Ohio Gadfly Daily

Cities and states across the country are in direct competition for education talent (teachers, school leaders, and key administrators) and great charter school models and operators. This struggle for talent and expertise is especially acute in the country’s mid-section.

We see it up close and personal in Ohio in our work with local school districts and as a charter school authorizer. There isn’t a week that goes by that we aren’t asked for names or contacts of potential school leaders, curriculum directors, or even teachers who are an expert in a foreign language, special education, or other high-demand subject. Great charter school models, especially those with an interest in trying to turn around long-suffering district schools, are also highly sought after and wooed.

MindTrust in Indianapolis is arguably the Gold Standard for groups in the country that are expert, strategic, and successful at recruiting talent to launch schools, work in schools, or serve needy students and families in different ways. But others are also doing great work, including New Schools for New Orleans, Charter School Partners in Minneapolis, 4.0 Schools in Louisiana, and Lead Public Schoolsin Tennessee.

Ohio’s efforts pale in comparison and scale to...

The major tenets of Governor Kasich's "mid-biennium budget bill" were unveiled yesterday. There has been much speculation that November's sound defeat of S.B. 5 by Ohio voters would cause Republicans to shy away from thorny or controversial measures, like streamlining state and local government and enacting additional reforms to education. A quick review of the budget plan shows that isn't the case.

Among the governor’s K-12 education proposals are:

  • a strengthened third-grade reading guarantee—while Ohio has had a version of this guarantee on the books for years, it has been decried as an “unfunded mandate” by local districts and largely gone unenforced;
  • performance standards for drop-out recovery charter schools—these schools have been excepted from Ohio’s charter school academic death penalty and other accountability measures since their inception more than a decade ago;
  • a more straightforward, A-F school-rating system—the new system would be easier to understand and more accurately reflect schools’ true performance;
  • adjustments to teacher evaluation and testing requirements—while the evaluation requirements put in place through the budget bill last summer are well-intentioned, they need tweaking to be more meaningful and workable at the local level; and
  • passage of Mayor Frank Jackson's reform plan for Cleveland's schools—the city’s
  • ...

Pop quiz: Which school district is farthest ahead in designing and implementing a workable teacher evaluation system?  Washington, DC, with its IMPACT system? Denver, Colorado, with PRO-COMP? You’re getting warmer…

The correct answer, according to a brand-new paper from the Fordham Institute, is very likely the Harrison (CO) School District. Harrison is a high-poverty district of about 10,000 students near Colorado Springs. It has confronted the triple challenge of determining what elements are most valuable in a teacher’s overall performance (including but not limited to student growth on standardized tests), applying that determination to the district’s own teachers (all of them!), and then reshaping the teacher-salary system (with the teacher union’s assent!) to reward strong performance. Excellent teachers earn substantially more—and do so earlier in their careers—than their less effective peers.

Under the Harrison Plan, salaries for all teachers depend not on paper credentials or years spent in the classroom, but on what actually happens in their classrooms. “Step increases” based on longevity were eliminated, as were cost of living raises. And professional development is tailored by evaluations to help teacher improve. Harrison’s evaluation process is divided into two parts, with “performance” and “achievement” each representing 50 percent of...


This guest blog post is from Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst and a former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, and Eric Lerum,
StudentsFirst's Vice President for National Policy. In this post they
analyze a Colorado school district's innovative approach to teacher
compensation, profiled in Fordham's latest report, "Teacher Compensation Based on Effectiveness: The Harrison (CO) School District's Pay-for-Performance Plan."

had the pleasure of working with teachers and a principal from Harrison, Colorado
late last year. We assisted the New Jersey State Superintendent in organizing
roundtables across the state on the proposed teacher evaluation system under
development. The Harrison folks were
passionate about their work and their success in elevating the teaching
profession there. It was incredibly powerful to listen to these veteran
educators talk about how they felt that their evaluation system treated them as
professionals and how they relied on it as a tool to help them and their
colleagues improve. The principal described the increased, targeted development
she could provide to staff and...


Yesterday we wrote
about Ohio’s recent waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education for
relief from parts of the federal No Child Left Behind act and the proposed revamping
of the state’s reporting system for schools and districts. We also warned that
many parents, teachers, and students would be shocked by the results and that
there would be a push to water down the new system, insisting that it is unfair
and not accurate.

As we predicted, there have been several articles describing
the coming changes and what they mean for districts across the state. The Columbus
today quoted the superintendent of Bexley City Schools, a suburb
of Columbus, as saying, “I don’t know how a high-performing district like ours
and many others gets a B?” “It might be a way of communicating in the simplest
way but you miss a whole lot.” Bexley, currently rated Excellent with Distinction,
would fall to a B under the new system. 
Superintendents of currently high-performing districts in Montgomery
County will also see
a decline in their academic rating under the new system....


Congratulations to KIPP: Central Ohio Executive Director
Hannah Powell (who was the school leader for the past several years) and the entire
staff at KIPP:
Journey Academy
for the school’s EPIC Silver Gain Award from New Leaders
for New Schools.

(Effective Practice Incentive Community
) award recognizes schools that make
substantial gains in student academic growth. In partnership with Mathematica Policy Research, student
test data are analyzed, and schools with the highest gains are selected as
winners. To be eligible for an EPIC award, schools must have student populations
of at least 30 percent eligible free and reduced-price lunch (over 90 percent
of KIPP Journey students are considered economically disadvantaged) , submit three
years of state test score data for all students, and be willing to share their
effective practices with NLNS EPIC partners. As part of the award, KIPP:
Journey Academy will receive approximately $50,000 to be distributed among its

Of the 179 charter schools from 24 states and the District
of Columbia that participated, only 14 winners
were selected, and KIPP: Journey Academy was the...


In Ohio’s
recent waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education for relief from
the most onerous portions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act the Buckeye State proposes the creation of a
revamped and significantly improved reporting system for school and district

Ohio’s current rating system uses vanilla
terms for rating schools and districts like “Excellent with Distinction,”
“Continuous Improvement,” and “Academic Emergency.” Worse, the state’s rating
system provides inflated grades for performance. For example, in classic Lake Wobegon fashion, 57 percent of Ohio’s school districts were rated as
“Excellent with Distinction” or “Excellent” (the best possible ratings) in
2011. Conversely, not one of the state’s 609 rated school districts was rated
“Academic Emergency” (the lowest possible rating).  

Ohio’s new system would incorporate an A-F
letter grade system, and grades would be based on a basket of performance
metrics ranging from number of academic standards met or surpassed to
value-added gains to progress in closing achievement and graduation gaps. Under
the proposed new system – which has to be approved by the U.S. Department of
Education and put into Ohio


In 2006 I visited the headquarters of Teach For America in
New York City with Fordham’s Checker Finn and the head of the Columbus-based
KidsOhio Mark Real for a meeting with KIPP CEO Richard Barth.  At the time, KIPP and Teach for America
were sharing office space in Manhattan and we met with Barth to try and
convince him that Columbus was a good place for KIPP expansion, which
ultimately happened in 2008.

Finally, Ohio is worthy of a red pin on the TFA map.

While waiting for the meeting to start we sat in the lobby
of the TFA office where there hung a large map of the United States with a red pin
in every state where TFA corp members were teaching. Ohio stood out like a sore
thumb because it was surrounded by states with red pins. When we met with Barth
he told us bluntly, “if you want KIPP to be successful in...


Fordham has worked in Dayton – as a funder, charter-school
authorizer, and charter-school advocate – to push for the creation and growth
of high quality charter schools since 1998. Over the last decade one of the
highest performing charter school clusters in the city has been the Richard
Allen (RA) Schools (RA has three schools in Dayton that serve about 800
children). Over the years I’ve spent time with the leaders of Richard Allen,
visited their schools, and even helped judge their annual debate competition.
In short, I have always been impressed by both the educators and the students
I’ve met and worked with from the RA schools and believe the schools delivered
quality education to students.

It is because of these personal connections to the schools
over the years that I found the recent “Special
Audit of the Richard Allen Academy Schools
” such painful and disturbing reading.
The Special Audit provided a litany of “missing money, missing records and
self-dealing” that has led to $929,850 in findings for recovery. The audit
describes a situation where public dollars were used without any...


only issue more worrisome than the agonizingly slow improvement in the math
achievement of American students is what to do about it. Abandoned solutions to
this decades-old challenge litter the educational roadmap like so many wrecks. Remember
“New Math” in the 1960s?

experts aren’t necessarily running short of ideas, but, like many experiments
for improving education, new schemes often work best in small, intensive
classroom situations then fall apart when they leave the hothouse for
larger-scale application.

latest idea gaining traction is using computer video games to teach
mathematics. Educational technology companies are pushing specially developed
games. But popular and big-name gaming staples like “World of Warcraft” may be effective research
templates for teaching math concepts to elementary and secondary students. For
the ignorant, like me, this hugely popular computer video game is played online
and involves many players at once, with each player controlling a character
that explores the landscape, fights monsters, completes quests, and interacts with other players. Some
teachers have been experimenting with the game in math classes for the last
four or five years and there...