio’s current approach to school funding (K-12) has several strengths, including its ability to drive more state aid to disadvantaged districts and to add dollars for students with greater educational needs. But in a time when Ohio’s budget – like that of many other states – is stretched thin, policy makers need to ensure that every dollar is being well spent. As state lawmakers debate Ohio’s biennial budget, thoughtful analysis is more important than ever.

We invite you to attend the release event for Fordham’s latest research report, A Formula That Works. Conducted by national education policy experts at Bellwether Education Partners, this analysis is a deep dive into Ohio’s education funding policies and includes several recommendations for improvement. The study touches on questions such as: How

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Ohio’s draft plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) came out earlier this month, and we at Fordham continue to analyze it and offer our thoughts. In a previous article, I argued that Ohio’s plans for improving low-performing schools were underwhelming. But there is an even more worrisome set of details worth pointing out and rectifying—namely that Ohio’s proposal will likely result in a vast number of schools and districts being labeled as failing and routed into a burdensome and ineffective corrective action process.

For starters, Ohio’s ESSA plan moves beyond what’s required by law when it comes to identifying “low-performing” schools. Federal law requires states to have at least two buckets for school improvement—comprehensive support and targeted support (or the equivalent of what Ohio is naming “priority” and “focus” schools, respectively). The law is direct in spelling out how states should place schools in either category (see Table 1).

Table 1: ESSA requirements

Now take a look at Ohio’s proposed criteria below.

Table 2: Ohio’s proposed implementation of ESSA’s requirements

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  1. It was announced last week that Dayton City Schools will be initiating a new online school starting in the 2017-18 school year. It is meant to compete for students with online charter schools like ECOT, which, despite an endless barrage of bad press and legal actions has managed to attract more than 50 kids from Dayton schools so far this year, a district data wonk reported. But we’ll give board member Adil Baguirov the final word on this great new development. As he puts it, it is “long overdue to bring back these dollars.” Dollars. (Dayton Daily News, 2/26/17)
     
  2. If I’m reading this correctly, officials in Toledo City Schools seem very pessimistic regarding the ability of quite a large number of their high schools to pass upcoming tests related to their graduation. So much so that the district is revamping the school day schedules for an entire week and is planning to schlep more than 3,200 Chromebooks from elementary schools to high schools across the city and back again just to make sure high schoolers can retake the tests as many times as they need to in order to get high enough scores. Or am I misreading
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