Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Remember the charter school sponsor evaluations in Ohio from last year? The ones that ended up being rescinded due to questions over online school sponsors? Well, the Ohio Department of Education is still required to evaluate sponsors and the new framework has been in place since around May. The academic portion of those evaluations turned out to be not so great at first blush and now there are questions about the compliance portion. There is a list of 329 state laws and rules that sponsors have to confirm compliance on for every one of their schools. (Number 209: does the school have a flag that is no more than 5’ x 5’ in size?) Some sponsors are complaining already about how hard it is, how ridiculous some of the rules are, and how much freakin’ work it is to document all of this. Worst of all is that sponsors worry they may get dinged for not documenting compliance (due to the complexity) when their schools are actually complying. Fordham’s not complaining, mind you. Our intrepid sponsorship team is soldiering on and our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece as well: “I think it's important we probably don't
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I remember the exact moment I became a charter school supporter. It was 2006, and I was a few days away from completing my first year of teaching in Camden, New Jersey. The mother of one of my students wanted to speak with me after school. I’ll never forget what she asked me: She wanted to know if she should send her daughter to a nearby charter school for first grade or keep her in our district school. Specifically, she asked, “What would you do if you were me—if this were your child?”

If someone had asked me then my opinion on charter schools, or choice generally, I wouldn’t have had one. But I did have a strong opinion about wanting her child (small for her age, with a tough exterior that could be mistaken for anger if you didn’t know her well) to thrive. The charter up the street was the only one I’d ever heard of, even though the city suffered from a desperate shortage of schools where reading and math proficiency scores weren’t in the single digits. I knew a bit about that particular school. It was safe and orderly, placed high expectations on students, offered...

  1. The entity known as META Solutions, a data and financial services support organization for hundreds of school districts and local governments (aka “The Blob”), will undergo something of a shakeup in the coming months. Board president, CEO, CFO, and assistant CFO all announced retirements or resignations this week. I’m sure this rash of departures has nothing to do with the financial review of The Blob to be undertaken by the Ohio Auditor of State (aka “Yost!”) or the fact that Yost called META a “shadow government”, as we noted on Monday. I can only imagine he meant that in the nicest possible way. (Marion Star, 6/28/16)
     
  2. Today is Day One officially on the job for Krish Mohip as CEO of Youngstown City Schools. This brief piece notes that he talked about raising expectations via love, or something like that. (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/29/16) Meanwhile, in the fiddle section, the following was said on the record at Monday’s Youngstown School Board meeting: “This agenda is a failure because this board is a failure.” And this was said BEFORE the board voted unanimously to oppose the fact that the state is reimbursing the district for Mohip’s pay rather than
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On June 22, the Dropout Prevention and Recovery Study Committee met for its first of three meetings this summer. The committee is composed of two Ohio lawmakers (Representative Andrew Brenner and Senator Peggy Lehner) and several community leaders. It was created under a provision in House Bill 2 (Ohio’s charter reform bill) and is tasked with defining school quality and examining competency-based funding for dropout-recovery schools by August 1.  

Conducting a rigorous review of state policies on the state’s ninety-four dropout-recovery charter schools is exactly the right thing to do—not only as a legal requirement, but also because these schools now educate roughly sixteen thousand adolescents. The discussion around academic quality is of particular importance. These schools have proven difficult to judge because of the students they serve: young adults who have dropped out or are at risk of doing so. By definition, these kids have experienced academic failure already. So what is fair to expect of their second-chance schools?

Let’s review the status of state accountability for dropout-recovery schools and take a closer look at the results from the 2014–15 report cards. In 2012–13, Ohio began to provide data on the success of its dropout-recovery...

Traditional districts that serve as charter school sponsors are often glossed over in the debate over Ohio’s charter sector. But given their role in two recent reports, it’s an opportune time to take a closer look at their track record.  

First, a Know Your Charter report covered the failings of a number of Buckeye charters receiving federal startup funds (either they closed or never opened). Though the report itself didn’t draw attention to it, we pointed out that school districts sponsored more than 40 percent of these closed schools. Meanwhile, the auditor of state released a review of charter school attendance; among the three schools referred for further action because of extraordinarily low attendance, two had district sponsors (the third was sponsored by an educational service center).

With all of the talk about charters being created to privatize education, it might surprise you to learn that Ohio school districts have long had the authority to sponsor (a.k.a. authorize) charters. In fact, the Buckeye State allows districts to sponsor either conversion or startup charters within certain geographic limitations (e.g., a school must be located within a district’s jurisdiction or in a district nearby)....

  1. Maybe THIS will be the final word on this topic. The young man who finished third in the SkillsUSA Ohio masonry competition – but who ended up going to the national competition instead of the young woman who “won” the state contest due to a reported scoring error – placed second in said national masonry competition. Pretty impressive. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/26/16)
     
  2. It is a big week for high-profile new hires here in Ohio. First up, Paolo DeMaria starts today as State Superintendent for Public Instruction. I was going to bike to work today too, but the path was too wet. (Associated Press via Toledo Blade, 6/27/16) Krish Mohip starts Wednesday as the first CEO of Youngstown City Schools. Whatever biking he’s doing will be decidedly uphill.  (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/26/16)
     
  3. What do I mean by “uphill”? The Ohio Department of Education has found three areas in which Youngstown City Schools “did not adequately or properly follow required procedures regarding its special-education students”. Things like clustering special education students in one or two buildings and denying them equal access to CTE courses. The interim supe seems to think it’s no biggie and in fact had already
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School choice advocates have long agreed on the importance of understanding what parents value when selecting a school for their children. A new study from Mathematica seeks to add to that conversation and generally finds the same results as prior research. What makes this study relatively unique, however, is that its analysis is based on parents’ rank-ordered preferences on a centralized school application rather than self-reported surveys.

To analyze preferences, researchers utilized data from Washington, D.C.’s common enrollment system, which includes traditional district schools and nearly all charters. D.C. families that want to send their children to a school other than the one they currently attend (or are zoned to attend) must submit a common application on which they rank their twelve most preferred schools. Students are then matched to available spaces using a random assignment algorithm.

The study tests for five domains of school choice factors: convenience (measured by commute distance from home to school),[1] school demographics (the percentage of students in a school who are the same race or ethnicity as the chooser), academic indicators (including a school’s proficiency rate from the previous year), school neighborhood characteristics (crime rates and measures of...

A short article published this week in the Columbus Dispatch makes serious reporting mistakes that leave readers with a distorted view of school finance. According to the article, a Columbus citizen millage panel recently discussed a state policy known as the funding “cap.” Briefly speaking, this policy limits the year-to-year growth in state revenue for any particular school district. As we’ve stated in the past, funding caps are poor public policy because they shortchange districts of revenue they ought to receive under their funding formulae. State lawmakers should kill the cap; it circumvents the state’s own formula, it’s unfair to districts on the cap, and it ultimately shortchanges kids.

The article would’ve been right to stop there. Yet somehow charter schools got pulled into the discussion, and that is where the coverage went way off track. The Dispatch writes:

But the formula for one class of school [i.e., Columbus district schools] is now capped, while the other [Columbus charters] isn’t.…But today Columbus charters get $142.4 million from the state to teach 18,000 students, while the district is left with $154.4 million to teach the remaining 52,000 kids, many of whom rank among the poorest in the state. ...

  1. I sometimes feel like I’m the only person who has no further need to be convinced that kids dropping out of school without graduating is a bad thing. Why? Because it seems any discussion of “what to do about dropouts” still requires an obligatory introduction about WHY we need to do something about the problem. Anywho, Ohio’s got a newly-appointed panel on the topic of dropouts. They held their first meeting earlier this week and guess what they talked about?  They have until August 1 to make recommendations to the state. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/22/16)
     
  2. Journalist Patrick O’Donnell continued his look at Cuyahoga County school district expenditures. This time, he ranked per-pupil spending on students with special needs, students who are English language learners, students with families in poverty, etc. No charter schools were included in this list. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/23/16)
     
  3. I can’t imagine this will be the last word on the subject, but folks from SkillsUSA finally offered an explanation as to how the girl who came in first in the Ohio masonry competition by a long chalk ended up not going to the national competition in favor of the boy who had originally
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Last year’s biennial budget (HB 64) required Ohio to define what it means to be a “consistently high-performing teacher” by July 1, a date that is fast approaching. This particular provision aimed to make life easier for such teachers by excusing them from the requirement to complete additional coursework (and shell out extra money) each time they renew their licenses. It also exempts them from additional professional development requirements prescribed by their districts or schools. Who could oppose freeing some of our best teachers from a couple of burdensome mandates?

More people than you might think, starting with the group tasked with defining “consistently high-performing”: the Ohio Educator Standards Board. The board recently “voted unanimously to oppose the law” according to Gongwer News—never mind the fact that the law passed last year and contesting it now is futile. Chairwoman Sandra Orth said that defining a high-performing teacher was disrespectful and unproductive. Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) President Melissa Cropper also weighed in, calling it “another slap in the face to our profession.” Meanwhile, state board of education member A.J. Wagner characterized this provision as a “law that was made to be broken” and urged fellow members to follow...

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