Ohio Gadfly Daily

Eighteen months ago, Ohio proved it was finally serious about cleaning up its charter sector, with Governor Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly placing sponsors (a.k.a. authorizers) at the center of a massive charter law overhaul. The effort aimed to hold Ohio’s sixty-plus authorizers more accountable—a strategy based on incentives to spur behavioral change among the gatekeepers of charter school quality. Poorly performing sponsors would be penalized, putting a stop to the fly-by-night, ill-vetted schools that gave a huge black eye to the sector and harmed students. Under House Bill 2, high-performing sponsors would be rewarded, which would encourage authorizing best practices and improve the likelihood of greater quality control during all phases of a charter’s life cycle (start-up, renewal, closure).

While the conceptual framework for these sponsor-centric reforms is now toddler-aged, the actual reforms are still in their infancy. (House Bill 2 went into effect in February of this year, and the earlier enacted but only recently implemented sponsor evaluation is just now getting off the ground.) Even so, just five months in, HB 2 and the comprehensive sponsor evaluation system are having an impact. Eleven schools were not renewed by their sponsors,...

In case you missed it, Fordham Ohio released a new report yesterday—Evaluation of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program—a first-of-its kind rigorous examination of the state’s largest voucher program. Say what you will about the frankly disappointing findings but never say that Fordham is afraid to go where the data lead. Here is the higher-level coverage the report received both in Ohio and nationally. More to come, I imagine:

  1. Ohio’s voucher students fare worse than public-school peers, study finds (Columbus Dispatch, 7/7/16)
  2. Study: Public-school students test better than voucher users (Associated Press, 7/7/16) – more than two-dozen outlets published this AP piece, which mainly notes that the Dispatch covered our report.
  3. Ohio Study Latest to Show Poor Voucher Results: 7 Theories Dissect The Trend (The 74 Million blog, 7/7/16)
  4. Ohio Vouchers Have Mixed Impact on Student Performance, Study Finds (Education Week. 7/7/16)
  5. Study Finds Failing Ohio Voucher-Funded Schools Perform Worse than Public School Counterparts (WKSU-FM, Kent, 7/7/16) – ran in other public media outlets as well
     
  6. Principal investigator on the EdChoice evaluation, Dr. David Figlio, presented his findings and took audience questions at a City Club of Cleveland event yesterday. You can find audio and video of
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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required states to identify and intervene in persistently low-performing schools. Some states opted for more aggressive intervention with the creation of recovery school districts, including the Achievement School District in Tennessee, the Recovery School District in Louisiana, and the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan. Here in the Buckeye State, we don’t have a statewide recovery district—but we do have “academic distress commissions” (ADCs).

ADCs were added to Ohio state law in 2005 as a way for the state to intervene in districts that consistently fail to meet academic standards. Only two districts (Youngstown and Lorain) have ever been placed under ADC control, while a third (Cleveland) avoided the designation because of its implementation of the Cleveland Plan. In the summer of 2015, however, ADCs blasted onto the front pages of Ohio newspapers thanks to House Bill 70. The bill—widely known as the “Youngstown Plan” [1]sharpened the powers and duties of ADCs in Ohio and was signed into law by Governor Kasich in July. (See here for an overview of the bill’s biggest changes to ADCs.) 

In...

Shortly after Ohio lawmakers enacted a new voucher program in 2005, the state budget office wrote in its fiscal analysis, “The Educational Choice Scholarships are not only intended to offer another route for student success, but also to impel the administration and teaching staff of a failing school building to improve upon their students’ academic performance.” As economist Milton Friedman had theorized decades earlier, Ohio legislators believed that increased choice and competition would boost education outcomes across the board. “Competition” in the words of Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby, “would be the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats.”

Today, the EdChoice program provides publicly funded vouchers (or “scholarships”) to more than eighteen thousand Buckeye students, youngsters previously assigned to some of the state’s lowest-performing schools, located primarily in low-income urban communities.[1] That much is known. Yet remarkably little else is known about the program. Which children are using EdChoice when given the opportunity? Is the initiative faithfully working as its founders intended? Are participating students blossoming academically in their private schools of choice? Does the increased competition associated with EdChoice lead to improvements in the public schools that these kids left?

The present study utilizes longitudinal...

  1. Only 30 students nationwide were chosen to be pages in the U.S. Senate this year. Dayton Early College Academy junior Jocelyn Martin was one of them. She’s just finished her term (which she could not talk about while it was ongoing) and is now allowed to tell all. The work sounds fascinating, and she sounds like a rock star. Awesome! (Dayton Daily News, 7/1/16)
     
  2. It’s week two for Youngstown CEO Krish Mohip. On his agenda this week was a community meeting to gather input to inform his school improvement plan – due to the Academic Distress Commission within 90 days of his start date. Seems like the attendee list for this week’s meeting was a bit heavy on school employees, but I’m sure they had plenty to say. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/6/16)
     
  3. Speaking of noobs, the newest state board member is no stranger to state government in Ohio. But she’s got an unusual and interesting take on the education needs of her rural and Appalachian constituents. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/1/16)
     
  4. The New Beginnings dropout prevention program in Lorain City Schools looks likely to stay in business for the 2016-17 school year. The board approved a
  5. ...
  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
  2. ...

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
  3. ...

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)....

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