Ohio Gadfly Daily

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
  4. ...

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
  3. ...

Although recent analyses show that the child poverty rate isn't as high as many people believe, the fact remains that millions of American students attend under-resourced schools. For many of these children, well-resourced schools are geographically close but practically out of reach; high home prices and the scarcity of open enrollment policies make it all but impossible for low-income families to cross district borders for a better education.

Some research shows that low-income children benefit from attending school with better-off peers. Middle- and upper-income children may also benefit from an economically diverse setting. In short, income integration is a win-win for everyone involved. So why do the vast majority of school districts in the United States remain segregated by income? The answer isn’t much of a mystery: Schools are mainly funded by locally raised property taxes, which functionally “give wealthier communities permission to keep their resources away from the neediest schools.”

In order to examine just how isolating school district borders can be for low-income students, a relatively new nonprofit called EdBuild recently examined 33,500 school borders for school districts in 2014 and identified the difference in childhood poverty rates between districts on either side of the boundary line. (For...

  1. The dulcet tones of our own Chad Aldis are included in this public media report noting that three other online charter schools are staring down the barrel of the same type of attendance audit the state’s largest online school is currently contesting in myriad ways. (WKSU-FM, Kent, 8/29/16)
  2. Meanwhile, state senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Youngstown) opined on the need for passage of legislation making Ohio’s online schools more accountable. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/29/16) In related opining news, editors in Akron urge the governor to get involved in the charter sponsors review rules kerfuffle. (Akron Beacon Journal, 8/30/16)
  3. Back in the real world, it seems that the threatened teacher strike in Cleveland has been averted. I believe a final vote of the rank and file is still pending, but hopefully will turn out for the positive when it happens. Whew! (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/30/16)
  4. The Youngstown School Board held a special meeting on Monday…or did they? (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/30/16) Outside the fiddle section, there are still not enough drivers for the school buses. (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/31/16)
  5. In Youngstown suburb news, Howland Schools has implemented an odd sort of busing change this school
  6. ...
  1. The Dispatch took an interesting look at the demographics of students using the EdChoice Scholarship in Ohio and found a disconnect between the number of eligible black students and the number of black students actually using vouchers. Fordham’s recent report on the performance of voucher recipients is referenced, and lead researcher David Figlio is quoted anew on the issue of possible discrimination. The assertion here is that a barrier for black students exists at the private schools. This may actually be true, but I think new patterns might emerge if the state would actually fully inform all eligible students statewide and maybe even help those families access private schools. But I could be alone in thinking that. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/28/16)
  2. Also in the D this weekend, editors opined on the need to press forward on charter school reform in Ohio, quoting Chad along the way. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/28/16)
  3. It’s a slow news day, so I’m including this confusing piece on a new bus service being launched in a couple weeks’ time for Elyria High School students. What I think it means: the district doesn’t provide busing for high schoolers and Elyria doesn’t have much in the
  4. ...
  1. Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP, was in Cleveland this week for an event. The folks at public radio’s Sound of Ideas had Feinberg and Breakthrough Schools’ president John Zitzner as guests that morning, talking about the state of Ohio charter schools. Also along to provide context and history (which he had to do several times) was the Plain Dealer’s education reporter Patrick O’Donnell. Lots of great info, details, and nuance throughout the show. Callers too! An excellent listen, and not just because Fordham is namechecked as a “good sponsor” at around the 25:00 minute mark. (IdeaStream Public Media, Cleveland, 8/24/16)
  2. Wednesday was the first day of school for Columbus City Schools. Sounds like it went pretty well. This piece follows Superintendent Dan Good on his whirlwind morning of opening day school visits. At one, he was joined by State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria. At another, he was joined by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown. At yet another (unscheduled) stop, he dealt with the issue of a very young child dropped off without paperwork or contact with staff. That story had a happy ending. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/24/16) It is encouraging to note in that Columbus story that the district employed
  3. ...

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther is passionately outspoken about Columbus City Schools. He is an alumnus of the district, and his first experience as an elected official came as a member of its board of education. He has regularly praised Columbus City Schools and publicly bemoaned those who have spoken negatively about them. "I was tired of listening to people talk poorly about Columbus schools," Ginther said in a 2011 interview with ThisWeek Community News, explaining why he initially ran for school board. "As a matter of fact, I had a great experience in Columbus City Schools."

So strong is his belief in the district that Ginther is a major proponent of the levy this November that would authorize a 18 percent tax increase on residents to provide an influx of cash to Columbus City Schools.

However, when facing the decision of where to send his own daughter for kindergarten, Ginther chose a different path than the one he acclaims for the rest of the city's children. It is Ginther’s long-term support of Columbus City Schools that made last week’s announcement both surprising and noteworthy. The family’s assigned district school is a shining star that has been ranked as...