Ohio Gadfly Daily

  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
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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 14 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...

  1. While it seems that the question of “worst-run” state government entity in Ohio has been settled for the time being, maybe “most boring” is up for grabs again? After the Funeral Board went into overload last year, I was pretty sure that the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) had the title locked down. But when they got a chance to look at the state’s charter sponsor review rules this week, the word “boring” went out the window. To wit: said rules were sent back to the Orwellian-sounding “Common Sense Initiative” office (CSI) with a question about their retroactivity. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted calling for a swift review of the rules and a return to JCARR or perhaps an even quicker executive or legislative fix. “If legislators are really concerned about retro-activity, then we should take action to quickly rectify that issue.” (Columbus Dispatch, 8/23/16) Chad is then quoted again today, concerned that there could be far-reaching consequences if the rule review is not swiftly settled and the sponsor reviews not completed. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/24/16) Gongwer covers the same ground and quotes Chad similarly. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/23/16) Chad is of course speaking about the
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Columbus Collegiate Academy (CCA) epitomizes the relentlessness and vision necessary to close achievement gaps in urban education. Started in the basement of a church with 57 students in 2008, CCA evolved into one of the city’s top-performing middle schools. It earned national awards for the gains achieved by students who are overwhelmingly disadvantaged, and grew into a network of schools serving 600 students. I visited CCA in its original location in 2009. Despite its unassuming surroundings, I knew right away this school was different. It was the type of place that inspires you the moment you step through the door. Its hallways echoed with the sound of students engaged in learning. College banners and motivational posters reminded students—and visitors—of why they were there. Teachers buzzed with energy, motivated by a combination of urgency and optimism—all students can and will learn. Its founder and visionary leader, Andrew Boy, spoke deliberately and matter of factly about the success CCA would help each student achieve. He...
  1. Late last week, the Ohio Department of Education announced the first ever recipients of state grants for charter school facilities. Given the stringent quality criteria, we are proud that two schools sponsored by Fordham are among the winners. We look forward to even more greatness from Columbus Collegiate Academy West and DECA Prep. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/19/16) Other coverage of the grants which focuses on local winners but does not mention Fordham or quote Chad can be found in the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 8/20/16) and in the Plain Dealer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/19/16)
     
  2. Editors in Cincinnati were keen to mention Fordham while opining on how to improve schools in Ohio. No, we are not part of the solution. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/22/16) North Coast curmudgeon Marilou Johanek must have been on the same conference call as the Enquirer editors, opining very similarly this weekend. (Toledo Blade, 8/20/16) The target of Ms. Johanek’s ire is concentrated: Ohio’s largest online school. So how did the ongoing legal kerfuffle over paperwork end up on Friday? With a courtroom victory for the school. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/19/16)
     
  3. How’d that door-to-door visit to Youngstown homes go on Friday evening?
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  1. Ohio Auditor Dave Yost (yes, him again) convened the first ever statewide Charter School Summit in Columbus last week. There were workshops and keynotes and heavy hitters; it was great to welcome folks the caliber of Geoffrey Canada and Steve Perry to our city. It was, as the auditor said in his opening remarks, a chance to celebrate great charter schools in Ohio. “Shining stars”, as he called them. Perhaps it is a bit too bad, then, that press coverage of the event was dominated by the auditor’s own opening remarks in which he called for performance-based funding for online charter schools in the state. Coverage of that particular bombshell included Gongwer (Gongwer Ohio, 8/11/16), the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 8/12/16), and two different outlets of public media (IdeaStream Public Media, Cleveland, 8/11/16 and WOSU-FM, Columbus, 8/12/16). All of these pieces included positive reaction to the proposal from our own Chad Aldis. Even over the weekend, editors in Columbus were still thinking about the radical idea, adding their opinion to the mix on Saturday and citing a recent Ohio Gadfly Daily blog post on the topic while opining. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/14/16)
     
  2. Editors in Akron
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Today, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission announced eight winners in the state’s inaugural round of funding to charter schools to purchase, construct, or renovate classroom facilities. The $25 million competitive grant was created through last year’s budget bill (HB 64) to enable high-performing charter schools to access funds for growth and expansion, and ultimately serve more students in Ohio’s neediest communities. Nineteen charter schools and eleven charter networks were eligible for the award, and thirteen applications were submitted. The winners are as follows:

The announcement can be found here.

The winners include two Fordham-authorized charter schools/networks, DECA Prep in Dayton and the United Schools Network (USN) in Columbus. Fordham’s Vice President for Sponsorship and Dayton Initiatives, Kathryn Mullen Upton, said, “We are thrilled that DECA Prep and United Schools have secured much-deserved facilities dollars. Families and students in some of Dayton’s and Columbus’ most challenged communities who will have new school opportunities are the true winners.”

Ohio’s public charter schools receive, on average, 28 percent fewer taxpayer dollars (federal, state, and local combined) than do traditional public schools. These inequities are exacerbated by the...

Ohio has developed one of the nation’s best school report cards, packed with data and clear A–F ratings for schools and districts. In this light, the reports that parents receive on their own children’s state exam performance are doubly disappointing. Simply put, the current form of these reports is mediocre. They represent a missed opportunity to clearly convey where children stand academically, how well (or not) they are progressing in school, and how bright (or not) are their future education prospects.

Ohio can and should do a better job communicating with families.

The image below displays a snippet from a sample state test score report for 2015–16. The student’s name (Jane) and high school math score (706) are fictitious. The entire document is available at this link both for grades 3–8 and high school.

These score reports have a couple of helpful features that provide context and comparison, such as giving families the ability to relate their children’s scores to various averages. In this example, Jane’s math score lags behind these averages, which might raise flags for her parents. Additionally, the...

August 16 marked the first day of school for the thousands of children who attend the Dayton Public Schools (DPS). They returned to a district with a new superintendent, but many old problems. Regrettably, Dayton is at the end of a five-year strategic plan that barely moved the needle on the city’s dismal track record for student achievement. In 2014–15, DPS was the lowest-performing of Ohio’s 610 public school districts. That distinction should make Dayton’s citizens cringe.

Superintendent Rhonda Corr—who knows Cleveland well but is new to the Gem City—was given only a one-year contract by the board of education. That’s not enough time to accomplish much beyond figuring out what needs fixing. She’ll need to determine why so few of Dayton’s young people are learning enough to put themselves on track for success in later life.

She may find something nobody has ever spotted before, but previous diagnoses of Dayton’s education woes have uncovered plenty of problems. Some of them are outside the school system’s immediate control, such as the tragic challenge of multi-generational poverty. Others, though, are endemic to the district itself, including a stubborn bureaucracy, eleven different bargaining units, high rates of truancy, and huge numbers of suspensions in the...

Ohio leaders have started an important conversation about education policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act. One of the central issues is what accountability will look like—including how to hold schools accountable for the outcomes of student subgroups (e.g., pupils who are low-income or African American). Ohio’s accountability system is largely praiseworthy, but policy makers should address one glaring weakness: subgroup accountability policies.

The state currently implements subgroup accountability via the gap-closing measure, also known as “annual measureable objectives.” Briefly speaking, the measure consists of two steps: First, it evaluates a school’s subgroup proficiency rate against a statewide proficiency goal; second, if a subgroup misses the goal, schools may receive credit if that subgroup shows year-to-year improvement in proficiency.

This approach to accountability is deeply flawed. The reasons boil down to three major problems, some of which I’ve discussed before. First, using pure proficiency rate is a poor accountability policy when better measures of achievement—such as Ohio’s performance index—are available. (See Morgan Polikoff’s and Mike Petrilli’s recent letters to the Department of Education for more on this.) Second, year-to-year changes in proficiency could be conflated with changes in student composition. For example, we might notice a jump in subgroup proficiency. But is...

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