Ohio Gadfly Daily

A few years ago, a couple of my Fordham colleagues coined the phrase “public private” schools to describe schools that educate virtually no low-income students. In the report, they suggested the following notion: Though “public” in name, high-wealth schools are, in practice, pretty much equivalent to private ones. Families wanting to enroll their children in such schools effectively pay “tuition” through higher real-estate taxes and/or paying a fortune on housing. Low-income families are functionally excluded from sending their children to these schools.

But when an affluent district enacts an open enrollment policy, students outside its jurisdiction can attend. This suggests that they’re acting more in their public than private nature. Since 1989, Ohio has permitted such inter-district open enrollment, and today, most (though not all) districts participate. For the 2015–16 year, 81 percent of districts allowed some degree of open enrollment.[1]

So what about Ohio’s public private school districts? Do any of them open their doors for all comers? Or are they adhering more closely to their “private” identity by denying non-resident students the opportunity to enroll? Let’s take a look at the data.

When my colleagues examined public private schools in 2010, they identified...

It’s often argued that improving education will improve the nation’s economy. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research not only affirms this argument but also demonstrates just how big the economic effects of school improvement could be.

From the start, it’s clear that this paper differs from its predecessors. Previous studies examined human capital and its effect on states’ economic development by measuring school attainment (high school graduation). This one points out that attainment is an imperfect yardstick—it incorrectly assumes that increased levels of schooling automatically suggest increased levels of knowledge and skills. A better way to determine the relationship between education and economic value is to measure a different outcome: achievement. Since “no direct measures of cognitive skills for the labor force” exist, the authors craft their own. They start by constructing an average test score for each state using NAEP, then adjust the test scores for different types of migration (interstate and international among them) in order to offset the high mobility of the American population.

Hanushek, who has published multiple studies linking economic activity with enhanced educational output, offers several scenarios in his latest report. If every state improved to the level of...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this very brief look at the new NAPCS state rankings. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/20/16)
  2. A new report from the Ohio Department of Higher Education says that fewer college freshmen needed remedial courses in 2014 than need them in 2013. Props are being given to Ohio colleges for efforts to commonly define the core skills students need to have and be able to do in order to be considered “remediation free”. (Is that code? Perhaps for “lowering the bar?”) They are also being given props for their use of “co-requisite remediation”, in which students enroll in college-level courses instead of remedial classes and receive academic support to help them succeed. You can check out coverage in the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 1/20/16) and the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/21/16)
  3. Count on the good folks at the Harvard Graduate School of Economics to kill whatever buzz the above-referenced remediation news may have generated. A new report from them suggests that the college admissions process needs to be “reshaped” in order to stop the escalation of what they call “achievement pressure.” Now THAT is definitely code. Probably for “less emphasis on
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Ohio has been included in lots of national rankings and scorecards lately. The latest comes from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which ranks the Buckeye State at number twenty-three (out of forty-three states) for its charter school law. At first blush, twenty-third doesn’t seem like much to laud (after all, we just lamented Ohio’s fall to twenty-third in Education Week’sQuality Counts” ranking). But there’s more to Ohio’s modest slot than meets the eye.

For starters, Ohio improved five slots from last year. In fact, it was the third-most-improved state in terms of rankings, next to Oklahoma and Massachusetts. More important than its rise in the rankings (which could occur for a host of reasons, including other states’ charter climates getting worse) is the reason why. The report notes that Ohio’s improvement occurred because “it enacted legislation that improved its authorizer funding provisions and strengthened its charter monitoring processes.” They went further, praising other aspects of House Bill 2: “It is important to note that the legislation enacted in Ohio made a lot of other positive changes to the state’s law; it dealt with some specific challenges that have emerged...

In recent weeks, two national publications have assigned Ohio grades for its education policies and outcomes. The first, “Quality Counts,” came courtesy of Education Week. It revealed that Ohio’s grades have fallen from previous years, moving the state down in national rankings. The second was a group of report cards that rated states on their support for public higher education. These grades were furnished by the Young Invincibles (YI), a national organization that seeks to represent the millennial generation. At first glance, the reports don’t share much in common. Quality Counts examines K–12 education and, despite lower rankings, still grades Ohio as middle-of-the-pack. The Young Invincibles report, on the other hand, examines higher education and gives Ohio a giant red F.

Closer inspection reveals that the reports both examine the connection between education and money. “Quality Counts,” for example, points out rising poverty gaps on Ohio’s NAEP results. Ohio’s gaps between poor and non-poor kids aren’t just large, they’re getting larger—the opposite of the national trend. The YI report, meanwhile, focuses on the financial difficulty of attending college in Ohio. While Ohio has seen some of the smallest tuition hikes since...

  1. Back from a bit of a break and catching up. Chad was quoted in a piece over the weekend talking about the new charter sponsor evaluation protocols being put in place in Ohio. Some folks think the highest rating is unobtainable; some think that’s just fine if true. Others – like the online commenters – are expecting some “wiggle room” to emerge. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/17/16)
  2. Leroy Elementary in Riverside Schools in Northern Ohio is being studied for closure due to declining enrollment and deteriorating conditions, among other things. Parents were encouraged to attend this week’s special board meeting about the proposal. (Willoughby News-Herald, 1/16/16). They obliged, and largely disagreed with the proposal. (Willoughby News-Herald, 1/19/16)
  3. Speaking of small town schools, the Poland district near Youngstown is considering changes to its school calendar. They say they need to start the school year earlier in 2016-17 in order to have more prep time for PARCC testing. Do you want to tell them, or should I? (Youngstown Vindicator, 1/20/16)
  4. Speaking of Youngstown, we’re still waiting for more courtroom action on the definition of “teacher” – a decision which is holding up the entirety of the Youngstown
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  1. As noted earlier in the week, the first installment of school and district report card data was released yesterday. As Patrick O’Donnell tells us: The results released “reflect only graduation rates, how well kids do on college exams like the ACT and SAT and how well schools help kids that have trouble reading in the early grades.” Big stuff, yes, but new calculations and incomplete data make it difficult for analysts to really dig in. Case in point, perennial report analysts the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (ugh, not those guys again), whom Patrick points out will not be publishing their analysis until more information is out and it can be properly parsed. Don’t worry Aaron, we still love you. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/14/16)
  2. We all know that the world of education in Ohio loves change and so, as you can imagine, everyone is thrilled and delighted by yesterday’s data dump. I jest, of course. A quarter of the data is already under review at the request of districts who feel this or that measure is not accurate, many districts are throwing up their hands as to what any of the ratings mean, and other supes and spokespeople are
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  1. Democracy can be messy. Nowhere is that more apparent than in school boards around Ohio. Take Akron City Schools, for example. A majority of voters opted not to reelect an incumbent board member in November. A majority of sitting board members opted to bring him back at the first meeting of the new year to fill an empty seat. (Akron Beacon Journal, 1/11/16)
  2. Charter schools can be messy. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the case of Andre Tucker. He led three charter schools that opened and quickly folded back in 2013. Litigation over a number of issues has been ongoing ever since, with Tucker representing himself in his defense and in scattering lawsuits of his own all over Franklin County courts. It is with some thinly-veiled glee that the formerly-Big D (sued by Tucker for reporting on him) tells us Tucker was slapped by a judge this week as “vexatious litigator”. It is hoped by the reporters that this will shut down Tucker’s efforts for good. Now, about that stalled litigation in Youngstown… (Columbus Dispatch, 1/13/16)
  3. A small sliver of news on the Youngstown Plan litigation in this piece – a hearing is set
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“The Proper Perspective” is a discussion between Jamie Davies O’Leary, senior Ohio policy analyst for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Stephen Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio. This joint effort was hatched one afternoon after Jamie and Steve had a lively back-and-forth over email about (what else?) charter school data. Interested in many of the same data points and research questions, they decided to share some of this exchange more publicly, helping both to illuminate trends in Ohio public education and formulate policy recommendations through their insights.

In some areas, they’ll find opportunities to coalesce, and even celebrate. In a state often divided vehemently on public education, there’s value in finding alignment with those you may have disagreed with previously.

In other areas, interpretation of the same facts is bound to diverge. That’s OK. We’ll strive for thoughtful dialogue—backed up with research and data—rather than ad hominem attacks or the same ideological shouting that has marked Ohio’s education reform debate for too long. Thanks for joining us and for listening—to both of us. We hope it will be both entertaining and enlightening.


A decade...

As the days grew shorter and 2015 drew to a close, my colleagues gave you a recap of the big education stories that impacted the Buckeye State last year. With the new year upon us, it’s time to turn our gaze forward, polish the trusty crystal ball, and make some predictions about what will happen in the next twelve months.

But first, a few disclaimers. While I may possess some superhuman powers, it remains to be seen whether the power of prognostication is one of them. Check back in December to either gloat or pay homage to my soothsaying. Moreover, these are predictions, not necessarily what I want to happen. So keep calm and keep reading.

1. 2016 Elections mean not much of substance will actually happen

Election years always tend to tamp down the amount of legislation that winds its way through the General Assembly. This year, that tendency should be even more pronounced as Ohio’s own John Kasich battles for a spot on the Republican presidential ticket. This means no mid-biennium review bill and precious little action on education policy during 2016. It will likely be the quietest year...