Ohio Gadfly Daily

At the end of November, we asked you—our loyal Ohio Gadfly readers—to tell us what you thought were the top education stories for 2016. The choices were numerous and we appreciate all of the responses. In the spirit of “ringing out the old,” we give you the Top 5:

  1. House Bill 2 (HB 2): It is difficult to overstate the importance of this wide-ranging reform of Ohio’s charter school policies, which went into effect in February of this year. Almost immediately, we observed “HB2 effects” rippling throughout the sector, particularly in terms of sponsor decision-making around school closures. Additionally, “sponsor hopping” (in which schools seek out the sponsor of least resistance when anticipating a contract non-renewal) disappeared virtually overnight. Completion of the new, rigorous sponsor evaluations that were strengthened by HB 2 occurred in October (more on these later). Befitting the top placement for this story in 2016, there is much more to say. Stay tuned to the Ohio Education Gadfly for our detailed analysis of the early implementation of HB 2, expected in the New Year.
  2. ECOT vs. ODE: Ohio’s largest online charter school was embroiled in a lawsuit with the Ohio Department of
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  1. Longtime Ohio education curmudgeon Bill Phillis found an outlet through which to express his distaste for a proposed new funding formula introduced in the state legislature last week by the chair of the House Education Committee. Phillis apparently told Patrick O’Donnell his top concern was that ending local funding and allowing all state funding to “follow the child” would make choosing schools too easy for parents and budgeting for districts too hard. There are other reasons given, but I’ll just stop there. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/20/16)
  2. Speaking of school choice, Columbus City Schools is set to initiate all-online registration and management of its intra-district choice program. The district’s PR flack extols the virtues of quick and easy access to info and forms and the like in this brief piece and takes a second to mention that charter school students who live in the city can apply too (how generous). Anyone besides me concerned about who might not have easy access to/facility with the internet re: choosing? (Columbus Dispatch Education Insider, 12/21/16)
  3. Here is a nice piece about two nonprofit organizations which have for years provided out-of-school support for students in Cleveland. It is part of
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  1. Here’s another article on Fordham-sponsored charter school DECA Prep’s expansion plans, now underway in Dayton. There’s some great detail here about the school’s plans. I find the “parent center” portion to be very interesting. Kudos to DECA on all fronts! (Dayton Daily News, 12/18/16)
  2. DECA is also name-checked in this piece – among a list of many other options from which one Dayton resident could choose for her grandson. The main part of the story is about inter-district open enrollment in Montgomery County, timed to coincide with the first public discussions in Huber Heights schools about the possibility of opening up their borders to students from outside. It’s a very interesting piece and thoroughly discusses the pros and cons. I was especially impressed by the superintendent from Kettering schools who candidly (and accurately) noted that “revenues are the main driver of open enrollment on the school side, while it’s just another form of school choice on the family side.” (Dayton Daily News, 12/17/16)
  3. Here is an interesting story on the current career-skills training going on at one Columbus City Schools high school. Specifically, construction trades. Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/18/16)
  4. Finally today, eSports has
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  1. The end of the legislative session in Ohio included a couple of surprises, one of which was a bill from Rep. Andrew Brenner proposing a fairly radical overhaul of school funding in the state. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/15/16) Stakeholders are starting to react to the proposal and comments are, at least at first, nuanced and non-dogmatic. The details will be key going forward, but as Brenner notes in the Dispatch piece and this Gongwer piece, he is mainly aiming to “start a conversation” around the issue of tackling school funding. Mission accomplished, it seems. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/15/16)
  2. Fascinating commentary from an English teacher in Shaker Heights schools in suburban Cleveland. It’s a district with a distinct group of high-flyers and kids with distinct disadvantages. Teacher Cotton defines from firsthand what the terms “achievement gap” and “opportunity gap” mean to him and rejects them both as means by which to measure/rate the success of his district. His beef seems to be mainly with the Ohio Department of Education and one or more of the ratings given to the district by ODE, but it also seems to me that his argument is missing some important nuance in that regard.
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  1. Fordham’s first-ever analysis of Ohio’s EdChoice program – released earlier this year – was cited in a “School Vouchers 101” piece on NPR. NPR!! (National Public Radio, 12/7/16)
  2. I’m sure we talked about this last week, but here it is again. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece which discusses the impending end of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Anybody besides me think Bush’s writing sounds positively giddy here? (Columbus Dispatch, 12/14/16)
  3. As we noted earlier, the Ohio State Board of Education this week discussed changing the state’s new graduation requirements before they were fully implemented, amid widely-publicized fears of a “graduation apocalypse”. I don’t know about that last part, but no changes were made to said requirements this week. Instead, a workgroup will be impaneled to further discuss the issue and to make recommendations somewhere down the road. Chad testified before the board yesterday on the topic. Coverage of the non-decision which notes and/or quotes Chad’s testimony can be found in Gongwer (Gongwer Ohio, 12/13/16) and on Ideastream public radio. (Ideastream Public Media, Cleveland, 12/13/16) Anyone interested can read the full text of Chad’s remarks here.
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NOTE: The State Board of Education of Ohio is today debating whether to change graduation requirements for the Class of 2018 and beyond. Below are the written remarks that Chad Aldis gave before the board today.

Thank you, President Gunlock and state board members, for allowing me to offer public comment today.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-oriented nonprofit focused on research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

High school diplomas are supposed to signal whether a young person possesses a certain set of knowledge and skills. To its credit, Ohio is phasing in new graduation standards that will do that by better matching the expectations of post-secondary institutions, employers, and our armed forces. The new standards ask our young people to demonstrate readiness by either passing end of course exams (EOCs), achieving a remediation free ACT or SAT score, or earning an industry credential.

After years of low graduation standards, Ohio’s new requirements are a major step in the right direction. We need to set the expectations high for the young men and women who...

Most Ohio Gadfly readers know that we typically offer in-depth commentary one topic at a time. This tendency assumes (pardon the holiday metaphor) that one huge present is preferred—like the Lexus tied up in a bow. We recognize that other folks might prefer a bundle of gifts. So, for those yearning for a little more diversity in their inbox, this one is for you. (No white elephants, we promise.)

A win on ESSA accountability

In late November, the U.S. Department of Education released its revised and final regulations on school accountability under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In a victory for high achievers, the feds made it crystal clear that states are permitted to use a performance index—as Ohio has long done—as an indicator of student achievement. Regrettably (see here and here for why), the previous draft regulations would have likely forbidden performance indices and forced states to use proficiency rates instead. Now it’s full steam ahead on the performance index as Ohio drafts its ESSA state plan.

Information in the palm of your hand

Kudos to state leaders who are making Ohio’s report card data useful and accessible to policy wonks...

Ohio’s charter school reform discussions have mostly focused on sponsors—the entities responsible for providing charter school oversight. Overlooked are the important changes in Ohio’s charter reform law (House Bill 2) around operators. Operators (aka management companies) are often the entities responsible for running the day-to-day functions of charter schools; some of the responsibilities they oversee include selecting curriculum, hiring and firing school leaders and teachers, managing facilities, providing special education services, and more. (To get a sense of the extent of operator responsibilities, read through one of their contracts.)

Extra sunshine on operators has been especially needed in a climate like Ohio’s, where operators historically have wielded significant political influence and power not only with elected officials but even over governing boards. For instance, one utterly backwards provision pre-HB 2 allowed operators to essentially fire a charter’s governing board (with sponsor approval) instead of the other way around—what NACSA President Greg Richmond referred to as the “most breathtaking abuse in the nation” in charter school policy.  

HB 2 installed much-needed changes on this front, barring the most egregious abuses of power and greatly increasing operator transparency. The legislation required that contracts between charter...

One in seven adults’ ages 18-24 in Ohio lacks a high school diploma and faces bleak prospects of prospering in our economy. Dropouts earn $10,000 less each year than the average high school graduate according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are almost twice as likely to be unemployed, and typically earn an average annual income of $20,241 which hovers just above the poverty line for a family of three in Ohio. Dropouts also drag down the Ohio economy; over the course of their life, they consume an estimated $292,000 in public aid beyond what they pay in taxes.

To mitigate the number and cost of dropouts, Ohio has permitted the creation of ninety-four dropout prevention and recovery schools. Collectively, these schools enrolled sixteen thousand students in the 2015-16 year. They serve at-risk and re-enrolling students—pupils who previously dropped out but are now re-entering the education system—with the aim of graduating students who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

To hold these schools accountable for successfully educating at-risk students, Ohio has created an alternative report card. This report card assigns an overall rating of “Exceeds,” “Meets,” or “Does Not Meet” standards based on the...

  1. Fordham-sponsored charter school KIPP: Columbus is among the grant recipients recently announced by the Columbus Foundation as part of its Capital Improvement Funding Partnership to “prioritize and respond to capital needs in the community.” Congrats to local KIPPsters on the grow! (Columbus Business First, 12/9/16)
  2. Fordham’s 2016 study of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship program is referenced in this commentary opining against Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. (Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail, 12/10/16)
  3. The PD reports that the lame duck session of the Ohio General Assembly did not legislate changes to the attendance audit/funding process for online schools in the state, a process which is the subject of litigation and journalistic tit-for-tatting between the state’s largest such school and the state department of education. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/12/16)
  4. Speaking of the state legislature, this piece from the D regarding an impending change – or not – of Ohio’s new graduation requirements had a decidedly-legislative spin in its print version (which I read while drinking coffee out of a Christmas-themed mug this morning), but in this online version seems a bit less cut-and-dried in that regard. I’m sure we’ll know which it is when the state board
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