Ohio Gadfly Daily

Last week, the Ohio Department of Education released school grades for the 2016-17 school year. These report cards offer Buckeye families, community members, and taxpayers an important annual review of the performance of the state’s 3,000 plus schools and 600 districts.

For many years, we at Fordham have kept a close eye on the performance of Ohio’s charter schools. We typically gauge their performance by comparing their results to district schools in the state’s “Big Eight” cities. We do this because most brick-and-mortar charters in Ohio are located in these districts (e.g., Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton).

In 2015-16, my analysis found some promising signs that the charter sector may be modestly outperforming Big Eight district schools on the state’s value-added measure, an indicator of schools’ impact on pupil growth over time.

How about this year? Let’s compare the A-F ratings that the state gives to schools on the two key report card ratings—the performance index (explained below, under Figure 1) and overall value added.

The first chart indicates that both charter and Big Eight district schools receive low ratings on the performance index. Roughly nine in ten schools in each sector receive Ds or Fs, a pattern that is nearly...

  1. A little more on school report cards this morning if you can handle it. First up, Jeremy Kelley took a look at charter schools’ performance in the Dayton area as compared to each other and to local districts. Our own Aaron Churchill is there to help. Kudos to Jeremy for taking a comparative look at the Dayton Regional STEM School’s (pretty darn good) report card as well. (Dayton Daily News, 9/15/17) Speaking of Aaron, he is quoted a little more extensively in this updated Columbus public radio version of the Statehouse News Bureau story on report card data originally clipped on Friday. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 9/15/17)
     
  2. The PD’s Rich Exner today has a series of graphs comparing district report cards to median income for people living in those districts. “The wealthier a school district,” he writes, “the better the district tends to do.” But it does depend on what aspect of report card data is being compared. Pretty interesting stuff. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/18/17) Like the Dayton Daily News, above, the Dispatch was also interested in some report cards other than traditional districts. To wit: here’s a look at central Ohio’s career tech school report cards.
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  1. In case you missed it, state report card data were released yesterday. Among the things we were looking at: the new two-year value added ratings, charter/district school comparisons, and how schools with large concentrations of poor students fared in serving them. There were pockets of very good performance and pockets of very bad performance across the state, but “mixed bag” and “cautious optimism” at the broad scale were common themes in the first blush analysis. All of the following pieces feature quotes from our own report card guru Aaron Churchill. The big-picture view from the PD. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/14/17) Old-dog Doug Livingston’s take from the ABJ. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/14/17) The Statehouse view from Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/14/17) Aaron is joined by that other report card analysis veteran Howard Fleeter in the first take from statewide public media. (Statehouse News Bureau, 9/14/17) Finally, Akron and Cleveland are the main focus for this piece from Northeast Ohio’s public media outlet. They also note that no districts are in imminent danger of falling under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission. (Ideastream Public Media, Cleveland, 9/14/17)
     
  2. To misquote an old adage, “all report cards are
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The Statehouse newspaper, Gongwer, recently ran a piece covering the ACT test results for Ohio’s graduating class of 2017. The headline trumpeted the fact that Ohio’s scores again topped the national average—definitely good news. But Ohio may not continue to outpace the rest of the country on this important gauge of college readiness—something it has accomplished for the past decade.

The reason doesn’t have much to do with the performance of Ohio schools or students; rather it has to do with the expanding pool of students who take the ACT. Instead of voluntary participation, as in the past, Ohio has now begun universal administration of the ACT (or SAT)[1] starting with the class of 2018. Requiring across-the-board testing—and paying for those costs—is sound state policy. There’s no reason why any student should be denied at least one opportunity to see how they stack up on college entrance exams. As a recent study indicates, universal testing can boost the four-year college-going rates of low-income students. Ohio lawmakers enacted the requirement that students take an entrance exam in a package of 2014 reforms that aim to better prepare young people for college or...

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) today released school report cards for the 2016-17 school year. The report cards offer an independent, objective lens through which Ohioans can view student and school performance in their local communities.

“Annual assessment of what students know and can do remains key to a healthy school system,” said Aaron Churchill, Ohio Research Director for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “This year’s data are promising and indicate that an increasing number of students are rising to the challenge and meeting Ohio’s higher achievement standards.”

The chart below displays the 2015-16 and 2016-17 statewide proficiency rates in core subjects; these data are from the first two years of AIR/ODE developed assessments, aligned to Ohio’s more rigorous learning standards.

Higher-poverty schools tend to fare worse on Ohio’s proficiency-based measures. The table below shows the distribution of A-F ratings of schools based on the state’s Performance Index—a weighted measure of proficiency—by their poverty rates. Higher poverty schools’ lower ratings on this metric and others—e.g., Indicators Met, Gap Closing, Graduation, and Prepared for Success—reflect in part the well-documented challenges low-income students face in achieving at levels...

As Ohio’s annual report cards are released this week, Fordham is gearing up to dive into the data and explore what it means about K-12 public education in the Buckeye State.

We won’t be alone; reporters, bloggers, and education advocates will all offer their own hot takes, many of which will examine charter school performance data. If the past is any indication, some headlines and stories will be patently unfair.

Sadly, much of this will be intentional. Charter foes have historically used the report card release as an opportunity to denigrate the sector, lumping even the very best schools together with perennial low performers and those seeking to evade accountability.

In other instances, apples-to-bananas comparisons may be inadvertent. Reporters are expected to consume a massive amount of information and quickly produce insightful stories about educational performance trends or accomplishments of schools in their region. Still other reporters may be new to the education beat, or may rely on the analyses published by said charter critics without having the time or experience to subject them to scrutiny.  

Let’s discuss what a fair comparison looks like and what to watch out for.

Attempting to make apples-to-apples comparisons

Fordham has...

  1. Editors in Columbus today opined in sunny approval of KIPP: Columbus (and a seemingly random list of a few other local charter schools). Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/17)
     
  2. Staying here in the capital for a moment, a portion of Columbus City Schools’ rank-and-file teachers last night approved that ho-hum new contract offer we mentioned last week. Even though it was only a little over half the members voting (just the file, perhaps?) and the approval was a very low majority, color me surprised. While they were at it, the assembled gang unanimously approved a no-confidence motion in the school board. Now that’s more like it. Link (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/17)
     
  3. Jeremy Kelley is apparently looking forward eagerly to the release of state report card data this week. Not only because he’s a data nerd disguised as a journalist, but also because he thinks that Dayton City Schools’ scores may have improved from last year. We shall see. (Dayton Daily News, 9/12/17) That same optimism does not echo through the halls of Akron City Schools, however. Folks there are pretty sure that their report card will be as bad or worse than last year. What they
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The Ohio Department of Education is expected to release report cards for the 2016-17 school year by the end of this week. Like an annual checkup with a physician, these report cards offer valuable information on the academic health of Buckeye schools and students.

As many Ohioans know, state leaders have overhauled the assessment and report card system in recent years. To their credit, they’ve implemented more demanding state exams that now offer a clearer picture of student proficiency than under former assessments. The report cards themselves are much different from those in years past; they now include various A-F components that consider not only traditional measures like proficiency and graduation rates, but also pupils’ growth over time and their readiness for college or career. While Ohio legislators still need to do considerable work to help report cards function properly—we’ll be releasing several recommendations for tweaking them next month—the stability in state assessment policies and on key pieces of the school grading system is praiseworthy.

What are we keeping an eye out for when report cards drop? Here are three things:

Will the use of multi-year averages help to stabilize value-added ratings?

In recent years, one of...

Three years into his first gig as a recruiter/trainer at a job skills program in San Francisco, Mauricio Lim Miller recognized a striking contradiction that changed the trajectory of his life and work. As a person whose family had overcome great personal hardship and who was now trying to help others do the same, he could not reconcile the way he ran his own life with the way he was expected to run a social service program. The proscriptive, top-down structure of so-called benefits programs like his emphasized the “deficits” of their clients and often sought to substitute narrow program rules for individual options. Those rules were sometimes contradictory (as when multiple programs were involved) and sometimes self-defeating (e.g. child-care subsidies that lapsed if a program participant earned a little too much money from work). Even worse, he became convinced that such service programs were conferring greater benefit on their employees than on their clients. When he was invited to attend President Clinton’s State of the Union address as recognition for his work, Miller says he nearly declined out of guilt. As soon as he was given a chance by California Governor Jerry Brown to reshape the assistance available to...

It’s no secret that high-quality early childhood education can lead to significant and positive short-term impacts for children, particularly those from disadvantaged circumstances. Unfortunately, much of the current research also points to a troubling “fade out” trend—the gains that students make in preschool gradually decrease until they disappear completely.

A recent study from Mathematica seeks to add to this discussion by investigating whether the pre-K programs offered by some KIPP charter schools produce more lasting impacts. Researchers selected KIPP for several reasons, including the fact that it employs several practices that are considered high quality (such as well-educated teachers and low teacher-child ratios). Most significant, though, is that many KIPP pre-K students continue their education in a KIPP elementary school—increasing the probability that their elementary school experience will align with their pre-K experiences, and thereby potentially lead to longer-lasting impacts.

The study explored three research questions and used slightly different methods to examine each. The samples were relatively small, but the analysts were able to employ experimental methods that allow us to draw stronger conclusions about the effects of KIPP pre-K. A series of standardized tests (like the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement) were used to measure...

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