Ohio Gadfly Daily

Since 2012, Tennessee has taken a unique approach to intervening in struggling schools. With the goal of turning around the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state (known as priority schools), officials introduced two separate models: the Achievement School District (ASD) and Innovation Zones (iZones). The ASD is a state-run district that directly manages some priority schools and turns others over to select charter management organizations. iZones, on the other hand, are subsets of priority schools that remain under district control but are granted greater autonomy and financial support to implement interventions. There are four districts that contain iZones: Shelby County Schools (Memphis), Metro-Nashville Public Schools, Hamilton County Schools (Chattanooga), and Knox County Schools (Knoxville). The remaining priority schools weren’t included in either of these initiatives, effectively creating a comparison group.

Research teams from Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky have kept a close eye on both initiatives. In 2015, they published an evaluation of the ASD and iZone schools after three years of implementation. They found that, while ASD schools did not improve any more or less than other priority schools, iZone schools produced moderate to large positive effects on student test scores. A separate ...

  1. Remember what we were saying last week about the downbeat assessment of the passage of a bill that would, among other things, change many facets of e-school accountability? Well, “downbeat” appears to have given way to outright pessimism over the weekend, with editors in Columbus… (Columbus Dispatch, 6/30/18) …and editors in Akron opining strongly on the topic. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/1/18)
  2. Conversely, laurels are in the offing in regard to recently-passed legislation making changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/1/18)
  3. Speaking of teachers, contract negotiations are underway in Youngstown, for the first time since the district began operating under the aegis of a CEO-style Academic Distress Commission. Almost everyone interviewed in this piece expresses optimism for the process, including some folks whose opinion on the matter should probably not be included. Here’s hoping for a good process and outcome despite that. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/1/18)
  4. Here’s a nice look at what could be described as a behavioral health summer camp in Toledo – designed to help students with things like anger management and respecting boundaries. The most interesting part: the entire program consists only of charter school students. How’d that
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Over the past month, local newspapers across Ohio have blasted headlines such as “Local schools lost millions to ECOT” and “Study: Now-defunct ECOT siphoned $2.6 million from Athens-area schools.” Taking a statewide view, the Columbus Dispatch ran a piece titled “Liberal group says ECOT diverted $591M from public schools in 6 years.” These news articles are all based on an analysis by Innovation Ohio—an anti-charter school group—that calculates the amount of state money that transferred from local districts to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) from 2012–13 to 2017–18, the year in which the behemoth online charter school closed.

First off, ECOT’s shameless political self-dealings were outrageous and have harmed the reputation of responsible charter public schools in Ohio. Its academic results were astonishingly bad, with abysmal value-added scores—estimates of its impact on student growth over time—being the clearest signs of educational dysfunction. (No, its low graduation rates are not compelling evidence as some claim; the school likely enrolled significant numbers of credit-deficient students, artificially “deflating” their graduation rate.)

All in all, count me sympathetic to those who are outraged and indignant at the school. But ECOT’s wrongs don’t make it right to distort...



Legislative update: SB 216 and HB 87

This week, the House and Senate each passed wide ranging education bills—SB 216 and HB 87, respectively. The bills, on their way to Governor Kasich for approval, revamp Ohio’s teacher evaluation system, tweak teacher licensure provisions, allow districts to administer paper and pencil assessments to third graders, and make a variety of changes related to online charter schools. The online charter measures drew the most public attention with stories in all major newspapers.

Supreme Court Janus decision

The Supreme Court ruled on the Janus case this week, holding that requiring employees to pay negotiating fees to unions violates the first amendment. The 74 describes the particulars and captures early public reaction.

New resource: Success Academy makes its literacy curriculum available

On Thursday, Success Academy Charter Schools (the largest and highest performing charter network in New York City) published its entire middle school curriculum as well as its first e-courses. That means that the charter school network’s entire K-8 literacy program (which has led to exceptional reading achievement for students in New York) is now available for free to everyone....

  1. As we noted on Wednesday, the state legislature was moving expeditiously to pass a ton of bills, including one that contained measures to deal with Ohio’s “online charter school problem” (yes, that problem). By the end of the day on Wednesday, that bill and a ton of others had passed out of the General Assembly and were headed to Governor Kasich’s desk. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/27/18) This all sounds like good news to me as I understand it. What, then, to make of the decidedly downbeat coverage of these e-school changes? Check out the PD’s take and see what you think. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/27/18) Also on its way to the governor after the flurry of expedition – SB 216 – the education deregulation bill. Here’s a look at its final form. More on this in Item 3 below. (Dayton Daily News, 6/28/18)
  2. Let’s get back to that downbeat assessment of the bill passed to address Ohio’s “online charter school problem” (you know the problem I mean), mentioned in Item 1 above. We have previously discussed the widespread demonization of ECOT, which went so far as to turn literal when its moldering corpse was compared to Dracula
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A-to-F school rating systems have come under fire in Ohio and remain a hotly debated topic elsewhere. Proponents usually argue that they provide clear information that parents and communities can easily digest, while also motivating schools to improve. Critics often claim that such blunt ratings could damage schools’ reputations or demoralize educators should they receive poor grades. But what does the research have to say?

A recent study by Rebecca Dizon-Ross examines the impacts of A–F school accountability in New York City (NYC) on teacher turnover and quality, as estimated by value added measures. Under the leadership of former mayor Michael Bloomberg and school chancellor Joel Klein, NYC began in fall 2007 to assign A–F school grades and link low ratings to consequences. Prior research has already shown that these accountability reforms led to higher student achievement, with gains concentrated among children attending low-rated schools. Dizon-Ross studies teacher workforce patterns in 2008–09 and 2009–10 and uses a regression discontinuity design that focuses on schools near letter grade cutoffs to gauge the effects of receiving lower accountability ratings.

The analysis finds that NYC’s policy reforms reduced teacher turnover and likely increased teacher quality among...

  1. On Saturday, editors in Akron opined on the topic of Ohio’s “online charter school problem” – you know the one they’re talking about – and on the need for legislation to fix it. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/23/18) On Monday, Ohio legislators were reported to be “exploring ways to expedite passage” of changes to the rules governing online charter schools. You know the ones I’m talking about. Fordham’s own Chad Aldis is quoted here expressing optimism in regard to those efforts. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/25/18) That optimism was right on the money, too. By the end of their work day yesterday, members of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee had successfully explored and expedited those rule changes, and also passed them out of committee as part of a previously-debated bill. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/26/18) Of course, the end of the work day for the stalwart members of the Fourth Estate is different than for legislators so here’s the hot take on all of this from the Dispatch late yesterday evening. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/26/18)
  2. Back in the real world, we have two examples of something I like very much: education-support organizations and programs that exist for the benefit
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State report cards are a hot topic in Ohio, but most of the attention has been focused on the system used for traditional district and charter schools. Many Ohioans are unaware that state law requires the State Board of Education to have a separate report card system for dropout prevention and recovery charter schools (DPRS). During the 2016–17 school year, there were eighty-nine dropout-recovery schools operating in Ohio: seventy-six brick and mortar schools serving just over 10,000 students, and thirteen online schools serving nearly 4,000 students. Together, these schools account for 12.5 percent of Ohio’s charter school enrollment.

DPRS report cards contain four indicators:

  1. Graduation Rate: This includes the conventional four- and five-year rates, but also rates extending to eight years. The use of extended rates—e.g., looking at whether students earn a diploma eight years after entering ninth grade—is based on the premise that DRPS schools typically enroll credit-deficient students who may need more time to meet graduation requirements.  
  2. High School Tests: This calculates the percentage of twelfth graders who have earned the designated passing score on the applicable state achievement assessments.
  3. Annual Measurable Objectives: Also known as the Gap Closing component, this indicator compares
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If a little treatment goes a long way, does it stand to reason that more treatment will go even further? A research team led by Karen Bierman of Penn State University tested this idea, and their results were recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The treatment in question is the Research-Based and Developmentally Informed preschool classroom program (REDI-C), which researchers extended via a home-visiting program designed to train parents as surrogate teachers (REDI-P).

To carry out the study, researchers recruited the families of 200 four-year-olds participating in Head Start programs across three counties in Pennsylvania. Fifty-five percent of the children were white, 26 percent were black, and 19 percent were Latino. Most primary caregivers were mothers (89 percent), roughly one in three were single parents, and slightly more than half were unemployed. Almost all participating families were living in poverty with a median income of $18,000 per year.

Students were randomly assigned to the treatment group—those whose families would receive the in-home intervention—or the control group. Control families received only a packet of math learning games in the mail, while the other parents were visited ten times during their child’s last preschool year and six times during kindergarten....

  1. The leader of the newest statewide e-school is introduced in this glowing piece from his hometown newspaper. Awesome. (Delaware Gazette, 6/22/18)
  2. While a group of Toledo-area business leaders took to the Blade’s opinion page last week to laud district supe Romules Durant, the actual editors of that page seem a little less enamored of him at the moment. (Toledo Blade, 6/23/18)
  3. Full circle story here: Columbus City Schools’ various administration buildings are worth lots of dough according to a recent appraisal, and almost any combination of them could be sold at auction for more than enough to cover the cost of the district’s recent impulse purchase – the headquarters of former statewide e-school ECOT (aka Dracula’s Coffin). District bean counters might even save a bit on maintenance in the long run. Of importance, thought, is the fact that any district buildings going up for auction have to be offered to charter schools first. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/20/18)