Ohio Gadfly Daily

As Ohio’s annual report cards are released this week, Fordham is gearing up to dive into the data and explore what it means about K-12 public education in the Buckeye State.

We won’t be alone; reporters, bloggers, and education advocates will all offer their own hot takes, many of which will examine charter school performance data. If the past is any indication, some headlines and stories will be patently unfair.

Sadly, much of this will be intentional. Charter foes have historically used the report card release as an opportunity to denigrate the sector, lumping even the very best schools together with perennial low performers and those seeking to evade accountability.

In other instances, apples-to-bananas comparisons may be inadvertent. Reporters are expected to consume a massive amount of information and quickly produce insightful stories about educational performance trends or accomplishments of schools in their region. Still other reporters may be new to the education beat, or may rely on the analyses published by said charter critics without having the time or experience to subject them to scrutiny.  

Let’s discuss what a fair comparison looks like and what to watch out for.

Attempting to make apples-to-apples comparisons

Fordham has...

  1. Editors in Columbus today opined in sunny approval of KIPP: Columbus (and a seemingly random list of a few other local charter schools). Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/17)
     
  2. Staying here in the capital for a moment, a portion of Columbus City Schools’ rank-and-file teachers last night approved that ho-hum new contract offer we mentioned last week. Even though it was only a little over half the members voting (just the file, perhaps?) and the approval was a very low majority, color me surprised. While they were at it, the assembled gang unanimously approved a no-confidence motion in the school board. Now that’s more like it. Link (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/17)
     
  3. Jeremy Kelley is apparently looking forward eagerly to the release of state report card data this week. Not only because he’s a data nerd disguised as a journalist, but also because he thinks that Dayton City Schools’ scores may have improved from last year. We shall see. (Dayton Daily News, 9/12/17) That same optimism does not echo through the halls of Akron City Schools, however. Folks there are pretty sure that their report card will be as bad or worse than last year. What they
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The Ohio Department of Education is expected to release report cards for the 2016-17 school year by the end of this week. Like an annual checkup with a physician, these report cards offer valuable information on the academic health of Buckeye schools and students.

As many Ohioans know, state leaders have overhauled the assessment and report card system in recent years. To their credit, they’ve implemented more demanding state exams that now offer a clearer picture of student proficiency than under former assessments. The report cards themselves are much different from those in years past; they now include various A-F components that consider not only traditional measures like proficiency and graduation rates, but also pupils’ growth over time and their readiness for college or career. While Ohio legislators still need to do considerable work to help report cards function properly—we’ll be releasing several recommendations for tweaking them next month—the stability in state assessment policies and on key pieces of the school grading system is praiseworthy.

What are we keeping an eye out for when report cards drop? Here are three things:

Will the use of multi-year averages help to stabilize value-added ratings?

In recent years, one of...

Three years into his first gig as a recruiter/trainer at a job skills program in San Francisco, Mauricio Lim Miller recognized a striking contradiction that changed the trajectory of his life and work. As a person whose family had overcome great personal hardship and who was now trying to help others do the same, he could not reconcile the way he ran his own life with the way he was expected to run a social service program. The proscriptive, top-down structure of so-called benefits programs like his emphasized the “deficits” of their clients and often sought to substitute narrow program rules for individual options. Those rules were sometimes contradictory (as when multiple programs were involved) and sometimes self-defeating (e.g. child-care subsidies that lapsed if a program participant earned a little too much money from work). Even worse, he became convinced that such service programs were conferring greater benefit on their employees than on their clients. When he was invited to attend President Clinton’s State of the Union address as recognition for his work, Miller says he nearly declined out of guilt. As soon as he was given a chance by California Governor Jerry Brown to reshape the assistance available to...

It’s no secret that high-quality early childhood education can lead to significant and positive short-term impacts for children, particularly those from disadvantaged circumstances. Unfortunately, much of the current research also points to a troubling “fade out” trend—the gains that students make in preschool gradually decrease until they disappear completely.

A recent study from Mathematica seeks to add to this discussion by investigating whether the pre-K programs offered by some KIPP charter schools produce more lasting impacts. Researchers selected KIPP for several reasons, including the fact that it employs several practices that are considered high quality (such as well-educated teachers and low teacher-child ratios). Most significant, though, is that many KIPP pre-K students continue their education in a KIPP elementary school—increasing the probability that their elementary school experience will align with their pre-K experiences, and thereby potentially lead to longer-lasting impacts.

The study explored three research questions and used slightly different methods to examine each. The samples were relatively small, but the analysts were able to employ experimental methods that allow us to draw stronger conclusions about the effects of KIPP pre-K. A series of standardized tests (like the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement) were used to measure...

  1. The D took a look at some new national stats on chronic absenteeism and compared them with central Ohio districts. Some not-so-rosy findings, it seems. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/10/17)
     
  2. The calm start to the school year in Youngstown – as we noted on Friday – lasted exactly one day. On the second day of school, the teachers union filed a series of grievances against CEO Krish Mohip due to “unilaterally increased student contact time outside of the agreement”. (Youngstown Vindicator, 9/9/17)
     
  3. Speaking of district CEOs, the Morning Journal says that Lorain CEO David Hardy “shows heart” in facing up to the challenges to success in his district and in detailing the work he wants to accomplish to increase success for students. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 9/9/17) In a follow-up piece, Hardy is said to be looking for “keys to excellence” among all of the public input data he has and continues to receive. If the experience of Youngstown is any guide, he may want to stay out of the teacher contract in his search for any keys. Just sayin’. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 9/10/17)
     
  4. And continuing on the theme of district leaders, editors
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  1. Not much to report on today, but let’s not let that get us down. First up, we’ve got a bit more insight into that “final offer” from the Columbus City Schools board to the teacher’s union. Doesn’t sound super promising, especially in terms of the raise on offer, but we’ll see what happens when the rank and file vote on it next week. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/7/17)
     
  2. Lorain City Schools CEO David Hardy made his one-month report to the district’s Academic Distress Commission this week. The main thing of note in the Chronicle report is that the tight timeline for his first 90 days seems to be going well, especially from the standpoint of public input. Additionally, Hardy’s arrival full time in the district has been pushed forward by two weeks. (Elyria Chronicle, 9/8/17) The Morning Journal’s version of the meeting adds some interesting detail to both of these points. To wit: here are the top three concerns the public have reported to CEO Hardy: First is student performance (probably a no-brainer), second is a very high level of “distrust in the organization” (hmmm….), and third is a misalignment between the community’s passion in working with the
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  1. ECOT’s proposal to convert to a dropout recovery school has drawn predictable reaction (using words like “maneuver” and “switch”) especially in terms of the differences in accountability frameworks between general ed charters and dropout recoveries. Chad is quoted in this piece arguing that the real issue is sponsor evaluation writ large and the incentives embedded in it. Interesting. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/3/17) Speaking of ECOT, here’s a look inside their expenditures over the last 18 months or so, with legal fees high on the list of spendy items. Chad, for one, is not surprised at this. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/3/17)
     
  2. While Fordham, its sponsor, is not mentioned in this piece, feel free nevertheless to enjoy this in-depth look at the expanding awesomeness that is KIPP: Columbus. Their new high school opened this year, promising even more awesomeness to come. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/4/17)
     
  3. For the first time this year, schools can opt to add a “State Seal of Biliteracy” to students’ transcripts. That is, students who “demonstrate a high level of proficiency of a foreign language through one of a handful of approved exams, such as advanced placement or International Baccalaureate tests.” Awesomely, this includes native foreign
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In response to widespread fears that too many students would fail to pass the state’s seven high school End Of Course (EOC) tests, Ohio lawmakers recently created additional graduation pathways for the class of 2018. The pathway generating the most discussion allows students to receive a diploma by completing two of nine alternative measures, one of which is earning at least a 2.5 grade point average (GPA) during their senior year.

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria has defended the inclusion of GPAs as one of the options, saying that “a GPA increasingly both in research and in practice has been shown to be a far better indicator of a student’s readiness for college success and frankly for workforce success than any standardized test.”

DeMaria is partly right. Several analyses have found a link between students’ high school grade average and their college success. For instance, this study from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) found not only that high school GPAs are an “extremely good and consistent predictor of college performance,” but also that they “encapsulate all the predictive power of a full high school transcript in explaining college outcomes.” These other two studies found that...

  1. Fordham is namechecked in this story about charter school sponsorship in Cleveland. But in a good way. The story relates the concerns that the Cleveland Transformation alliance harbors about another local sponsor – St. Aloysius – and specifically its very close relationship with contractor/service provider Charter School Specialists. Thisclose. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/1/17)
     
  2. Speaking of concerns, Springfield City Schools seems very very concerned over what it says are mistakes made by a contractor – well, fraud actually – which allegedly caused the district to forgo nearly $1 million in Medicaid reimbursement for services provided to students due to paperwork fail. Legal action is underway. (Springfield News-Sun, 9/1/17)
     
  3. As we settle into the new school year, let’s check out what’s new in school buildings across the state. First up: spleems. You read that right. This week the state supe and a state board of education member visited Beavercreek City Schools to learn about PAX, one of several games included in the new Positive Behavior Intervention Support effort in the district. Although it may not sound like it, a “spleem” is something to be avoided, while “Granny’s Wacky Prize bag” is something you actually want. Oh, you’ll
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