Ohio Gadfly Daily

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) announced that it would release the $71 million Charter School Program (CSP) grant awarded to Ohio last September, but with additional restrictions attached. The letter outlines "high-risk" special conditions for how Ohio's award can be spent. This includes excluding virtual charter schools, placing extra requirements on subgrants to dropout recovery charter schools, and a promise that USDOE will carefully monitor and ensure that Ohio completes its authorizer evaluations on time.

The federal CSP program dates back to 1994, and has been used to seed new charter schools across the U.S. as well as enable top-performing charter networks to grow and expand. In recent years, the CSP program has drawn broad bi-partisan support in Congress.

Ohio’s grant was put on hold shortly after it was announced, as the USDOE considered additional safeguards on how the funds would be spent. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) revised its application in January 2016 to further describe the state’s charter accountability infrastructure. More recently, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria aggressively moved forward with charter sponsor evaluations—a key part of the state’s CSP application—despite attempts to delay them.

“We’re extremely pleased that the USDOE, after a...

  1. The State Auditor (that guy!) released a financial performance audit of Cincinnati City Schools earlier this week. He’s got a recommendation or two to help the district save $11 million. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted helpfully as encouraging the district to do so. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 9/10/16)
     
  2. The Florida NAACP and teachers unions have challenged Florida’s voucher programs in court. The ongoing case is covered pretty thoroughly in this piece from The 74. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a prime mover in Florida’s voucher programs before coming to Ohio and is quoted in this interesting and detailed piece. (The 74 Million blog, 9/13/16)
     
  3. Speaking of court cases, the ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the state department of education over the parameters and definitions of an attendance audit has made it to court with a couple days of testimony so far this week. You can check out Day One details here… (Columbus Dispatch, 9/12/16) …and here (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/12/16, with video!). Day Two coverage is here. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/16)
     
  4. Back in the real world, Columbus City Schools’ board of education may decide next week to sell off as many
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  1. As one might have expected, the kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the department of education over an attendance audit did not remain contained between those two entities. Other online schools seem to be experiencing attendance tracking issues when checked, many of which are enumerated in this piece. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/11/16)
     
  2. The state board of education is meeting this week. One item on members’ agenda: discussion of proposed new rules for gifted education in Ohio. Here’s a piece that purports to showcase the debate over said rules but seems to me to present only one side of the argument in interviews. But I might have missed something. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/11/16)
     
  3. The payment method for College Credit Plus (that’s early college courses for credit while students are still in high school) gets a look-see in today’s Dispatch. Opinion is decidedly mixed among those interviewed. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/12/16) Meanwhile, Denison University in Granville with help from the I Know I Can college access organization, announced it will give four-year tuition-only scholarships to 20 Columbus City Schools graduates each year for the foreseeable future. Recipients will be chosen based on academic record, extracurricular achievements, essays
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GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump recently visited Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, a charter school educating predominately minority and low-income children. I write not to comment on Mr. Trump’s candidacy, his thoughts on education policy, or even Ohio’s charter schools. Rather, this is my takeaway from the whole brouhaha—and be forewarned, it’s a wonky one: Ohio needs to return to a multi-year value-added measure.

Here’s why. Charter critics, media, and even a respected education reform group were quick to label Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy a “failure.” They relied on the school’s 2014–15 school report cards, which indeed showed low A–F grades. One glaring rating was the school’s F on Ohio’s value-added measure—not good at face value, because the measure is generally uncorrelated with student demographics and is therefore a metric that high-poverty schools can and do succeed on. (Value added gauges growth over time, regardless of students’ prior achievement.)

Keep in mind, however, that Ohio is presently basing value-added rating on one year of data—and those ratings can swing quite dramatically from year to year. Consider, for example, that Toledo Public Schools received an A rating on value added in 2013-14....

  1. In case you missed it, Republication presidential candidate Donald J. Trump visited Cleveland yesterday and spoke at a charter school in the city. The candidate’s remarks were mainly about education plans and promises should we elect him to the top office. This is really the only coverage I could find that stuck to the education theme. But if that’s what it takes to bring the Beacon Journal’s ace inkhound Doug “Dog” Livingston back onto these clips, then so be it! Welcome back, buddy! We missed your brass and sass. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/9/16). Doug’s been out of the education reporting game for a while, covering politics (bleurgh) for the ABJ instead, so he probably hasn’t had an opportunity to read Fordham’s recent downbeat report on Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program. These folks have read it, and framed the candidate’s call for expanded vouchers with it…like a shroud. First, the Standard Examiner out of Ogden, Utah. (Standard Examiner, 9/8/16). Second, the Villages Suntimes News out of Dog knows where. (Villages Suntimes, 9/8/16). As per usual, the candidate didn’t exactly stick to one theme, and a couple of his national security-related comments took over the Dispatch’s coverage. But the
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There are emerging signs, as I’ve written, that Ohio’s charter law overhaul (HB 2) is working. Significant numbers of poorly performing schools were closed last year, and Ohio’s charter school opening rate has slowed to an unprecedented crawl—both of which serve as evidence that the reforms are influencing sponsor behavior. This tightening of the sector on both ends, while painful for advocates, is absolutely necessary to improve quality overall and tame Ohio charters’ undeniably poor reputation.

It may seem odd that some Ohio charter school advocates are touting the sector’s contraction or this year’s stunted growth (an all-time low of eight new schools). It’s a form of cognitive dissonance shared by those of us who ardently support a family’s right to choose a school but are tired of watching the sector strain under the weight of its own terrible reputation and inflict collateral damage on those high-performing, achievement-gap-closing charter schools that first drew us to the cause.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when reality doesn’t sync up with theory, and when evidence points to something not working as well as the lofty idea of it. For instance, Ohio is a far different place than...

  1. The ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the Ohio Department of Education regarding the parameters of an attendance audit is not exactly on the boil at the moment. More of a medium simmer. To fill the time until the next flare up they are hoping for, the good folks at the Dispatch give you a behind-the-scenes look at how the kerfuffle has evolved. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/5/16)
     
  2. Here is a very nice look at KIPP: Columbus, a top-notch charter school (if I do say so myself) here in the capital city. The source is unusual, but the piece is definitely worth a look. Full disclosure: Fordham sponsors KIPP. (Smart Business News, 9/1/16)
     
  3. The Dayton Daily News acknowledged Ohio’s rather disastrous showing in the recent “Fault Lines” report of the 50 most segregating school district borders, including the high ranking ones between Dayton and two of its suburbs. There is no analysis or discussion here; just the fact. But I guess the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that there is one. (Dayton Daily News, 9/6/16) I am a little remiss in discovering this piece, but the timing couldn’t be more fortuitous. The
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Last week, several of my Fordham colleagues published a fantastic fifty-state review of accountability systems and how they impact high achievers. Lamentably, they found that most states do almost nothing to hold schools accountable for the progress of their most able pupils. There are several reasons for this neglect, as the report’s foreword discusses; but with states now revamping their school report cards under the new federal education law, they have a great chance to bolster accountability for their high-achieving students.

How did Ohio fare? We’re pleased to report that the Buckeye State is a national leader in accounting for the outcomes of high-achieving students. As the Fordham study points out, Ohio accomplishes this in three important ways. First, to rate schools, the state relies heavily on the performance index. This measure gives schools additional credit when students reach advanced levels on state exams, encouraging them to teach to all learners and not just those on the cusp of proficiency. Second, Ohio utilizes a robust value-added measure that expects schools to contribute to all students’ academic growth, including high achievers (and regardless of whether they come from low- or higher-income backgrounds). Third, state report cards...

How does teaching stack up to other occupations in terms of compensation? A recent analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), an organization with union ties, has gained attention for its findings on the growing teacher “wage gap.” Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey (BLS-CPS), the EPI analysts report a 17 percent disparity between teachers’ weekly wages relative to other college-educated workers. When they add generous benefits on top—including health care and pensions—that gap shrinks to 11 percent. These differences in wages and total compensation, the authors find, are much wider than what teachers faced in mid-1990s. Based on their analysis, they suggest raising teacher wages and benefits across the board.

Do the EPI authors get it right? There are a few problems with their analysis: They chose a questionable comparison group by looking at other college-educated workers, and they don’t account for summers off. (Also see economist Michael Podgursky’s Flypaper article, which argues that BLS benefits data undervalue teacher pensions, leading EPI to overstate the gap in total compensation.)

Let’s start with the problem of EPI’s comparison group—workers holding a college degree. By using this group as a benchmark,...

  1. A broader-than-usual list of guests, including our own Chad Aldis, appeared on All Sides with Ann Fisher earlier this week, talking about charter school oversight in Ohio. It was awesome, without any reservations at all from me. You should all love it. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 8/31/16)
     
  2. Reports of the demise of charter sponsor evaluations in Ohio appear to have been premature. State supe Paolo DeMaria announced yesterday that rather than pursue the clearance of a new rule on sponsor compliance, the tabling of which caused no end of angst (see All Sides, above), ODE would move forward with evaluations keeping their old rule in place. I doubt this is the end of the story. Chad says, pragmatically, ODE is “making the best out of a situation that was less than optimal.” Indeed. (Dayton Daily News, via AP, 9/1/16) Chad is also quoted in the Dispatch coverage, but final word must go to DeMaria, who says, “If I can get certainty, rigor and compliance, I’m going to go with that option.” Yes. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/1/16) The PD, in typical style, puts yesterday’s decision into context of the full sponsor evaluation framework. Plus it includes a link to
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