Ohio Gadfly Daily

Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA) is preparing Cleveland middle schoolers for success in high school, college, and life—and not just academically. CLA, whose population is 79 percent economically disadvantaged and made up almost entirely of students of color, is second among all public schools in the city on student growth. The school’s eighth graders reach and surpass proficiency at a rate that is more than three times that of their peers across the city. Reading and math proficiency rates at CLA are more than double those of Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s.

No matter how you slice the data, CLA is providing academic preparation that would likely be unavailable to them if the schools—and its broader high-performing charter network (Breakthrough Schools)—did not exist. And yet its academic prowess is just the tip of the iceberg.

The school’s model—as captured in its name, Citizens Leadership Academy—prioritizes and cultivates broader attributes and mindsets necessary for long-term success. As you’ll read in this profile about one student, Keith Lazare Jr., CLA asks students to consider what it means to be active, engaged citizens and community members. Students are asked to grapple not...

  1. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger published an op ed this week in which he opines on the necessity and early efficacy of charter law reform in Ohio. For the latter, he cites our recent report looking at the early implementation of HB 2. Nice! (Washington Court House Record Herald, 2/7/17)
  2. Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy is on the grow! The non-district, non-charter, public STEM high school is expanding to middle school starting next year with a $13 million building project which is on time, under budget, and looking pretty darn cool. Check it out. (Springfield News Sun, 2/7/17)
  3. Dayton’s school board this week unanimously approved a new three-year contract for Superintendent Rhonda Corr, citing some important positives that occurred during her first year on the job. While the biggest ones – a better-than-expected state report card and removal of the threat of an Academic Distress Commission – admittedly happened on the watch of the previous supe, the board president hinted at some further good news on the horizon: “We’re really excited about some reports you’re going to receive, and feel that this community will become even more confident in us moving ahead…” Well, played, Mr.
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Do incentives nudge students to exert more effort in their schoolwork? A recent study by University of Chicago analysts suggests they do, though the structure of the incentive is also important.

The researchers conducted field experiments from 2009 to 2011 in three high-poverty areas, including Chicago Public Schools and two nearby districts, with nearly 6,000 student participants in grades two through ten. Based on improved performance relative to a baseline score on a low-stakes reading or math assessment (not the state exam), various incentives were offered to different groups of pupils, such as a $10 or $20 reward, or a trophy worth about $3 along with public recognition of their accomplishment. The analysts offered no reward to students in a control group. To test whether pupils responded differently to immediate versus delayed incentives, some of the students received their reward right after the test—results were computed on the spot—while others knew the reward would be withheld for one month.

Several interesting findings emerged. First, the larger cash reward ($20) led to positive effects on test performance, while the smaller reward had no impact ($10). This suggests that, if offering a monetary reward, larger payouts will likely lead to more...

  1. A bit more coverage of the Ohio charter school facilities report, with whose release we helped out last week, courtesy of statewide public radio. (Statehouse News Bureau, 2/6/17)
  2. Here is a story about simple, common-sense stress reduction efforts underway in three Columbus City Schools elementary buildings. By all measures presented here, these efforts have worked miracles for students and have aided discipline and focus building-wide. Even the teachers are said to have reduced stress levels. And while there is no mention of how much any of these steps have cost, none of them seems to be very expensive at all and a local non-profit is said to be involved. So stipulating, I will present you with the piece’s conclusion: “Ohio Avenue's academics still need to catch up, she said, but kids aren't being sent out of lessons so often for discipline problems. Feeling calm and secure, they might be absorbing more material. The hope is that test scores will climb accordingly.” And now I will ask rhetorically if any of my loyal Gadfly Bites readers can guess the question lingering in my mind… (Columbus Dispatch, 2/5/17)
  3. Speaking of improvements, here is an update on Youngstown
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  1. In case you missed, it Fordham assisted in the release of a new report documenting the opportunities and challenges facing charter schools in Ohio in terms of obtaining and maintaining proper facilities for their work. You can find great coverage of the report and of the release event we co-hosted yesterday in Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/2/17)
  2. There was a little more talk yesterday about Governor Kasich’s proposal to include business leaders as ex-officio members of elected school boards across the state. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/2/17)
  3. Swanky Ottawa Hills school district in suburban Toledo is looking for a few good recruits to top out its student enrollment numbers. Just five kids would do the trick, but they have to be able to pay the out-of-district tuition, which is estimated at over $13,000 per year. “What?!” you ask. “How can it be that a public school district – open to all – could charge tuition when there is an existing open enrollment mechanism they could avail themselves of?!” You’re probably thinking this is about money. But let the soothing words of the school board president reassure you: “This isn’t about the money. It’s about populating our district
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A report released today outlines the facilities challenges facing Ohio’s public charter schools. The report, “An Analysis of the Charter School Facility Landscape in Ohio,” found that on average, Ohio charter schools spend $785 per pupil  from their foundation funding on facilities—a cost not typically faced by traditional public schools. The report also finds that few Ohio charters are able to locate in unused or underutilized district facilities.

“This study is eye opening,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy. “It provides Ohio policy makers with concrete data, for the first time ever, regarding how extensive the facility challenges are for Ohio’s 370 public charter schools.”

The report is based on a 2015 survey of Ohio charter school principals (representing 81 percent of brick-and-mortar charters in the state). The study was sponsored by the National Charter School Resource Center of the U.S. Department of Education, and conducted by the Colorado League of Charter Schools with the assistance of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“Charter schools face an uphill battle when it comes to securing a quality facility. Facility expenses of almost $800 per...

Jack Archer

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

In the last Ohio Gadfly, I described the many similarities between Washington State’s lengthy debate about high school graduation requirements during the years that I worked there and the debate underway in Ohio now. 

As has been Washington’s habit as well on everything from funding to accountability, the Ohio State Board of Education has kicked the issue to a study panel for the time being. At its meeting on December 13, the Board, after first rejecting proposals to delay or reduce the college and work-ready requirements adopted in 2014, directed the State Superintendent to appoint a work group to “review the graduation requirements and consider alternative approaches." The up-to-twenty-five-member work group with broad representation from the education community is to make a recommendation to Superintendent DeMaria by the Board’s April 2017 meeting.

Following is some immodest advice to the work group from someone who may be new to Ohio but is not new to work groups, task forces,...

  1. Details of Governor Kasich’s new biennial budget are emerging this week. Here are some peeks at the K-12 education portion of said budget from around the state. The Dispatch focuses on the governor’s assertion that school districts which have lost students should get less money from the state. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/31/17) Coverage from Dayton focuses quite a bit on Kasich’s idea to require school boards to have 3 ex-officio members from the local business community. (Dayton Daily News, 1/30/17) The DDN is so interested in this particular part of the budget bill that they published a separate piece covering reactions of some area school board members to the proposal. (Dayton Daily News, 1/30/17). As is its wont to do, the PD took a “wait and see” approach on the education budget but laid out all the details known so far. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/30/17) Ditto for Gongwer, who led with the declining enrollment piece but generally just laid out the facts. Kudos to them for also mentioning the Straight-A Innovation Fund, which is continued and funded at $50 million over the biennium. (Gongwer Ohio, 1/30/17) Our own Chad Aldis commends the continuation of the
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“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” There's a lot of truth in that cliché, but it doesn't seem to apply to education. When it comes to chronically low-performing schools, in many cases, the better – and more courageous – course is to “quit” and close a school that is simply beyond repair.

In recent years, attempts to turn around failing schools are most closely linked to the Obama Administration’s supercharged School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Between 2010 and 2015, the federal government spent $7 billion in efforts to turnaround low-performing schools. In exchange for these funds, grantee schools pledged to implement prescribed interventions, such as replacing personnel or changing instructional practices.

The returns: Not much—or perhaps not clear—according to a massive study by Mathematica and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The study examined schools in the 2010 SIG cohort and tracked pupil outcomes through three years of implementation. Using data from twenty-two states, their analysis found that SIG had no significant impact on students’ state math or reading test scores. Nor did they find any evidence that SIG increased pupils’ likelihood of high school graduation or college enrollment. Further, the analysts didn’t even uncover...

Ohio charter schools have long reported struggling in their efforts to secure school facilities. A soon-to-be released report, “An Analysis of the Charter School Facility Landscape in Ohio,” from the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Charter School Resource Center, the Charter School Facilities Initiative, managed by the Colorado League of Charter Schools, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools surveys school principals to get the most detailed look to date of Ohio charter school facilities. The survey, which includes data from 81 percent of Ohio's brick and mortar charter schools, examines multiple aspects of charter facilities including the size, uses, and cost per student of each.

Please join Fordham and the Callender Group to hear the report’s authors share the data and Ohio charter schools/school networks talk about what the report means on-the-ground.

Thursday, February 2, 2016
8:30 - 10:00 am

Chase Tower - Sixth floor conference room B
100 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Kevin Hesla, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and report co-author
Jessica M. Johnson, Esq., Colorado League of Charter Schools and report co-author

Tiffany Adamski,...