Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. We’ll lead off today with some good news. Dayton City Schools was one of two districts in the state whose academic performance put them on a path to a possible designation of “academic distress” and all that that entails in Ohio. As a preventative measure, the Ohio Department of Education offered help. To wit: “We have flooded the district with services and support, to the total of 546 days of service from our staff,” the Dayton school board was told this week. “We’re very proud to be … welcomed by Superintendent Ward, the district leadership team and the teachers and principals who are with us on a daily basis.” Sounds great. And how are things looking in the wake of all that help? “If the district continues in the vein that it is in now, with fidelity and adherence to their plan,” ODE staff told the board, “we do not foresee that more intensive supports will have to be placed upon the district.” In other words, the “Youngstown Plan” will not need to become the “Dayton Plan”. Sounds pretty good based on my summary, right? But if you read the piece all the way to the end you will
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  1. Dayton City Schools still has 35 teaching vacancies to fill four months into the year. Officials are blaming large scale retirement of veteran teachers, despite having 81 new applicants show up at a recent job fair. There is some brief discussion of the $1,000 incentive for new teachers to live and work in Dayton. (Dayton Daily News, 11/17/15)
  2. Staying in Dayton for a moment, here’s a nice piece on the “Welcome Dayton” program – facilitated by Sinclair Community College – which pairs new high schoolers in the district’s ESL program with native-English-speaking peers. The goal is “to create cultural competencies organically, not from a forced curriculum.” (Dayton Daily News, 11/18/15)
  3. Speaking of school climates, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District agreed to spend around $1 million to assess 25 of its school buildings in areas that “testing can’t measure”. Part of the funding – to a consulting firm – is to train district staff to continue the reviews on their own going forward once the firm has completed its contract. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/16/15)
  4. Finally, we have two stories from the “sure-fire ways to antagonize your opponents” file. The president of the Youngstown Board
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Vladimir Kogan

The school accountability movement is founded on the principles of transparency, high expectations, and the dissemination of accurate information about educational quality. While there is much to like about Ohio’s recently signed charter school reform legislation, one provision in the bill is at odds with all three of these ideas. As a result, it threatens to significantly undermine Ohio’s efforts to hold charter school operators and public school districts accountable for the achievement of the students they educate.

The provision I’m referring to requires the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to create and evaluate a new “Similar Students” measure of academic achievement, based on a metric used in California. The final language of the legislation only called for a study of such a measure but there appears to be significant interest from legislators and stakeholder groups in formally incorporating it into Ohio’s existing school accountability system, particularly for charter schools. Once ODE completes its evaluation, this conversation is likely to intensify.

In a new analysis, I show why this would be a terrible idea. Using data from ODE and technical documentation from the California Charter Schools Association, I precisely replicate California’s methodology and create the Similar Students measure that...

  1. Starting today’s report with an interesting piece I missed last week. Ross County continues to be the epicenter of debate on the topic of open enrollment in Ohio – that is, allowing students to attend schools across traditional district boundaries. There is discussion of current net “losers” and “winners” of students and of the funding that follows those students. Most importantly, it seems that some districts are actually surveying the students who leave in order to find out why. A huge development in the ongoing discussion. (Chillicothe Gazette, 11/12/15)
  2. On Friday the 13th, all five members of the new Youngstown Academic Distress Commission were finally named. (WYTV – Youngstown, 11/13/15) There’s no information in this piece on the individual appointed by Youngstown’s mayor. Here is a nice profile of that appointee – a retired dean from Youngstown State University. (Youngstown Vindicator, 11/13/15) Meanwhile, the school board’s sole appointee to the commission has irked the local teachers union, who state that while the retired administrator chosen has a long track record in the district and substitutes regularly, she is “not a current teacher in the Youngstown City Schools.” Next up – assuming
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CREDO’s national study of online charter schools has prompted even ardent supporters to call for “tough changes” in how they are regulated. Released in tandem with Mathematica’s survey of operational practices of e-schools and an analysis of state online charter policy by the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), the findings showed that Ohio online charter students learned seventy-nine fewer days in reading and 144 fewer days in math. (Read our analysis of the study here.)

Where does Ohio stand in its current regulation of online schools (which serve nearly one-third of the state’s entire charter school population)? And what can policy makers—and the e-schools themselves—do to ensure that students are better served? Let’s examine each question in turn.

Ohio’s recent steps to regulate e-schools

After an eight-year moratorium, Ohio lifted its ban on e-schools and allowed three new ones to open in 2013. The state regulates their expansion more tightly than charter schools broadly. In deciding who may open, the Ohio Department of Education examines both the track record of the operator and sponsor of each proposed e-school. Statute allows five e-schools to open each year, but the department may elect to approve...

  1. Chad’s quote from last month’s Dispatch story on the CREDO e-school report was recycled in a blog post on the website of Non Profit Quarterly. (Non Profit Quarterly, 11/10/15) Ditto for this version of same on the blog of NCPA, which quotes Chad and Jamie’s blog post/testimony on the same topic. (National Center for Policy Analysis, 11/12/15) What’s the point? I don’t know either.
  2. Back in the real world, here’s a brief piece on the Men of Color event in Dayton earlier this week. This is a local iteration of the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to provide access to strong male role models for local students. More than 200 men participated. Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 11/11/15)
  3. The leader of the Men of Color initiative in Dayton is a former state board of education member. He is probably very happy to be off that board now that the search for a new state superintendent is getting underway. Even the impaneling of a group to formulate the RFP rules for a search firm has been mired in politics. It’s going to be a long winter around here. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/12/15)
  4. The Ohio Alliance of
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This brief by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools offers “the most comprehensive analysis to date” on what is a very convoluted topic—special education funding in charter schools. Drawing from a review of state funding laws, websites, documents, and interviews with key stakeholders, the authors present their findings in several parts.

First, “Getting Lost While Trying to Follow the Money” (apt title, by the way) offers a primer on special education funding. Understanding the flow of special education dollars requires a grasp of overlapping federal, state, and local funding streams, which the brief outlines effectively. Readers learn the history of IDEA Part B, the ins and outs of the “maintenance of effort” requirements, and instances in which schools can qualify for Medicaid reimbursements. The report also describes the types of state funding formulas used. Ohio is one of nineteen states with a weighted funding formula (i.e., special education funding is based on the severity of a student’s disability, type of placement, and overall need). The vast majority of charters can’t access local funds (in Ohio, a handful in Cleveland can). Thus, if their special education costs exceed...

  1. Job changes continue to dominate the media coverage of Ohio education. First up, the PD posited a possible interim replacement for retiring state supe Dick Ross. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/9/15) This was followed by editors in Akron opining that Ross’ retirement is “an opportunity for fresh leadership”. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/11/15) And also notice that Colleen Grady, senior policy advisor of the House Republican Caucus, will be leaving her post in the legislature and starting a similar high level post at the Ohio Department of Education on Monday. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/10/15)
  2. The Ohio School Boards Association is having a big confab in Columbus this week. The only thing reported out so far is some sort of legislative platform change that states the OSBA is in favor of prohibiting charter schools with poor grades or finances from advertising to families, among other PR limitations. (AP, via Dayton Daily News, 11/10/15)
  3. Editors in Cleveland yesterday opined upon the implications of Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s bucking of the national downward trend in NAEP test scores. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/10/15)
  4. Meanwhile, some high school students in the CLE are protesting district plans to split
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In spite of some well-publicized controversies, performance-based teacher evaluations have maintained a strong presence in most states. A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) examines the policy landscape of teacher and principal evaluations, as well as various states’ successes in using evaluations to inform teacher practice and administrative decisions.

As of 2015, twenty-seven states require annual evaluations for all teachers, and forty-five require annual evaluations for all new, probationary teachers. Forty-three states require objective measures of student achievement to be included in teacher evaluations; seventeen use student growth as the “preponderant” criterion for evaluations; and an additional eighteen count growth measures as “significant” criteria.

Despite these new policies, however, a “troubling pattern” lingers on from the evaluation systems of yesteryear: The overwhelming majority of teachers are still labeled as “effective” or “highly effective.” NCTQ notes this could be the result of several factors, including the fact that few states utilize multiple observations and multiple observers—which is problematic because many principals are either unable or unwilling to “make distinctions about teacher skills” when conducting observations. In addition, Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)—which are required or allowed by twenty-two states—fail to effectively differentiate teacher performance. According to...

  1. Chad is quoted on the successes in Dr. Richard Ross' long career in education as he prepares to retire as state superintendent. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/6/15). The formerly-Big D quoted Chad on the same subject the following day. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/7/15) The day after that, Columbus editors opined on the need for an “experienced leader with a strong resume and a commitment to openness” to fill Dr. Ross’ shoes. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/8/15)
  2. A brief but interesting piece here on the topic of extra- and co-curricular activities in Ohio. A state senator will be holding hearings in Columbus, Findlay, Cleveland and Dayton on the subject of availability, access, and fees for things such as band, sports, and field trips in advance of the introduction of a bill trying to make such activities more easily accessible for Ohio students. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 11/8/15)
  3. In the transition time between one Academic Distress Commission and another, Youngstown City Schools’ administration is still working to the academic plan which has been in place for the last year or so. Some folks are confused as to just when that plan will – or even if it will – become null
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