Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. It’s Friday. Time to update you on the seemingly-endless kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the state department of education regarding the school’s ongoing attendance audit. The school delivered 48 boxes of documents to the state yesterday – one day earlier than previously agreed upon. Immediately afterward, representatives of the school noted that they are currently waiting on documents from the state via a public records request. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/4/16) Meanwhile, a second front in the kerfuffle seems to have opened up between the school and state auditor’s office (!?) regarding yet more documents and the vaunted – and snooze-inducing – doctrine of the “agreed upon procedures” audit. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/4/16)
     
  2. School is right around the corner and folks in Mansfield are getting ready. Especially for their youngest students. Kindergarten camp there sounds like a hoot. I fully concur with the youngster who thinks that “Ten in the Bed” is a picture-book classic. (Mansfield News Journal, 8/3/16)
     
  3. Speaking of school starting, the brass is being polished to a high shine (or is that the lenses to the 386 cameras?) in the Colossus of Lorain (aka the district’s schmancy new high school). Meanwhile the
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A major development of recent years has been the explosive growth of online learning in K–12 education. Sometimes it takes the form of “blended learning,” with students receiving a mix of online and face-to-face instruction. Students may also learn via web-based resources like the Khan Academy, or by enrolling in distance-learning “independent study” courses. In addition, an increasing number of pupils are taking the plunge into fully online schools: In 2015, an estimated 275,000 students enrolled in full-time virtual charter schools across twenty-five states.

The Internet has obviously opened a new frontier of instructional possibilities. Much less certain is whether such opportunities are actually improving achievement, especially for the types of students who enroll in virtual schools. In Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio's Virtual Charter Schools, we at Fordham examined this issue using data from our home state of Ohio, where online charter schools (“e-schools”) are a rapidly growing segment of K–12 education. Today they enroll more than thirty-five thousand students, one of the country’s largest populations of full-time online students. Ohio e-school enrollment has grown 60 percent over the last four years, a rate greater than any other type of public school. But even since they launched, e-schools...

  1. The Dispatch took a look at Fordham’s latest report – a pretty downbeat assessment of Ohio’s online schools. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/2/16)
     
  2. Speaking of online schools, Ohio’s largest such school was on Monday given a court-ordered deadline of 5:00 pm Tuesday to turn over student log-in information the state has requested in order to complete an attendance audit. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/1/16) The school did not meet that deadline and instead will submit the requested docs – and thousands more besides – on Friday. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/3/16) But lest you think from that Dispatch piece that this was a one-sided process, here is Gongwer to disabuse you. In fact, the impending Friday info-dump was agreed to by both the school and the state, as was the notion of the state dropping its pending lawsuit against the school – the suit from which much of the current legal to-ing and fro-ing sprung. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/2/16)
     
  3. Lots of news from Youngstown since Monday. First up, editors at the Vindy opined very strongly in favor of the district CEO cutting off funding for the board’s legal efforts to invalidate the Academic Distress Commission and his own position.
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Many education stakeholders see the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as an opportunity to fix the most problematic provisions in NCLB. For many critics, the biggest bogeyman was too much standardized testing and its associated accountability measures. While ESSA maintains the annual testing requirements, it also offers new flexibilities. Among these is the opportunity to apply for the Innovative Assessment Pilot (IAP).

IAP is a provision that permits states to pilot an innovative assessment system in place of a statewide achievement test. “Innovative” is an umbrella term that covers a plethora of different testing options, including (but not limited to) competency-based, instructionally embedded, and performance-based assessments. Regardless of the assessment type chosen by a state, it must result in an annual, summative score for a student. Authority to participate in the pilot—known as “demonstration authority”—will be granted through an application process run by the secretary of education. No more than seven states will be allowed to participate in the pilot for a period of up to five years, with the option to apply for an additional two-year extension.[1]

Folks who are worried that states might use the pilot to weaken...

  1. We’ve already told you about the compliance portion of Ohio’s newest charter sponsor evaluation process. That flag requirement is always good for a laugh. But Chad is quoted seriously on the issue here and offers a cogent commentary: “By checking on everything, I think you make everything equally important,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the case.” Well said, boss. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/31/16)
     
  2. Our own Mike Petrilli is quoted on one aspect of the ESSA legislation. To wit: “It is totally up to states and districts what to do with low-performing schools.” Well said, boss. While this quote is several months old at this point, the topic is fresh as Ohio launches a series of statewide meetings and webinars on various aspects of ESSA accountability and what may or should change in the Buckeye State as a result. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/30/16)
     
  3. Last week’s one-month update with the Youngstown Schools CEO must have uncovered something that the Vindy hadn’t already known about: a pretty scathing report from the state regarding a litany of noncompliance and regulatory problems in the district’s transportation department. This piece reports the scale of the problems for the first time (ongoing
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  1. Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip reminded them all who’s boss loudly and clearly yesterday in regards to the district’s pending lawsuit against the legislation that brought his position into being. That lawsuit has already cost the district nearly $200,000. Wonder what he’ll decide to do? (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/28/16) Today, at the one-month mark since taking the reins, Mohip says he’s optimistic for positive change in the district, starting from day one of the new school year. That’s intestinal fortitude for you. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/29/16)
     
  2. Here is more on the topic of open enrollment in Coventry Local Schools. Following the State Auditor’s (!) report on the district’s finances, long-simmering concerns about open enrollment have started to heat up. By the time you get to the part where the superintendent says he “didn’t invent open enrollment”, you can see where this is heading. Nowhere is it noted that the district was in fiscal watch for a whopping 18 years before finally tipping into full-blown fiscal emergency and triggering the auditor’s report. If open enrollment was the whole problem, surely it would have wrecked the district’s finances long before now. It is to be hoped that students who have
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  1. Looks like Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip will not be going home to Chicago this weekend. He has some high-profile visitors to entertain at East High School on Saturday. (WKBN-TV, Youngstown, 7/26/16) It remains to be seen whether CEO Mohip will have his legitimacy questioned by his guests. It is still most definitely under question by the Youngstown school board as they voted this week to continue their lawsuit against the legislation that created the CEO position in the first place. (WYTV-TV, Youngstown, 7/26/16) After this piece, I am left with two questions. First, didn’t the board president say at the last meeting that all their votes from then on would be “advisory” in nature and that the CEO would have final say in everything? And second, in that spirit, didn’t Mohip say last month that there would be no further board meetings until after members got training on Roberts Rules and civil discourse at their August retreat?
     
  2. A city-funded initiative to halt the brain drain in suburban Grove City has run into trouble. College tuition assistance for local graduates to continue their education at one of three higher-ed institutions in the city includes a religious
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In 2000, North Carolina’s university system (UNC) announced that it would increase from three to four the minimum number of high school math courses students must complete in order to be considered for admission. The intent was to increase the likelihood that applicants be truly college-ready, thereby increasing the likelihood of degree completion. Researchers from CALDER/AIR recently looked at the UNC data and connected it to K–12 student information to gain an interesting insight into how post-secondary efforts to raise the bar affect student course-taking behavior in high school.

The study posed three questions: Did the tougher college admission requirement increase the number of math courses taken by high school students (North Carolina’s high school graduation requirements remained at three math courses, despite UNC’s higher bar for admissions)?[1] Did it alter enrollment patterns at UNC schools? And did the hoped-for increase in college readiness and completion result?

Overall, high school students did take more math courses after the UNC policy change. As researchers expected, the biggest increases were at the middle- and lower-achievement deciles—high-achievers were already taking more than three courses—but the increases were not uniform across districts. This led researchers to look deeper into...

This report from Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates provides a trove of data on students experiencing homelessness—a dramatically underreported and underserved demographic—and makes policy recommendations (some more actionable than others) to help states, schools, and communities better serve students facing this disruptive life event. 

To glean the information, researchers conducted surveys of homeless youth and homeless liaisons (school staff funded by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act who have the most in-depth knowledge regarding students facing homelessness), as well as telephone focus groups and in-depth interviews with homeless youth around the country. The findings are sobering.

  • In 2013–14, 1.3 million students experienced homelessness—a 100 percent increase from 2006–07. The figure is still likely understated given the stigma associated with self-reporting and the highly fluid nature of homelessness. Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, homelessness includes not just living “on the streets” but also residing with other families, living out of a motel or shelter, and facing imminent loss of housing (eviction) without resources to obtain other permanent housing. Almost seven in ten formerly homeless youth reported feeling uncomfortable talking with school staff about their housing situation. Homeless students often don’t describe themselves as such and are
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The new education law of the land—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—has been the talk of the town since President Obama signed it into law in December 2015. Under the new law, testing doesn’t initially seem that different from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) days: ESSA retains the requirement that states administer annual assessments in grades 3–8 and once in high school; requires that test results remain a prominent part of new state accountability plans; and continues to expect states to identify and intervene in struggling schools based upon assessment results. But a closer look reveals that ESSA provides a few key flexibilities to states and districts—and opens the door for some pretty significant choices. Let’s take a look at the biggest choices that Ohio will have to make and the benefits and drawbacks of each option. 

Test design

There are two key decisions for states in terms of test design. The first is related to high school testing. ESSA permits districts to use “a locally selected assessment in lieu of the state-designed academic assessment” as long as it’s a “nationally recognized high school academic assessment.” In other words, Ohio districts could forego a...

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