Ohio Gadfly Daily

Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about changing the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). That’s because the system has failed to accomplish its intended purposes: It doesn’t differentiate teachers based on performance, nor does it help them improve their practice. It’s also unfair to many educators, it’s a paperwork pileup for administrators, and it’s a time-suck for students who must take local tests solely for the purposes of teacher evaluation. Taken together, Ohio has a policy ripe for major changes.

Enter Senate Bill 240, legislation introduced last December. It adopts the majority of the Educator Standards Board’s recent recommendations, including some promising proposals that if implemented well could change the evaluation system for the better. The most significant change would get rid of Ohio’s various frameworks and weighting percentages. Under the new system, teachers would no longer have a specific, state-mandated percentage of their summative rating determined by student growth measures. Instead, student growth and achievement would be used as evidence of a teacher mastering the various domains of a revised classroom observation rubric. This is definitely a more organic way to measure student growth, but until it’s put in...

  1. Columbus City Schools is, apparently, facing a budget shortfall within two years, and the initial discussions about solving it involve closing it down immediately so it can repay lost revenue to the state of Ohio the elimination of up to 163 positions. Another option would be to downsize operations for more efficiency “get some more revenue” from somewhere. Good call! Although it is unclear at this juncture out of whose derrière that money could possibly materialize. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/22/18)
     
  2. The final decision on whether Cincinnati will be home to a Major League Soccer expansion team is still pending, but that doesn’t stop fervid speculation about same. (Nor does it stop me from having to read the sports page, yet again.) Cincinnati City Schools owns some land that the football club may or may not be touting as the future home for its putative pro stadium and it seems as if some behind-the-scenes discussions have already gone on. Either that or the sporty-types are simply figuring that the district will go along with their choice whenever they deign to announce it (shades of the Columbus Crew/Columbus Foundation/Abbott Labs debacle last year). Whichever it is, I can only imagine
  3. ...
  1. With ECOT closed, a special master appointed by the court to help oversee things like records transfer and asset management, and families working to find new schools that are at least the second-best fit for their kids, it seems there is little else for education reporters to write about. Especially if they actually want to report on anything of substance. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/19/18)
     
  2. Per the above, I picture staff members at school districts across the state standing around the front entrance to their buildings today like frustrated guests at the world’s saddest surprise party – waiting and waiting and waiting to welcome guests who just aren’t going to arrive. But let’s not let reality get in the way of a good clip, shall we? We’re all better than that. In the vein, here is a story on what some districts in Stark County have planned to help their seniors graduate on time at the end of this school year. Very little of it sounds inspiring or indeed very helpful at all. The current “on track/likely to be on track” numbers for the various school districts are enlightening though. That surprise party in Canton might be the saddest
  3. ...

Earlier this week, Chiefs for Change (CFC) announced that Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Paolo DeMaria, joined their network. CFC is a nonprofit, bipartisan network comprising state and district education chiefs who advocate for innovative education policies and practices, support each other through a community of practice, and nurture the next generation of leaders. The network is made up of members who lead education systems serving 7.2 million students, 435,000 teachers, and 14,000 schools.

According to the CFC website, members of the network “share a vision that all American children can lead fulfilling, self-determined lives as adults.” Though it is made up of diverse members with various viewpoints, the chiefs find common ground in five key areas: 1) access to excellent schools, 2) quality curriculum, 3) fully prepared and supported educators, 4) accountability, and 5) safe and welcoming schools.

Here’s a look at a few specific policies supported by CFC and what they look like in Ohio:

School choice

In a statement on school choice released last year, CFC members asserted that “school choice initiatives have the potential to dramatically expand opportunity for disadvantaged American children and their families.” We’ve seen this firsthand in Ohio, where...

  1. The 2018 Quality Counts ratings are out and very little has changed for Ohio from the previous year. Doesn’t stop folks from trying to spin those results into a vision of speculative doom. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece as the voice of anti-spin. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/17/18)
     
  2. On Wednesday morning, Chad was in the posh studios of WOSU-FM, taking part in an hour long radio talk show titled “The Future of ECOT”. Other guests included several ECOT alums and current parents. (All Sides with Ann Fisher, WOSU-FM, 1/17/18) So, how was “the future of ECOT” looking by the end of the day Thursday? Nonexistent. Chad is quoted in the PD piece on the vote which terminated the school’s operation as of today. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/18/18)
     
  3. If a state’s ESSA plan is approved in a bureaucracy and no one is there to care, does it make a sound? Probably not, according to Patrick O’Donnell. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/17/18)
     
  4. This piece is a bit out of the mainstream for Gadfly Bites (and I’m indebted to my colleague Jessica Poiner for drawing it to my attention), but stay with me as I
  5. ...

Education Week just released its 22nd annual report and rankings of state education systems. Faster than we can read the report or its accompanying coverage—which this year includes a worthwhile look at “five common traits of top school systems” and “five hurdles” standing in the way of improvement—alarmed observations about Ohio’s rankings “drop” have begun to emerge. They point out that Ohio was ranked 5th in 2010, 23rd in 2016, and 22nd in both 2017 and 2018, largely to score political points suggesting that the current administration has been asleep at the wheel.

We’ve been down this path before, but let’s revisit two significant problems with this interpretation. Last year when the ratings were released, I dove into an analysis exploring some of the likely causes for Ohio’s near twenty-slot fall in the relative rankings since 2010.

The rating system changed

Education Week undertook a significant overhaul of its rating system between 2014 and 2015, prohibiting meaningful comparisons of overall rankings over time. They eliminated three categories and now only include the following components:  Chance for Success, an index with thirteen indicators examining the role that education plays from early childhood into college and the...

After losing its sponsorship, ECOT, the largest e-school in Ohio, appears to be on the brink of closure. Districts and other e-schools are bracing for the possible flood of new students, preparing to hire new teachers, manage students’ transcripts, and get them up to speed mid-year. Not surprisingly, politicians are squeezing the situation for every last drop. Taking hardline stances on charter schools in Ohio is like a free campaign booster shot, with this particular situation offering extra potency. Meanwhile, families of some 12,000 students are dealing with the nightmare of impromptu school shopping.

Much is being said about ECOT right now. This shouldn’t surprise, given its status as the largest and most maligned charter school in Ohio and the role of its founder among the old guard of widely reviled campaign contributors in laying the groundwork for a very partisan charter landscape in Ohio. Each development toward ECOT’s downfall has sharpened new arrows in the quiver from which to take aim against charter schools broadly—a serious portion of which deserve never to be mentioned in the same breath as the near-fallen giant. What, if anything, can be learned and applied from this?...

As reported by the Dispatch last week, Columbus City Schools has unveiled plans to expand selective admission among its magnet schools next year. This is a positive step in an often criticized district—an effort that should be applauded and helped to grow.

Twenty-five years of school choice in Ohio have largely laid to rest the archaic notion that a home address will determine what schools children will attend from Kindergarten through high school. Interdistrict open enrollment, charter schools, private school scholarships, home schooling, virtual schooling, and independent STEM schools render district boundaries all but irrelevant to parents who are able to navigate these options. Even within districts, specialized schools, programs that look like schools, and lottery-based magnet schools have proliferated, further eroding address-based school assignments and rigid feeder patterns. This is all for the good.

A lesser-known addendum to that list is selective admission, whereby certain schools are allowed to prioritize a percentage of their seats for students who meet particular criteria. Ohio has allowed selective admission—with some important caveats—since 1990, and Columbus City Schools was the first district in the state to make use of this option. Today, five of the district’s magnet...

  1. Changes are coming to the popular College Credit Plus program as early as this summer, courtesy of the Chancellor of Higher Education (at the request of the General Assembly). These will include a limit on what college courses high school students are eligible to attend. Lots of courses from Aviation to Zumba will likely be off limits. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/15/18) High schoolers in Lorain are earning college credits at a “startling” rate, district CEO David Hardy said last week. He wants more more more too. Probably much easier since the “credit recovery” kids have been kicked out of the Colossus of Lorain to make room for the local community college to teach the remaining kids on site. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 1/12/18)
     
  2. We’ve already talked about the potential for ECOT to close either now or in the near future. Luckily for those thousands of students, Akron City Schools is all ready for them to come to them looking for seats. Lucky dogs. (Akron Beacon Journal, 1/14/18) Equally lucky are some current ECOT students living in Lorain County. Some schools there are also ready for them to come to them looking for seats too. As always
  3. ...

Creating school funding policy is a delicate juggling act for state leaders. Contentious issues include deciding the responsibilities of local and state governments; determining efficient and fair ways to allocate funds; and ensuring economically friendly tax policies while raising sufficient revenue. Those seeking a firmer grasp of these topics should read a recent policy brief by Urban Institute researchers Matthew Chingos and Kristin Blagg that summarizes funding across the U.S. Three points in particular are worth highlighting.

First, the analysts show that state governments have increased their contributions to public education since the 1930s. When that decade began, local revenues almost fully financed U.S. schools, contributing more than 80 cents of every dollar. Since then an increasing percentage has come from states. In most states today, local and state contributions each constitute about 45 percent of school funding; the federal government supplies the rest. Yet these funding statistics, authoritative as they may be, arguably understate the true role of state governments in financing public education. In Ohio, for example, districts must levy a minimum 2 percent property tax in order to receive state funds. While these revenues are deemed “local,” they are integral to the state funding program and...

Pages