Ohio Gadfly Daily

Although ardent school choice supporters often argue that having options is an end in itself, the more pragmatic among us recognize that important real-life factors must be considered when describing the health of an area’s school choice landscape. Improvements in information dissemination and simplification of enrollment processes are making a difference in many cities, but a continuing obstacle is transportation. Even the best possible school option might as well not exist if a family cannot reach it. New research from the Urban Institute tries to identify the calculus that families must make in their efforts to secure the best possible fit.

Researchers Patrick Denice and Betheny Gross use data from Denver Public Schools, a portfolio system that includes traditional district schools, independent but district-run innovation schools, and charter schools. All Denver students are guaranteed a spot in a specific school or cluster of schools, but are free to apply to schools of any type for which they are eligible and they do so via a centralized application. School assignments are generally determined by lottery. As befits a system with this much choice and a simplified single application system, more than 80 percent of Denver students in typical transition years...


In our recent writings at the Ohio Gadfly, we’ve expressed dismay—sometimes outrage—at the education goings-on in the Buckeye State. To be sure, there’s a lot to be concerned about: The State Board of Education has gone soft on graduation requirements, and policymakers are talking about dismantling transparent school ratings and replacing them with opaque “data dashboards” that display a blizzard of statistics only technocrats can comprehend. On top of this is the reality—reinforced once again by the 2017–18 state exam data—that many thousands of Ohio’s children remain academically off track.

But amid this glum picture, there are terrific accomplishments and initiatives well worth highlighting. Consider just four that recently caught my attention (and feel free to send along others).

Ohio’s Straight-A schools

Let’s first give credit where credit is due—to the cream of the crop in terms of earning top marks on school report cards. The table below shows five schools that received A’s on the overall rating—a composite of Ohio’s various components—and on five critical measures of achievement and growth on state assessments: the performance index (PI), overall value added (VA), and three subgroup value-added indicators that are based on growth results for gifted students,...



Are schools asking teachers to be superheros?

Eva Moskowitz recently argued that until we address the fundamental flaws in how we treat our educators, it will be difficult to make headway in improving outcomes for students on a broad scale. Moskowitz, leader of the high achieving Success Academy Charter School network, explains that we’re asking too much of our teachers. Her network and a number of others have moved toward a dramatically different approach to preparing, equipping, and supporting teachers.

Ohio charter school shares about facility challenges

The student population at Albert Einstein Academies of Ohio (AEA), a charter public school serving students in the Cleveland area, has grown significantly since it opened in 2012. This has brought significant challenges. Rebecca Woodson, the director of admissions and recruitment at the school, recently wrote about the financial and environmental hurdles that she and other charters face and explained her school’s process for planning to add a new campus.

NCSRC resource round-up

The National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) just released a resource round-up, which highlights some of their top resources from past years and new resources to start the school year strong....


The City Connects program is an initiative of Boston College that works to address non-cognitive barriers to student success among elementary school pupils in Boston Public Schools (BPS), as well as charter and private school students in Boston and other nearby cities. It was piloted in six low-performing BPS elementary schools in 2001, assessing needs and providing access to services for students via a third party rather than through the schools themselves.

Those services can include academic tutoring, social-emotional development, health needs, and family supports. Full-time coordinators are embedded in the schools and monitor need, referrals, and successful use of these services, obviating the need for teachers to become de facto social workers and for school administrators to become service providers. A fuller description of the program can be found here. It is important to note, for purposes of this study, that City Connects is limited to elementary school.

Because of its genesis within Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, City Connects has been widely studied by the school’s researchers. The latest report looks at long-term effects of the program on combatting high school dropout. The students under study were part of the first five cohorts of kindergarteners...


COMPILER'S NOTE: Bites will be on vacation for a few days. Back on 10/22/18.

  1. “Many fewer Ohio students would have access to a variety of school options without his long-term advocacy.” So says our own Chad Aldis, noting the recent passing of Ohio charter/choice pioneer and stalwart David Brennan at age 87. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/15/18)
  2. Ohio’s War on Knowing Stuff continued apace this week as the state board of education's achievement and graduation requirements committee unanimously voted out their new plan for getting diplomas to kids in bulk. These include multiple pathways to a diploma which require no real proof of numeracy, literacy, or science knowledge. Next up, a full vote of the board. (Gongwer Ohio, 10/16/18) Meanwhile ACT scores for the Class of 2018 suck, apparently. “In Ohio,” Jeremy Kelly writes, “55 percent of Ohioans in the Class of 2018 met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in English, while 43 percent did so in reading, 38 percent in math and 35 percent in science. About 25 percent met the benchmarks in all four subjects.” Part of these appalling numbers are due to the fact that Ohio required all students to take the ACT this
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Editor’s Note: As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is the fourth in our series, under the umbrella of maintaining high expectations for all students. You can access all of the entries in the series to date here.

Proposal: Starting as students enter middle school, Ohio should provide families with clear information about whether their children are on a solid pathway for success in college.

Background: As objective gauges of student achievement, statewide exams have several important purposes, including their use in school accountability systems. But perhaps the most important role of state exams is to offer information to Ohio parents about the academic progress of their own children, thus serving as an important “external audit” that supplements the grades they receive from teachers. To this end, the Ohio Department of Education produces family score reports based on state exams, akin to those that families receive after children take college entrance exams. The state’s score reports already provide...

  1. All of today’s news revolves around school districts operating under a declaration of academic distress and all that goes along with it. First up, despite the ongoing litigation relating to the academic distress designation, the first appointees to East Cleveland’s Academic Distress Commission were announced late last week by the Ohio Department of Education. (Clevelabnd Plain Dealer, 10/12/18)
  2. Meanwhile, OG ADC CEO Krish Mohip announced last week that he will be leaving Youngstown when his current contract expires in June. (Youngstown Vindicator, 10/12/18) Editors in Youngstown today opined on their hopes for the next district CEO. (Youngstown Vindicator, 10/15/18)
  3. Finally today, Lorain City Schools has released a new guidebook explaining to parents the new standards-based grading protocol in place in Kindergarten through 8th grade. It replaces typical A-to-F/GPA grading in favor of a five-point scale indicating distance from mastery. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 10/12/18)

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In August, the Ohio Department (ODE) of Education and the State Board of Education (SBOE) released their five-year strategic plan for education. It included ten strategies aimed at helping the state meet a questionable goal that doesn’t ask much of students or schools. One of these strategies called for identifying “robust and diverse ways to measure performance.” Take a look:

Ohio needs to address challenges related to a reliance on standardized assessments in academic content areas, especially in high-stakes situations. Students should have multiple ways to demonstrate what they know and are able to do. The State Board of Education recognizes this point and is examining the use of alternative tools as validated, reliable methods to assess knowledge. Such tools might include student portfolios, capstone projects, presentations, or performance-based assessments.

Less than a month later, state board members are already debating a draft proposal for a new set of graduation requirements that includes alternatives to assessments. Students would be able to choose how to demonstrate their competency in English, math, and other subjects from a laundry list of options. One of these options is a non-test-reliant pathway called a Culminating Student Experience (CSE).




Ohio’s charter school funding gap

Fordham’s Chad Aldis recently provided testimony to the Ohio Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The meeting, held in Cleveland, examined civil rights as it relates to education funding in Ohio. Some of Aldis’ testimony included data related to charter schools that highlights the significant gap in expenditures between charter and district schools serving similar students.

Why suburban districts need public charter schools too

The Progressive Policy Institute released a policy memo this week titled, “Why Suburban Districts Need Public Charter Schools Too.” The memo includes information about the national charter school landscape, the performance of suburban charter schools, how charter schools can benefit suburban students, and the three factors that hinder the spread of suburban charters.

New Orleans charter is using a new tactic for getting students to college

KIPP has long been focused on getting its students to and through college. This year, the network implemented a new tactic at a KIPP high school in New Orleans where they’ll combine the start of college with high school in a way that makes higher education feel attainable. Bard College, a New York-based...

  1. At this middle school in Dublin, Ohio, students get tech help from their fellow students. The introduction of one-to-one Chromebook use in the school has brought out the nerd herd in these 11- and 12-year-olds. (ThisWeek News, 10/10/18)
  2. While there is ongoing grumbling in some corners about state report cards AND ongoing litigation to nullify the state’s Academic Distress Commission law, it is somewhat pleasing to note that some folks may actually start taking both things seriously. To wit: Columbus City Schools, hoping to avoid a declaration of academic distress (and all that goes along with it) is focusing on efforts that could boost this year’s report card above an “F”. And these efforts may even help kids learn more, which some may think is a bonus but is actually the point. Miraculous! (Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/18) In Dayton, a town hall meeting hosted by the DDN as part of their Path Forward initiative, drew 60 residents to discuss their views on how Dayton City Schools could improve. Residents seemed to be taking a bit of a longer view than is practical for the district given the ticking clock they are under. (Dayton Daily News, 10/12/18) And,
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