Ohio Gadfly Daily

Each year, school choice advocates celebrate National Charter Schools Week. This year, they had an extra reason to break open the champagne: U.S. News and World Report’s annual best high schools ranking included a host of charter schools in its final list, including the three highest-ranked schools in the country.

Though charter success in general isn’t a surprise, the fact that more and more charter high schools are getting attention is important. High schools have remained relatively untouched by many aspects of education reform, and it shows in the data. Nationwide, high school achievement has been disappointing. NAEP scores for 12th graders are lackluster, as are ACT and SAT scores. The national high school graduation rate has hit at a record high, but there are concerns that the measure could be subject to gaming and low expectations. Effective reform at the high school level remains a mostly uncharted territory.

Luckily, there are some notable exceptions, including some high-profile charter school networks. For example, the Noble Network operates sixteen high schools in Chicago and has demonstrated remarkable achievement and growth with its largely minority and low-income student...

The Fordham Institute recently released Three Signs that a Proposed Charter School is at Risk of Failing, a study of over six hundred charter applications that aims to identify risk factors that make a potential charter school more likely to perform poorly during its early years. As the leader of Fordham’s authorizing team in Ohio, I was eager to read the report to see whether it aligns with what we see when reviewing applications and, subsequently, authorizing brand new schools.

Indeed, one or more of the report’s top three identified “flags”—in our experience—are usually present in weak charter applications:

  • Failure to identify a school leader for a self-managed school
  • “High risk, low dose”/misalignment of programming: applications whose target population is “at-risk” youth, yet the application fails to include sufficient academic supports (e.g., intensive small group instruction, extensive tutoring, etc.) to serve that population
  • The use of child-centered, inquiry-based instructional models (e.g., Montessori, experiential, etc.)

These “flags” make sense. Self-managed schools—those not supported by a larger network—typically lack access to deep and consistent talent pipelines, and often have a harder time finding and retaining high quality school leaders. Misalignment of programming is another problem. If an application proposes to serve...

  1. Some central Ohio school districts ‘fessed up today about how aggressively they work to ferret out residency cheaters. The answer is: generally quite aggressively. I personally would not want to end up in the crosshairs of that Dublin lawyer for anything. Even more interesting are the ways in which these scofflaws come to districts’ attention in the first place. Quite a lesson for parents, I think. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/15/17)
  2. Long but fascinating look at the dangers inherent in chronic student absenteeism from presenters at a summit on the topic held recently in Cleveland. CLE has been working hard in the last couple of years to bring down the level of chronic absenteeism – clearly for good reason. There is a bit of detail on the district’s efforts in here as well. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/15/17)
  3. Speaking of Northeast Ohio, here’s a look at a program designed to help high school seniors in the area decide if they should pursue a career in teaching. It is run out of Parma City Schools and the director is a veteran of both district and private schools in the area. It is probably for that reason that she took
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The release of this latest report from Bellwether Education Partners is fortuitously timed as school districts large and small across the Buckeye State reach the end of another school year beset by transportation problems. Authors Phillip Burgoyne-Allen and Jennifer O’Neal Schiess dissect those challenges from a national perspective and argue convincingly that the difficulties in providing effective and efficient service are the result of archaic structure, bureaucratic inertia, and siloed responsibilities. It is less a question of money, as some would argue, than a lack of wherewithal to change how that money is spent.

The topic is complicated, but the report flows well and allows for exploring the many layers from federal to state to local. The authors begin by describing the main models of student transportation: district-operated, contractor-operated, public transit, and various combinations of the three. While all of these models are decades old, the district-centered model still predominates as school systems own and operate two-thirds of all school buses on the road today. Various state funding models are also described. Some are geared to maintain the district-operated status quo, others are more student and family-centric and agnostic on form, and still others incentivize...

NOTE: This blog was first published in a slightly different form on The 74 on 5/12/17.

My first job out of college was in a construction company. I was hired as the office manager, receptionist, typist, and gofer. But I also transported enormous saw blades, delivered Christmas gifts to our best customers, called deadbeat clients to ask them politely but firmly when they were going to pay up, and even directed traffic on a busy commuter road during summer rush hour once in a while.

I graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing.

I had pursued that field of study because I wanted to be a writer and the English department at Ohio State University was pretty fertile ground for that. I took seminar classes from poets and award-winning short-story writers. Passed ‘em all too. I evolved from a lover of pulpy science fiction to an aspiring writer of literary fiction. It was thinky and boho and maybe even pretentious occasionally. The work was important, and we were all going to be the next great novelist, poet, or essayist.

And then I graduated. And life called me to dust and driving and deadlines. And you might...

  1. We told you last week about the Vindy op-ed penned by district CEO Krish Mohip, in which he opined in favor of big raises he wanted to give his district’s teachers. How big, you ask? How about 7 percent? Union leaders this week said no thank you (minus the “thank you”) to the CEO’s formal offer. You’ll have to read the piece to try and figure out why. Hint: it’s complicated and involves a reference to Greek mythology. (Youngstown Vindicator, 5/11/17)
  2. Speaking of money (and of less-than-polite-rejections), the state’s largest online school got a dose of the latter this week when a court hearing officer ruled against them in one phase of their ongoing kerfuffle with the state. A healthy dose of the former – $60 million – is now owed to the state. Pending appeals and other court cases and legislation, that is. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/9/17)
  3. Sticking with charter schools for a moment, a member of the board of United Schools Network here in Columbus (whose schools are sponsored by Fordham, dontcha know) opined this week in support of the state’s efforts to get facilities funding in the hands of high-quality charter schools. (Columbus
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A college degree is becoming increasingly necessary in order for young people to attain the jobs they want, and yet getting to and through college in some ways has never been more challenging. Many students are ill-prepared when they arrive, needing remediation in reading or math. Many others may lack the critical but hard to measure “soft” skills necessary to succeed in a postsecondary environment, like self-motivation, organization, ability to work independently, strong executive functioning skills, and self-awareness.

Even when students are fully prepared, the cost of college is immense. College graduates walk away, on average, with almost $40,000 in student loan debt. For students who are the first in their families to go to college, these challenges can be daunting. The Charles School (TCS)—a charter high school offering a unique five-year program in partnership with Ohio Dominican University—provides a one-of-a-kind early college experience to students in Columbus. Students can graduate with up to 62 hours of college credit, tuition free, and earn not just a high school diploma but also an associate’s degree. For students like Chris Sumlin, profiled in this story, TCS illuminated a path to and through college that felt dimly lit at...

  1. I was remiss in not clipping this Monday. We have discussed the incipient “Move to PROSPER” project before. It is an effort to help low-income families in Columbus – with education being among the highest priorities – by moving them from their current locations to “higher-opportunity areas”. That minimal description, as given previously, begged a lot of questions. And now we have a few answers. Yes, this does mean generating funds from private sources to move families out of the City of Columbus and into the suburbs. In fact, the locations are described by the school districts which serve them. They are: Hilliard, Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, and Olentangy Local school districts. The project is a long way from getting off the ground, but support appears to be building, and the statistics for success in the Columbus area are pretty clear indicators of the existing need, say project leaders. Especially sobering for those of us who live here, I daresay. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/1/17)
  2. Speaking of Columbus City Schools (were we?), here is a report on the recent Service Above Self Fair, in which students from all district high schools and two middle schools presented details of the service
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NOTE: This piece originally appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer in a slightly different form.

A recent Cincinnati Enquirer editorial by contributor Sarah Stitzlein sharply criticized Ohio’s current private-school scholarship programs and savaged Senate Bill 85, which would expand them. The recently introduced bill would open choice opportunities to working-class families by offering them partial tuition scholarships (aka vouchers) while continuing to offer full scholarships for pupils from low-income families.

Sadly, voucher critics distort private school choice and mislead the public as to why it’s worthwhile and how it works. They also distort or overlook key elements of the relevant research and make questionable claims about private schools.

Why vouchers? It’s no secret that wealthier parents enjoy a greater choice of schools for their children. They can afford to purchase homes in high-status suburban districts or cover the costs of private school education.

Yet few low- and middle-income families have similar opportunities. They typically send their kids to a public school that is assigned to them based on residential address. Many times, this works out fine. But when it doesn’t, students with limited means are stuck in schools that don’t meet their educational needs.

School choice, including private-school...

  1. Gongwer, as usual, delved deeper into specific aspects of the state budget bill than other media outlets. Specifically, on proposed changes to the state’s charter school sponsor evaluation framework proposed therein. Yes, they mentioned the magical mystery amendment language (a.k.a. the “loophole of staggering breadth”), but they seemed more interested in how such things as academic ratings of schools may be weighted in the future. Chad is quoted on the substantive issues herein. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/5/17)
  2. But fear not, all you dedicated Gadfly Bites readers. Both of you can take solace in this piece in which editors in Columbus opine solely upon the aforementioned magical mystery amendment language. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/8/17)
  3. Speaking of editorials – the ed board in Youngstown this weekend opined on the topic of the state’s graduation requirements. Side note: college access is not the only thing that’s early at Youngstown Early College High School. Graduation Day is too, it seems! (Youngstown Vindicator, 5/7/17) Additionally, state supe Paolo DeMaria was a guest on In Focus with Mike Kallmeyer over the weekend, discussing the upcoming graduation requirement changes and the possibility of whether they will actually happen. (Spectrum Communications, 5/6/17)
  4. Let’s
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