Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. We start today with an opinion piece from the PD in which education professionals attempt to dispel misconceptions about standardized testing in Ohio’s schools. Good stuff. Now, why that had to be done in an opinion piece is still an open question. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/31/17) On a related note, Ohio appears to have a bit of a test problem at the moment. No, not that one. This one: In the first year that all high school juniors in Ohio are required to take the ACT, about 1,300 test takers in 21 districts across the state have had their scores invalidated due to a mix up in test forms distributed. The result is that those students’ tests have been rejected with no scores reported. Test takers in Reynoldsburg, their families, and their school officials are pretty upset by the snafu. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/1/17) And so are test takers in the Miami Valley, their families, and their school officials. (Dayton Daily News, 6/1/17) Additionally, the remedy current on offer – a voucher for a free retest at the earliest available opportunity – isn’t sitting too well with those folks either. Story developing, as they say.
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Stéphane Lavertu

NOTE: 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.

The 2015 reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act—known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—requires states to identify poorly performing public schools and help them improve. Importantly, ESSA grants states flexibility in fulfilling this requirement. That means Ohio has some decisions to make as it creates the state’s accountability plan due to the feds this fall. To inform this decision-making, the Ohio Department of Education commissioned Deven Carlson of the University of Oklahoma and me to use rigorous scientific methods to estimate the impact of recent efforts to turn around struggling schools in Ohio. I write to share the results of this study and to offer some general thoughts on how Ohio might proceed under ESSA.  

Our study focused on two recent “school turnaround” initiatives: Ohio’s administration of the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program beginning in 2009 and its intervention in “priority schools” beginning in 2012. These programs targeted elementary and secondary schools ranked in...

  1. The CEO-style Academic Distress Commission is on the mind of the PD’s Patrick O’Donnell this week. Fist up, he took a look at the hopes and fears of officials in Lorain as said CEO-style ADC ramps up there. Mostly at the fears, though. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/27/17) Then Patrick took a look at the state of play in Youngstown, the only other district currently operating under the aegis of a CEO-style ADC, including rants, raves, and worst-case scenarios. Mostly the rants and the scenarios, though. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/30/17) And just in case you’ve missed a recent update on just how “ranty” things are in Youngstown, here’s a reminder. Apparently, the school board and the CEO are “communicating” largely via Vindy articles these days. Good for circulation numbers, I’m sure. Probably not so good for kids. (Youngstown Vindicator, 5/24/17)
  2. Speaking of things that are good for kids, summer is apparently not one of them, if the recent spate of articles clipped here are to be believed. Here is a look at all of the efforts afoot in the city of Columbus to keep local kids safe and engaged over the extended break from school. Of interest
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Posted just six hours after the close of Mother’s Day, this eerily titled article, “Some school districts tail parents to check where family actually lives,” discussed the lengths to which some parents go to enroll their child in a “desirable school district”—and the lengths to which some districts go to keep such “outsiders” at bay.  Nothing says we cherish or appreciate moms like this description of a local residency investigation that resulted in a child being forcibly withdrawn from a local school. As the Columbus Dispatch reported:

“In April, lots of Bexley residents chimed in over social media when an outraged mother posted that the Bexley school district hired a private investigator to tail her for months to see if she and her young son actually live at her mother’s house. She said she works multiple jobs and isn’t at home much. In the Facebook post that has since been removed, she said her son had been kicked out of school with only five weeks left in the year...”

In response, the district’s attorney, Gregory Scott defended the district’s actions saying:

“There’s nothing nefarious about that [legally following someone in public].”

“Districts that choose to close...

Performance-based funding in the public sector has begun to take root in recent years, most prominently in higher education and in merit-pay plans for some teachers. It’s based on the belief that in order to incentivize stronger performance by individuals and institutions, policymakers should provide them with a portion of their funds based on demonstrated outcomes.

Ohio has also dabbled in performance-based funding for its K-12 schools. Starting in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, state lawmakers provided a $17-per-student bonus to high-performing districts—those rated “excellent” or “excellent with distinction.” That funding stream was not renewed in the next budget cycle but performance-based funding reappeared in a different form in FY 2016-17. Under present policy, districts (and charters) receive nominal bonuses based on their third-grade reading proficiency rates and their graduation rates. Altogether, Ohio spreads about $35 million per year in performance bonuses to each district, with sums typically ranging from $10 to $50 per student. All districts receive some amount of bonus funding.

Ohio’s budget bill (for FY 18-19) keeps these bonus programs intact, and we certainly applaud the rationale and the intent. Yet performance-based funding in its present K-12 form has several flaws, and...

Back in February, U.S. News and World Report named Massachusetts the top state in its Best States rankings. Though the Bay State has plenty else going for it, part of its triumph is based on educational success—and on that dimension it’s no secret that Massachusetts students have recently excelled on both the national and international stages.

Perhaps, therefore, we ought not be too surprised that one of Ohio’s latest Common Core repeal attempts would replace those “national” standards with Massachusetts’s pre-2010 academic content standards. The bill’s sponsor has argued that the Bay State’s old standards are in Ohio’s current best interest because, while teaching them, Massachusetts moved from “modestly performing” to best in class. In recent testimony, he called them “excellent” and “proven” and argued that this change is necessary because Ohio’s education ranking has “plummeted” (which, for the record, is a misunderstanding of the data). The implication is that by adopting Massachusetts’ old standards, Ohio will place itself on the road to dominating the education sphere.

But is that true? Were Ohio to adopt the old Massachusetts standards, can we expect Massachusetts-style academic results?

Brief but apt digression: let’s turn...

Inequity in the City—the work of veteran authors of charter-school funding studies, including Inequity’s Next Frontier, Inequity Persists, and Inequity Expandsdiffers slightly from its predecessors because of its metropolitan focus. Its core finding is familiar, however: public charter schools face serious and persistent funding gaps compared to their district counterparts. (Will we ever get to read “Inequity Shrinks” or “Inequity Disappears”? One can dream.)

The analysts focused on 15 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Camden, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, San Antonio, Tulsa, and Washington, D.C. These locales were selected for their high concentration of charters or their “potential for growth.” Data come from fiscal year 2014.

They examined revenue differences in these places between the charter and district schools sectors, including all sources of funding—local, state, federal, and nonpublic. In eight of the cities, the authors conducted longitudinal analyses. They also tested to see whether differences in the enrollment rates of students with special learning needs (defined broadly to include students who are low-income, English language learners, or with disabilities) might explain funding differences.

There are several notable findings:

  • Urban charter schools continue to receive significantly less money than
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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is releasing a first-of-its-kind statewide analysis of interdistrict open enrollment. Using anonymous student-level data, Ohio State University professor Stéphane Lavertu and Deven Carlson of the University of Oklahoma examined the background characteristics of open enrollees along with their academic outcomes as gauged by state exams and graduation rates.

We invite you to an important discussion of this widespread but often-overlooked means of school choice in the Buckeye State. The researchers will discuss their findings and a panel of education experts will discuss the implications of the report. The discussion will focus on the benefits and challenges of the policy; how it impacts the families, students, and districts involved; and how Ohio policy makers might strengthen open enrollment policies in the future.

Tuesday June 6, 2017

8:30 - 9:45 am

Chase Tower
100 East Broad Street
Sixth Floor - Conference Room B
Columbus, OH 43215

Seating is limited so please register today.



Deven Carlson
University of Oklahoma
Report co-author



Tina Thomas-Manning
Reynoldsburg City Schools



  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
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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...