Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. We start today out in the ‘burbs. (I know, right!) First up is a lengthy piece about some “options” for suburban kids for whom the traditional classroom route just doesn’t seem to work. It’s not a charter or a standalone STEM school, mind, but kids in Westerville and Gahanna do have some great-sounding IB, science, and career tech options. Those latter two are thanks to Ohio’s Straight-A Innovation Fund as well. Nice. (ThisWeek News, 5/24/17) Meanwhile, adults in Grandview Heights schools have a somewhat rosier view of how their kids behave when out of their sight than did the adults in Unioto schools discussed earlier this week in the Bites. Instead of slovenly, barbaric, screen-addicted couch rats who need stringent summer rules, warnings and checklists to remind them to “be more human”, Grandview teachers and librarians think their kids just need to read a lot and get out a bit, and maybe attend a summer camp if possible. Sounds more like it to me.  (ThisWeek News/Tri-Village News, 5/23/17) Further north, the Sylvania school district in suburban Toledo is still facing stiff opposition to its efforts to redraw school building boundaries. (Toledo Blade, 5/26/17) Probably coincidentally, it was
  2. ...
David Burns

NOTES: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

This piece was originally published on the blog of the Ohio STEM Learning Network and is reposted with kind permission from the author.

Throughout the three weeks that span the end of May and the beginning of June, students all over Ohio will be donning an unflattering tasseled mortarboard cap and a polyester gown, lining up in alphabetical order, and trying to remember all the words of their soon-to-be alma mater’s song.  They will be a bit apprehensive, somewhat self-conscious, and a tad more anxious than usual.  They’ve practiced this drill two or three times and generally know where they are supposed to go and when they sit and stand, but the gravity of the circumstance has them a little on edge.

Soon, they will walk across the stage, receive a diploma, shake a hand, and move on.  It all seems easy enough and has been done 100,000 times before, but there’s always a moment or two of hesitation.  It’s the thin line between saying what you are going to do and...

  1. We begin today talking about school districts and “their” money. But honestly, when aren’t we talking about that? Editors in Columbus opined in favor of more state money for school districts. Especially for Columbus City Schools. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/23/17) It must be 5-year forecast season across Ohio, based on the contents of local papers. Akron City School’s forecast, presented this week, appears relatively stable. Student flight from the district to charter schools has stopped for the time being and open enrollment into the district is currently higher than anticipated. Due, says the treasurer/CFO to “competitive programs and the fact that more staff members have children in the district.” That last bit is fascinating. (Akron Beacon Journal, 5/23/17) Toledo’s forecast looks stable too…as long those three renewal levies all pass. That is the second reference in less than a week to those levies and the importance of their passage to, well, everything. Those editorial endorsements are just writing themselves, don’t you think? (Toledo Blade, 5/24/17) Things are not so rosy for academically-distressed Lorain City Schools’ forecast. The treasurer seems optimistic about maintaining their student counts, stemming a long-standing tide of families opting for charter schools or vouchers,
  2. ...

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was intended to improve student health and reduce childhood obesity by increasing the minimum nutritional standards that schools must meet. Despite its good intentions, the changes mandated by this act were met with immediate backlash. In response to the criticism and as part of its commitment to repeal a host of Obama-era regulations, the Trump administration recently put a stop to some of the new standards.

But could returning to the days of anything-goes in school cafeterias negatively impact student achievement? The results from a recent NBER report suggest it’s possible. In the past, studies of school meals have been limited to examinations of whether providing meals can increase test scores (it does). This study is unique because it investigates whether the nutritional quality of meals can boost test scores.

The researchers examined a dataset of California public elementary, middle, and high schools that report state test results. From there, they determined whether these schools had a contract with a private meal provider. In total, approximately 143 districts overseeing 1,188 schools—12 percent of California’s public—schools did so, contracting with a total of 45 different vendors. The remaining 88 percent of...

  1. We start out with two weekend editorials. First up, editors in Columbus opined in favor of a bill to open up all state funds spent by charter schools to full public view. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/21/17) Secondly, editors in Youngstown opined in favor of greater trust on the part of the local teachers union…and against the notion of “unfair labor practices”. Although that last part may not have been intentional. (Youngstown Vindicator, 5/21/17)
  2. The PD had a piece this weekend on what they call “an often-overlooked requirement” of the legislation that created the Cleveland Plan: a district-wide Student Advisory Committee. It is a 400-ish person body that includes students from every grade and every high school which meets four times a year to discuss various topics of interest and importance to students. The intention is good, the work is sincere, and the students genuinely interested in speaking up and being heard. But at the end of this piece, I at least was pretty clear why this “often-overlooked” entity fits that description. Sad. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/20/17)
  3. Is it just me or is this piece from Akron as sadly underwhelming as the Cleveland piece above? It is
  4. ...
  1. Our own Chad Aldis often plows his own furrow (so to speak) when it comes to certain aspects of education policy in Ohio, sometimes confounding those trying to define the narrative around those issues. Yet another case in point occurred this week in the wake of testimony on the topic of charter sponsor evaluations contained in the state budget bill. The title of this Gongwer piece is “Some Charter Advocates Unsatisfied With House Changes To Sponsor Evaluations”. Chad is quoted on the topic, but he is not among those “unsatisfied advocates” touted in the headline. In fact, he is the only voice quoted in support of some of those frankly pretty important-sounding changes. Going against the grain, if I may mix my metaphors. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/17/17) Testimony continued in that committee yesterday, this time primarily on the topic of school funding provisions in the state budget bill. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/18/17)
  2. Stepstone Academy this week became the fifth charter school in Cleveland whose teachers voted to unionize. Congrats. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/17/17) Here is a glimpse into Stepstone’s possible future: cordial negotiations leading to big raises! (What did you think I was going to say?) Toledo
  3. ...

NOTE: The Ohio Senate Finance Committee’s Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee is hearing testimony this week on the education portion of Ohio's next biennial budget. Below is the written testimony that Chad Aldis gave before the committee today.

Thank you, Chair Hite, Vice Chair Sykes, and committee members for allowing me the opportunity to provide testimony on House Bill 49.

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.

As opposed to past years, Governor Kasich’s as-introduced budget includes relatively few education proposals. Given the magnitude and number of changes over the past six years, we believe this is a good thing. We’d encourage the Senate to follow the governor’s lead and to focus only on the most critical adjustments needed to foster a high-performing educational system. It’s important that students, teachers, principals, and school districts be given some stability and time to adjust to past legislative enactments....

  1. We start today with updates on teachers union/administration relations in three school districts. Seems like all three are in the double dog dare phase of public relations negotiations. First up, North Ridgeville in Northeast Ohio. Negotiations seem to be slow, riddled with cancellations, and conflicting details provided to the media from the two sides. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/16/17) In Dayton, things are heating up as the school year winds down. Despite the fact that a federal mediator is now involved, the union is going the route of currying favor with the general public. This week, members held a public event at Old Scratch Pizza for that purpose. It seems that the two sides are quite far apart after five months of formal negotiations and an August strike date has been bandied about. Given that, it is probably never more appropriate to note that the devil is in the details in these types of things. (Dayton Daily News, 5/17/17) Finally, in Youngstown, we’re not even at the point of formal negotiations and everything appears to be going pear-shaped, regardless of the optimistic-sounding headline. Not sure how the Dayton union’s public event as noted above is OK and Krish
  2. ...

Among the most important duties of Ohio lawmakers is to craft a reasonably transparent school funding formula that efficiently allocates state dollars to local districts. But almost everyone will agree that Ohio’s formula is pretty complicated. While a certain degree of complexity is required, the formula need not be inexplicable either. The legislature should consider ways to improve the transparency of the formula while also maintaining the goal of driving more state aid to the neediest districts.

One of Ohio’s formula elements worth closer scrutiny is the implementation of resident income. Income should absolutely play a key role in determining districts’ “needs” for funding purposes: Districts with lower-income residents may have more difficulty raising local funds via property tax referenda. Low-income districts will educate more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and require higher levels of state support. Yet the way Ohio incorporates income into the formula is complex and policy makers should explore more straightforward approaches. Let’s take a closer look at the issues.

Complication 1: Two measures of income

It might surprise you to learn that Ohio uses not one but two income measures in its formula: both federal and Ohio adjusted gross income (AGI). Federal AGI is different...

In its version of the state budget bill, the Ohio House included language that would place more weight on student growth measures when calculating charter sponsor ratings. The provision requires that 60 percent of the academic portion of sponsor evaluations be based on student growth measures (aka value added), instead of 20 percent as under current policy.

The Senate should retain this change and take it a step further: It should be applied to district schools as well. Such a legislative change would ensure that Ohio’s ESSA plan places greater weight on student growth in the accountability system used to gauge the performance of all public schools. The Ohio Department of Education will submit the ESSA plan early this fall and now is the right time to fix the weighting system.

As we and others have pointed out many times, rating systems that place an overemphasis on “status measures” correlated with demographics or prior achievement (e.g., proficiency or graduation rates) will flunk almost all high-poverty schools just because they enroll pupils who initially lag behind.

Growth measures, on the other hand, are more poverty-neutral gauges of school performance. They look at the trajectory of...