Ohio Gadfly Daily

Ohio just released its draft ESSA plan. While there’s much to applaud, the state’s proposals for improving the most chronically underperforming schools are underwhelming—serving to further remind us that sixteen years after the federal government began pushing states to turn around failing schools, our ideas for doing so are still scattershot.

Compared to past federal requirements for school improvement, ESSA is turnaround-lite—intentionally backing away from prescriptive solutions regarding school turnarounds embedded in NCLB and the School Improvement Grant program (SIG). Schools failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under NCLB faced a series of consequences including replacement of school staff, new curriculum, decreased authority of school administration, help from outside turnaround specialists, or restructuring of the school. Restructuring (similar to the more rigorous options that SIG put in place) included alternative school governance, reopening the school as a public charter school, replacement of most or all of school staff and leadership, takeover by an outside entity, or state takeover.

In Ohio, hundreds of millions in SIG dollars were spent with little to show for it. Low-performing schools were allowed to choose from a slate of turnaround options in exchange for funds; unsurprisingly, the majority of Ohio...

  1. Fordham Ohio staffers were quoted in some out-of-the-way places over the weekend. First up, Chad was among those quoted – and our HB2 implementation report was cited as welll – in a Crain’s piece discussing the state of play with regard to charter schools in Ohio generally (and in Cleveland specifically). There are a lot of moving parts for the business-minded to grapple with and the piece does a good job of laying them out. (Crain’s Cleveland Business, 2/12/17)
  2. Indeed the sheer volume of information seems to have overwhelmed the reporter for the West Virginia newspaper who interviewed our own Jamie Davies O’Leary in regard to the history of charter schools in Ohio. But the reporter is to be commended for going big in her efforts to interview charter sector players in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland as well as from the National Association of Public Charter Schools for her piece. Kudos! (Clarksburg (WV) Exponent-Telegram, 2/12/17)
  3. We end a slow news day with some good news/bad news in terms of teacher contract negotiations across Ohio. The (tentative) good news comes from Cleveland, where a possible contract agreement may have been reached after 8 months of
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On February 2, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released the first draft of its state plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA, the year-old federal education law, is the successor to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). While many of ESSA’s accountability provisions are similar to those found in NCLB, a new requirement is for states to have an indicator of “school quality or student success” that goes beyond state standardized test scores or graduation rates.

Ohio’s plan proposes two measures that meet this requirement. The first measure, Prepared for Success, is a carryover from the state’s current report card. It uses multiple indicators to determine the number of students ready for college or career at the end of high school, and is exclusively used for districts and high schools. The second measure, on the other hand, will be used by all schools and districts: student engagement as measured by chronic absenteeism.

Although the threshold for being considered chronically absent depends on the state, the idea behind the term is the same—chronic absentees are students who miss too much school. In Ohio, these students are known as “habitual truants.” They earn this designation...

  1. With less than a month to go until a new CEO-style Academic Distress Commission comes to Lorain City Schools, one elected school board member has decided to reach out to the ACLU to see if a possible civil rights case may be an option to halt ADC implementation, as if he’s just hearing about this situation for the first time. So weird. Additionally, I am shocked at the number of folks quoted here (and in the online comments section) who cannot seem to think of anything else the district could have done to avoid an Academic Distress Commission before yesterday. Academic… Distress… (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/9/17)
  2. It seems that Jefferson Township Local Schools’ books are in such poor shape that even StateAuditor Man! can’t figure them out. Akin to Lorain, above, it appears that no one quoted here can think of any way this situation of unauditable books could have been avoided prior to yesterday. But boy do they sound committed to fixing it after the fact. (Dayton Daily News, 2/9/17)
  3. Finally, some good news. World-renowned violinist Vadim Gluzman made a small tour of some awesome charter schools in Columbus yesterday. According to Twitter,
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Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA) is preparing Cleveland middle schoolers for success in high school, college, and life—and not just academically. CLA, whose population is 79 percent economically disadvantaged and made up almost entirely of students of color, is second among all public schools in the city on student growth. The school’s eighth graders reach and surpass proficiency at a rate that is more than three times that of their peers across the city. Reading and math proficiency rates at CLA are more than double those of Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s.

No matter how you slice the data, CLA is providing academic preparation that would likely be unavailable to them if the schools—and its broader high-performing charter network (Breakthrough Schools)—did not exist. And yet its academic prowess is just the tip of the iceberg.

The school’s model—as captured in its name, Citizens Leadership Academy—prioritizes and cultivates broader attributes and mindsets necessary for long-term success. As you’ll read in this profile about one student, Keith Lazare Jr., CLA asks students to consider what it means to be active, engaged citizens and community members. Students are asked to grapple not...

  1. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger published an op ed this week in which he opines on the necessity and early efficacy of charter law reform in Ohio. For the latter, he cites our recent report looking at the early implementation of HB 2. Nice! (Washington Court House Record Herald, 2/7/17)
  2. Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy is on the grow! The non-district, non-charter, public STEM high school is expanding to middle school starting next year with a $13 million building project which is on time, under budget, and looking pretty darn cool. Check it out. (Springfield News Sun, 2/7/17)
  3. Dayton’s school board this week unanimously approved a new three-year contract for Superintendent Rhonda Corr, citing some important positives that occurred during her first year on the job. While the biggest ones – a better-than-expected state report card and removal of the threat of an Academic Distress Commission – admittedly happened on the watch of the previous supe, the board president hinted at some further good news on the horizon: “We’re really excited about some reports you’re going to receive, and feel that this community will become even more confident in us moving ahead…” Well, played, Mr.
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Do incentives nudge students to exert more effort in their schoolwork? A recent study by University of Chicago analysts suggests they do, though the structure of the incentive is also important.

The researchers conducted field experiments from 2009 to 2011 in three high-poverty areas, including Chicago Public Schools and two nearby districts, with nearly 6,000 student participants in grades two through ten. Based on improved performance relative to a baseline score on a low-stakes reading or math assessment (not the state exam), various incentives were offered to different groups of pupils, such as a $10 or $20 reward, or a trophy worth about $3 along with public recognition of their accomplishment. The analysts offered no reward to students in a control group. To test whether pupils responded differently to immediate versus delayed incentives, some of the students received their reward right after the test—results were computed on the spot—while others knew the reward would be withheld for one month.

Several interesting findings emerged. First, the larger cash reward ($20) led to positive effects on test performance, while the smaller reward had no impact ($10). This suggests that, if offering a monetary reward, larger payouts will likely lead to more...

  1. A bit more coverage of the Ohio charter school facilities report, with whose release we helped out last week, courtesy of statewide public radio. (Statehouse News Bureau, 2/6/17)
  2. Here is a story about simple, common-sense stress reduction efforts underway in three Columbus City Schools elementary buildings. By all measures presented here, these efforts have worked miracles for students and have aided discipline and focus building-wide. Even the teachers are said to have reduced stress levels. And while there is no mention of how much any of these steps have cost, none of them seems to be very expensive at all and a local non-profit is said to be involved. So stipulating, I will present you with the piece’s conclusion: “Ohio Avenue's academics still need to catch up, she said, but kids aren't being sent out of lessons so often for discipline problems. Feeling calm and secure, they might be absorbing more material. The hope is that test scores will climb accordingly.” And now I will ask rhetorically if any of my loyal Gadfly Bites readers can guess the question lingering in my mind… (Columbus Dispatch, 2/5/17)
  3. Speaking of improvements, here is an update on Youngstown
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  1. In case you missed, it Fordham assisted in the release of a new report documenting the opportunities and challenges facing charter schools in Ohio in terms of obtaining and maintaining proper facilities for their work. You can find great coverage of the report and of the release event we co-hosted yesterday in Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/2/17)
  2. There was a little more talk yesterday about Governor Kasich’s proposal to include business leaders as ex-officio members of elected school boards across the state. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/2/17)
  3. Swanky Ottawa Hills school district in suburban Toledo is looking for a few good recruits to top out its student enrollment numbers. Just five kids would do the trick, but they have to be able to pay the out-of-district tuition, which is estimated at over $13,000 per year. “What?!” you ask. “How can it be that a public school district – open to all – could charge tuition when there is an existing open enrollment mechanism they could avail themselves of?!” You’re probably thinking this is about money. But let the soothing words of the school board president reassure you: “This isn’t about the money. It’s about populating our district
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A report released today outlines the facilities challenges facing Ohio’s public charter schools. The report, “An Analysis of the Charter School Facility Landscape in Ohio,” found that on average, Ohio charter schools spend $785 per pupil  from their foundation funding on facilities—a cost not typically faced by traditional public schools. The report also finds that few Ohio charters are able to locate in unused or underutilized district facilities.

“This study is eye opening,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy. “It provides Ohio policy makers with concrete data, for the first time ever, regarding how extensive the facility challenges are for Ohio’s 370 public charter schools.”

The report is based on a 2015 survey of Ohio charter school principals (representing 81 percent of brick-and-mortar charters in the state). The study was sponsored by the National Charter School Resource Center of the U.S. Department of Education, and conducted by the Colorado League of Charter Schools with the assistance of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“Charter schools face an uphill battle when it comes to securing a quality facility. Facility expenses of almost $800 per...