Ohio Gadfly Daily

In theory, competition has the potential to boost quality and lower prices. But how is this theory working in education? This report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice provides an overview of the research on competition in American K–12 education and offers suggestions to enhance the competitive environment.  

The report finds that competition in the form of charters, vouchers, and tax credits does inspire competitive gains, but these gains are relatively small. An in-depth literature review reveals that forty of the forty-two studies on the impact of competition on public school students’ test scores find neutral-to-moderately-positive effects. These findings run counter to one of the most common arguments against choice programs—namely, that school alternatives do academic harm to those “left behind.”

The report also examines whether school choice’s ability to exert market pressure decreases educational costs. While the answer to that question is unclear, the report did note a discrepancy in the efficiency—defined as effectiveness per dollar—between traditional public and choice options. Charter schools appear to be doing more with less; although they receive about 28 percent less funding per student than local district schools, they are achieving greater student gains. According to a study by...

Ohio’s student growth measure—value added—is under the microscope, which provides a good reason to take another look at its important role in school accountability and to see if there are ways it can be improved. On April 19, state Representatives Robert Cupp and Ryan Smith introduced House Bill 524, legislation that calls for a review of Ohio’s value-added measure. In their sponsor testimony, both lawmakers emphasized that their motivation is to gain a strong understanding of the measure before considering any potential revisions.

The House Education Committee has already heard testimony from the Ohio Department of Education and Battelle for Kids; it is expecting to hear from SAS, the analytics company that generates the value-added results, on May 17. In brief, value added is a statistical method that relies on individual student test records to isolate a school’s impact on growth over time. Since 2007–08, Ohio has included value-added ratings on school report cards, though data were reported in years prior.

As state lawmakers consider the use of value added, they should bear in mind the advantages of the measure while also considering avenues for improvement. Let’s first review the critical features of the value-added...

  1. Here is a nearly unvarnished look at the amazing work of the United Schools Network of charter schools here in Columbus. As sponsor of all the USN schools, Fordham is referenced and Chad is quoted in here, but it is seriously the hard work of network boss Andy Boy and his talented staff working tirelessly on behalf of their students and families that is the real story. Reporter Bill Bush left almost all of his skepticism at the schoolhouse door (on the way out anyway) in order to tell that amazing story. He too is to be commended. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/16/16)
     
  2. Meanwhile, Chad was also chatting with the Detroit News, whose editors were readying their opinion regarding the possibility of Detroit Public Schools undergoing a transformation similar to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Spoiler alert: they didn’t seem to like that idea. (Detroit News, 5/14/16)
     
  3. Editors in Columbus were thinking about education as well, and opined this weekend in favor of the choice of Paolo DeMaria to be the new state supe. Fordham’s 2015 “Getting out of the Way” report on the potential for education deregulation – on which DeMaria was primary investigator – is
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  1. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two days, the big news in Ohio is that the state board of ed named a new superintendent this week. He is Paolo DeMaria, former state budget director, education advisor to two governors, high-level staffer with the Department of Education and the Board of Regents, and current principal with Education First Consulting. Whew! He has also worked on projects with us here at Fordham over the years, which the following stories note to varying degrees: Patrick O’Donnell was first to the post with the news. This is a later piece from him featuring a nicely detailed look at DeMaria’s career and puts some important questions to him on the topics of school choice, Common Core, and other hot-button issues. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/12/16) Gongwer’s announcement includes reaction to the pick from our own Chad Aldis.  (Gongwer Ohio, 5/11/16) Chad’s comments make up part of this piece, which also features a likely-obligatory finger wag at the state board for not picking former Springfield supe David Estrop instead of DeMaria. (Springfield News Sun, 5/11/16)
     
  2. Here are a few pieces of coverage of the new state supe, not mentioning
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Last month, Attorney General Mike DeWine toured Citizens Academy, one of the eleven charter schools in the Breakthrough Schools network. Breakthrough, whose schools rank among the top in the state, serves 3,300 Cleveland students in grades K–8. Founded in 1999, Citizens Academy is among Ohio’s oldest charter schools and places special focus on both academic excellence and responsible citizenship. We at Fordham spotlighted Citizens as one of Ohio’s high-performing, high-poverty schools in our 2010 report Needles in a Haystack. The charter school has also been named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education and has received honors from the Ohio Department of Education. Today, the school educates approximately 440 pupils, almost all of whom come from low-income families. 

Attorney General Mike DeWine poses for a photo with Citizens Academy students

Attorney General DeWine’s visit to Citizens Academy is especially fitting, as he has championed initiatives to rebuild Ohio’s urban neighborhoods by promoting economic development and neighborhood and school safety. High-performing charter schools like Citizens and its Breakthrough counterparts play a vital role in creating safe, sustainable neighborhoods...

In 2014, for the first time, the overall number of Latino, African American, and Asian students in public K–12 classrooms in America surpassed the number of non-Hispanic white students. To better understand what this “majority minority” student body might mean for public education going forward, the folks at the Leadership Conference Education Fund asked Latino and African American parents what they thought about America’s K–12 system, as well as what sort of education they want for their children.

Researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of eight hundred African American and Latino adults (parents, grandparents, etc.) actively involved in raising a school-aged child, also conducting focus groups in Chicago (Latinos) and Philadelphia (African Americans).

As with other such surveys, a large majority of parents rated their own children’s schools as “excellent” or “good” at preparing students for success in the future. (It is interesting to note, however, that parents whose children attended schools that were mostly white were more likely to rate those schools positively.) Yet parents were also pessimistic about the quality of public schools writ large—especially for students of color. And they felt that funding, technology, and excellent teachers were inequitably distributed in favor of predominantly white and high-income schools.

The survey...

  1. Aaron’s April letter to the editor of the Boston Globe (and, by extension, our school closure report from 2015) is cited again in an EdDive blog, this time in reference to the recent Grad Nation report about high school graduation rates nationwide. Nope. I don’t either. (Education Dive blog, 5/10/16)
     
  2. Two state legislators from central Ohio introduced a bill this week that would negate efforts to renegotiate the infamous Win-Win agreement among Franklin County school districts, about which you’ve been hearing endlessly in these very clips. Existing suburban borders would freeze, payments from suburban districts to Columbus City Schools would stop, and the 80s would be finally staked in the heart. Or something like that. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/9/16) One of the sponsors of the new bill gave a bit more insight today, seeming doubtful of the bill’s chances. We shall see in just a few weeks’ time. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/10/16)
     
  3. Elsewhere in the General Assembly, Ohio’s new and popular College Credit Plus program was under the microscope this week. Mainly from community colleges. Mostly about money. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/10/16)
     
  4. Another education initiative also proving popular (in certain parts of the state at least)
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The high cost of college attendance can be overwhelming for students and families. Recognizing this, Ohio policy makers have continually sought opportunities to provide alternate routes to careers and to drive down the cost of a university education. Recently, Ohio leaders have put a significant emphasis on career and technical education (CTE)—and research suggests that such a move can benefit high school students opting into a CTE pathway of study. In addition, the recent implementation of College Credit Plus (CCP) has widened student access to college credit opportunities and made it easier than ever for students to knock out general education requirements before stepping foot on campus.

But perhaps the state’s most creative program is GIVE Back, GO Forward, a pilot launched in partnership between the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Ohio Department of Aging. The program links public service to college credit by offering citizens aged sixty and above the opportunity to earn college credit hours—or “gift” the equivalent amount of tuition associated with those credits—for volunteer work. As a pilot, the program is limited to Trumbull and Mahoning counties in Northeast Ohio. GIVE Back, GO Forward has the potential to be a huge...

  1. For the first time in a long time, the sitting governor won’t send a representative to the interviews conducted by the state board of ed with finalists for state superintendent. Read into that what you will; others are already doing so. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/7/16) Those interviews will take place this week and will be a little shorter than originally planned since the list of the top 8 candidates is now down to 7 after another withdrawal. Speaking of the folks being interviewed for state supe, Patrick O’Donnell seems to have abandoned his plans to profile every candidate once prior to the interviews. In favor of doubling up on one particular person. Can you guess who? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/7/16)
     
  2. Perhaps to make up for the April e-schools piece that never made it to the online version of The D for some reason, here is a somewhat-belated take on testimony heard last week critical of the attendance practices of a particular online school. While the testifier is noted as being a former employee of the school, her level of “gruntledness” is frustratingly not noted. Surely that’s Journalism 101, isn’t it? (Columbus Dispatch, 5/9/16)
     
  3. I’m glad to
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President Obama signed the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in December 2015. Since then, there’s been a flurry of discussion around rule making and the differences between ESSA and NCLB. One new feature is a provision that permits states to award money to districts for direct student services (DSS), an umbrella term that includes a wide range of individualized academic services intended to improve student achievement.

Starting in 2017–18, ESSA permits states to reserve up to 3 percent of their Title I funds to distribute to districts interested in providing direct student services. A recent report from Chiefs for Change estimates that, based on fiscal year 2017 Title I estimates, the funding available for direct student services ranges from just over $1 million in Wyoming to over $54 million in California. There are, of course, a few stipulations: If states opt to reserve these funds, 99 percent of the total must be distributed directly to districts (presumably through a competitive grant program). Districts are empowered to choose whether or not to apply for a grant and how to spend any awarded dollars, though state-created grant applications could allow states to nudge districts in certain directions. States must also prioritize districts...

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