Ohio Gadfly Daily

When talking about educational choice, most people focus on choosing a school. But true educational choice shouldn’t stop after a family chooses a school. After all, few schools can meet the educational needs of all of their varied students—or can they?

Course choice, a growing trend in K–12 education, provides public school students with expanded course offerings across learning environments from diverse, accountable providers. It may sound impossible, but for many Ohio students, this is already a reality. CTE programs offer personalized paths toward earning high school credits, industry credentials, and college credit. The College Credit Plus program empowers students in grades 7–12 to attend classes at participating public or private colleges after they’re admitted based on their college-readiness. For students who aren’t interested in existing CTE programs and aren’t deemed college- and career-ready, ilearnOhio seems like the perfect solution. Dubbed a “powerful tool” for students and educators alike, the online platform provides classroom resources (e.g., instructional support materials, assessments, and professional development resources) and a marketplace with online courses from a variety of developers. The marketplace offers students extended course options—but only if their family has a few hundred dollars to drop, since many of...

  1. Lots of charter school-related news today. First up, our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece about the status – and the process – of charter law reform in Ohio. “The most important thing is that we get this right," he says. Yup. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 9/3/15)
  2. Meanwhile, State Auditor Dave (with the most) Yost released a report yesterday detailing the results of a special audit of the operations of three charter school sponsors. The results, he said, “[highlight] the need for increased sponsor oversight of schools.” He also acknowledged that the sponsor-centric charter reform bill pending in the state legislature “is a step in the right direction to increase accountability and transparency in our broken system.” Yup again.  (Columbus Dispatch, 9/3/15)
  3. Sadly, the Auditor’s press conference got short shrift in the media due to the late-day release of tens of thousands of pages of emails and attachments from the Ohio Department of Education in regard to the flawed sponsor-rating efforts undertaken by the department earlier this year. If you are so inclined, you can check out initial coverage of the emails’ contents in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/3/15) and the Dispatch,
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The latest report from the Center for American Progress opens with a detailed effort to define the problem of truancy. The causes are myriad: Family duties and instability at home can pull students out, while bullying and zero-tolerance policies can push them in the same direction. Regardless of the reason, chronic absenteeism has consequences for students, schools, the economy, and society. The authors successfully identify the problem for readers who do not deal with it daily, as many educators do. The definition of truancy differs from state to state, while districts and schools have wide latitude to address absenteeism. Unfortunately, these factors have conspired to virtually require the development of “customized” approaches to addressing truancy when a common menu of solutions might lead to better outcomes. The report highlights successful efforts in California (defining “chronic truancy” for the first time in state law and tracking data on it statewide), Washington, D.C. (early warning and intervention program), New York City (improved data collection, incentivizing attendance), Baltimore (student-centered non-judicial “truancy court”), and Hartford (mentoring programs for students who trigger early absenteeism warnings). From there, the authors extrapolate a variety of policy recommendations applicable to the federal, state, or local levels: Develop...

  1. Proceeds from a new craft beer are earmarked to help support a cash-strapped high school band in rural central Ohio. The beer company CEO is an alum. Kudos to everyone involved and let’s hope that… Wait. What? (Columbus Dispatch, 9/2/15)
  2. It’s a tale of two online education programs in eastern central Ohio. First up, a profile of one teenage parent who got back on track for high school graduation and college thanks to district-run Newark Digital Academy and its staff. Says the student: “They are working to get you through school and won’t stop bugging you until you get it done.” Sounds about right. (Newark Advocate, 8/31/15) Meanwhile, the digital academy run by nearby Southwest Licking Schools is facing a student shortage. Judging by the well-meaning efforts to keep it operating, district officials see the value in it for the students they have, but if they don’t add at least five more students (up to 25) before September 15, the academy will receive no state funding for the month of October. And that would seriously test the resolve of the district to keep the program going. Why yes, this IS the same district using beer sales
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A new analysis from Matthew A. Kraft at Brown University links the characteristics of laid-off teachers to changes in student achievement. The analysis was conducted in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), which laid off just over a thousand teachers as a result of the Great Recession in 2009 and 2010. Since North Carolina is one of five states where collective bargaining is illegal, a discretionary layoff policy was used rather than the more common “last-hired, first-fired” (sometimes referred to as LIFO—last in, first out) method. CMS identified candidates for layoffs based on five general criteria: duplicative positions, enrollment trends, job performance, job qualifications, and length of service.

Kraft estimates the effects of these layoffs on student achievement by using both principal observation scores (which directly informed layoffs) and value-added scores (which were not used to make layoff decisions). This enabled him to compare the impact of a teacher layoff based on subjective and objective measures of effectiveness. The good news for CMS students is that, overall, laid-off teachers received lower observation scores from principals and had lower value-added scores in math and reading compared to their counterparts who weren’t laid off. Kraft found that math achievement in grades that lost an...

  1. When editorials are presented in Gadfly Bites, I usually try to let them speak for themselves without too much commentary, but this editorial from Sunday’s Vindy (on the topic of the practicalities of the Youngstown Plan) is too unusual for that. First, it seems to be a direct response to questions raised in some other forum, the nature of which we outsiders are left guessing. Second, the effort of editors to assuage plan critics regarding universal EdChoice eligibility for Youngstown students is likely to cause more problems than it solves. Third, the lively discussion in the comments section regarding students with special needs is more interesting than the editorial. Fourth, this is one of the worst headlines ever. (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/30/15)
  2. Meanwhile, public radio took a look at the first day of school in Youngstown with the “threat of a state takeover looming”. Portentous much? (WKSU-FM, Kent, 8/28/15)
  3. Ohio governor John Kasich was thrown casually under the bus in the preceding piece. Editors in Toledo do the same as they opine, as if on repeat, in favor of charter law reform now. (Toledo Blade, 8/30/15)
  4. Kasich and his presidential run are front and center
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  1. It’s quiet around the Statehouse these days, just like most summers. That’s probably why Innovation Ohio, the Ohio Education Association, and others held an event yesterday to trot out some old saws – charter school funding issues, charter school law reform, charter school quality, charter schools stealing kids, etc. As a response, particularly to the funding question, Chad was interviewed for this piece in the Advocate. Chad is not exactly quoted here, but his more detailed description of how school funding actually works in Ohio is laid out. (Newark Advocate, 8/28/15). Chad’s dulcet tones explain school funding directly – characterizing the Innovation Ohio description of it “not intellectually honest” – in this piece from public radio. Ouch.  Link (WKSU-FM, Kent, 8/27/15)
  2. The event was also covered by a number of other news outlets – remember, it’s pretty quiet over there in the Statehouse – without quoting Chad. How do you like your coverage? It ranges from ranges from bland (Gongwer Ohio, 8/27/15), to mild (Columbus Dispatch, 8/28/15), to medium (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/28/15), to hot (Toledo Blade, 8/28/15).
  3. In the Dispatch story, above, there is a reference to FCI Academy, a
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  1. The state board of education this week added two of its members to the new review panel for rating charter school sponsors. (Columbus Dispatch blog, 8/24/15)
  2. Speaking of charter school sponsor reviews, editors in Akron opined this week in frustration about a yet-to-be-filled public records request for emails from the department. (Akron Beacon Journal, 8/24/15). Editors in Columbus opined similarly today. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/26/15). Governor Kasich’s presidential aspirations are part of both discussions.
  3. That currently-stalled bill which would overhaul charter school law in Ohio may not be stalled for very much longer. So says the President of the Ohio Senate. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/25/15)
  4. Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon gave his annual state-of-the-district report earlier this week. He reported that the Cleveland Turnaround Plan is working and cited such things as better school facilities, a strong teaching staff, more parent engagement, stabilizing enrollment, and more good preschool slots as evidence of improvement. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/24/15)
  5. On the other coast of Ohio, Cincinnati City Schools has cancelled the famous/infamous “magnet school campouts” this year. For those of you who don’t know, this was an annual ritual in which families
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NOTE: This is the Foreword from Fordham’s latest report, released today.

Over the past few years, states across the nation have undertaken big changes in public education—a system reboot, if you will. Policymakers have raised academic standards, toughened up exams, and demanded stronger results from schools. Like other states, Ohio has also put into place a standards and accountability framework with the clear goal of readying every student for college or career when she graduates high school.

It’s no secret that a flood of controversy has accompanied these changes. The Common Core, a set of college-and-career ready standards in math and English language arts, has been the subject of great debate. Yet the Common Core remains in place in Ohio and at least forty other states. States have also adopted next-generation assessments aligned to these standards, though the rollout of the new exams has been rocky. As a result of these transitions, Ohio policymakers have temporarily softened accountability and slowed the implementation of new school report cards.

Given the difficulty of these changes, one may ask why we conducted an overhaul in the first place. Why must states, including Ohio, see through the full and faithful implementation of educational...

Only math and reading teachers in grades 4–8 receive evaluations based on value-added test results. For all other teachers—80 percent of them in Ohio—it’s on to Plan B. To evaluate these teachers, schools are using alternative measures of student growth, which include vendor assessments (commercial, non-state exams) and student learning objectives (SLOs, or teacher-designed goals for learning). But how are these alternative measures being administered? What are their pros and cons? The research on this issue is terribly thin, but a new study from the Institute of Education Sciences casts an intriguing ray of light. Through in-depth interviews, the researchers elicited information on how eight mid-Atlantic districts (unnamed) are implementing alternative measures.

Here are the study’s four key takeaways: First, educators considered vendor assessments (with results analyzed through a form of value-added modelling) to be a fairer and more rigorous evaluation method than SLOs. Second, both alternative measures yielded greater variation in teacher performance than observational methods alone. Third, implementing SLOs in a consistent and rigorous manner was extremely difficult. In fact, the authors write, “All types of stakeholders expressed concern about the potential for some teachers to ‘game the system’ by setting easily attainable...