Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Heavy charter school issue today. First up, a leftover from last week which discusses a pending legislative proposal to allow high-performing charter schools access to facilities funding statewide for the first time. Folks in Cleveland are concerned that the “high-performing” criteria applies to sponsors and not to individual schools. Meaning that a high-performing school in the portfolio of a low-performing sponsor would be unable to access facilities funding as the law is currently written. It’s a good question, and an important debate in the ongoing efforts to reform charter law in Ohio: sponsor-centric provisions vs. school-centric provisions. Fordham is name-checked here as one of only two sponsors in Ohio recently rated in the highest, “exemplary” category of sponsors by the Ohio Department of Education. Just sayin’. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/29/15)
  2. Of course not everyone thinks Fordham is the bomb when it comes to charter sponsorship. The Beacon Journal had no less than four stories this weekend about the history of charter school audits in Ohio. 15 years of audits are scrutinized in the series. Part one is a summary of the most egregious findings over the years. Fordham shows up on the Top 10 list for findings
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Lots to cover today. Let’s get to it.

  1. Fordham’s Kathryn Mullen Upton shared her views on the state of charter school governing boards in EdWeek, and it’s fascinating, important stuff. Those views are hard won through years of hands-on experience in Ohio. She opines that a lack of expertise among board members on critical issues of governance is often found amid “meltdowns”. As I might have expected, this piece does a pretty serious handwave over elected school boards. Loyal readers of Gadfly Bites will note any number of recent examples of losers (or worse) being voted in to board seats and staying in despite demonstrated incompetence, neglect, dereliction, and even criminality. But perhaps that’s not politically correct to point out, as Governor Kasich has said. (EdWeek, 5/28/15)
  2. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is also in the news this week, commenting on Ohio Senate testimony in which some charter school advocates sought to carve out exceptions to stringent new restrictions proposed for sponsors. It is not exactly a spoiler to say that Chad’s not a fan of said exceptions. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/28/15)
  3. Not to belabor the point, but here’s another take on the state of play in charter
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  1. Editors in Youngstown once again beg the state to intervene in their school district. “While the adults play their games, the children of the city suffer.” Wow. (Youngstown Vindicator, 5/27/15)
  2. Meanwhile in Cleveland, where a takeover model exists that the Vindy editors probably envy at this moment, CEO Eric Gordon received unanimous approval for a 4-year contract extension. Things are looking up in CLE, although there’s still a long way to go. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/27/15)
  3. On Ohio’s other coast, public radio in Missouri is taking a look at Oyler Community Learning Center in Cincinnati, one of a number of schools in the Queen City to experiment with a wide array of wraparound services and community outreach efforts to better connect education and families. Data, where it is mentioned, seems inconclusive. (KBIA-FM, Missouri, 5/26/15)
  4. Not to neglect the capital city, Columbus City Schools is complaining again – with the help of a dear old friend – about Ohio’s “cap and guarantee” system of state funding for schools. Honestly, dudes, we’ve been trying to get rid of this thing in favor of a realistic allocation of state funds for years. It distorts everything. Just
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  1. This is some sterling journalism here. Hannah Sparling takes a detailed and multi-faceted look at the work of The Mind Trust in Indianapolis as its mission and one of its leaders is being translated to Cincinnati via the Accelerate Great Schools project. Although there are no parent voices present – hopefully a future story? – our own Chad Aldis has some detailed and important input among the educators, elected leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders in both Indy and Cincinnati. Fascinating piece. Highly recommended. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 5/23/15)
  2. Editors at the Big D opined in favor of announced changes to the PARCC testing regime for next year. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/25/15)
  3. Speaking of opining, editors in Toledo and Akron were on the same page this weekend, urging legislators to eschew tax cuts in the budget for other priorities. In Akron, it was K-12 schools and local government (Akron Beacon Journal, 5/25/15), in Toledo it was higher education (Toledo Blade, 5/24/15).
  4. And speaking of access to higher ed, the Repository has a great story today about the AmeriCorps program Ohio College Guides (Canton Repository, 5/26/15), which places recent college grads in urban high schools to help especially
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In 2012, Denver and New Orleans became the first two cities in the country to utilize a common enrollment system that included both district-run and charter schools. A new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) takes a look at the benefits, limitations, and implications of these common enrollment systems. Both cities are widely regarded as leaders in developing well-functioning school marketplaces; for example, a recent Brookings institution report awarded New Orleans top marks in its “education choice and competition index” (Denver was rated sixth-best out of more than one hundred metropolitan areas).

In both cities, the enrollment systems were designed to make choosing a school a clearer and fairer process for all families. They employ a single application with a single deadline that parents use to apply for any and all schools within the city.  But the systems themselves are different: In New Orleans, students have no assigned school; instead, every family must use the OneApp to apply for schools. In Denver, however, choice is voluntary—students receive a default assignment, but the SchoolChoice application allows families (if they want) to apply to any public school in the city.

Despite these differences, both...

  1. Unless you were living under a rock, you could not have missed the announcement from the PARCC governing board – whose members include our own Superintendent of Public Instruction Dick Ross – about changes to the consortium’s testing regime following the first year of rollout in member states. Lots of coverage around Ohio. Here are two piece which quote Chad Aldis extoling the virtues of the “common sense” changes. Columbus Dispatch (5/21/15) and Cincinnati Enquirer (5/21/15). The Cincy piece got picked up in several other Gannett outlets as well.
  2. For some reason, other big city dailies didn’t see fit to include Chad’s dynamite quotes in their coverage of the PARCC testing changes. Not sure why I’m even including them here (public shaming maybe?), but they are the Cleveland Plain Dealer (5/21/15) and the Dayton Daily News (5/21/15).
  3. Perhaps the PARCC folks were listening to the Big D’s editorial board, who opined yesterday that Ohio needs to keep Common Core and PARCC, whatever tweaks are necessary. They were not the first to say this, as you know if you read Gadfly Bites regularly, but they do have some juice. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/21/15)
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  1. The public-private partnership aiming to double the number of high-quality seats available to low-income students in Cincinnati has named its first CEO. He is Patrick Herrel, formerly a recruiter for Teach For America and currently a VP for MindTrust. It also has a formal name: Accelerate Great Schools. Good luck to everyone involved in this exciting venture! (Cincinnati Enquirer, 5/19/15)
  2. Speaking of groups with new names, an organization in Youngstown now called ACTION (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods) has been trying to get the whole school board in a room to answer some questions it has about the district’s future. However, since not every member will attend, the previously-announced public meeting will likely not take place. No word on whether anyone from ACTION wanted to talk to the Academic Distress Commission members under whose oversight the district currently operates. With the district supe in his last week of employment, one might rightly be concerned about impending chaos in Y’town. Surely the folks at the Vindicator arrived at that conclusion some time ago. (Youngstown Vindicator, 5/19/15)
  3. “I have never had to deal with the daily infighting on the small things that you have to face
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Since its birth in 1997, Ohio’s charter school program has been on a bumpy ride. Overall sector quality has been mixed, and Ohio charters have been bogged down by controversy, some of it based on partisan politics. But a new day is dawning for the Buckeye State’s charter schools. State policymakers have begun to embrace charter governance reforms. Governor Kasich and the legislature—with support from both parties—have worked together to craft legislative proposals that, if enacted, would remedy Ohio’s broken charter school law and create new incentives aimed at expanding high-quality charters throughout the state. Presently, the Ohio Senate is considering the charter reform bills.

We at Fordham have voiced our loud and clear support for charter reform in Ohio. But we’re not the only voices seeking big changes. In addition to support from key policymakers, editorial boards, and business organizations, the leaders at some of the Buckeye State’s very finest charter schools have also taken a stand and are demanding change as well. At committee hearings in the Senate on May 6 and the House on March 11, legislators heard from three leaders of Ohio’s high-quality urban charters. Here are some highlights of...

In 2006, Ohio enacted one of the nation’s first “default closure” laws, which requires the lowest-performing charter schools to shut down whether their authorizers want them to or not. The law, still in effect today, has forced twenty-four charters to close. The criteria for automatic closure are well defined in law and are based on the state’s accountability system.

This new working paper, which complements our recent study on Ohio school closures, evaluates the effect of closures induced by the automatic closure law on student achievement. (By contrast, Fordham’s study examined both district and charter closures that occurred regardless of cause, be it financial, academic, or other.) To carry out this analysis, the researchers compared the outcomes of students attending charters that closed by default to those of pupils attending charters that just narrowly escaped the state’s chopping block. The sharp “cut point” for closure versus non-closure allowed the analysts to compare very similar students who attended similarly performing schools—thus approximating a “gold-standard” random experiment.

The key finding: Students displaced by an automatic closure made significant gains in math and reading after their schools closed, a result consistent with our broader study. Moreover, the analysts found that the academic...

When the Foundation for Excellence in Education released its first “Digital Learning Report Card” in 2011, the state-by-state outlook for ed-tech innovation was worrying. Twenty-one states received failing grades. Four years on, the picture looks very different. While there are still only two states—Florida and Utah—earning A grades, this year’s scorecard shows half of them with improved grades and just five (Connecticut, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Tennessee) with Fs. Barriers to digital learning are falling fast.

The report card grades states on ten “elements of high-quality digital learning,” including whether students can advance by demonstrating proficiency (not merely by warming classroom seats for enough months) and whether they have the ability to customize their education through digital providers. And of course, the funding and infrastructure must be in place to support digital learning. Broadly speaking, the report praises states for adopting policies that embrace new models and ways of thinking, and shames them if they don’t. States might get dinged, for example, if they restrict student eligibility for online courses (allowing kids only to take online versions of courses already offered in schools seems truly pointless). That said, some of the report’s criteria feel more like an ed-tech enthusiast’s...