Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Here’s some of the most exciting news to hit Ohio in a while: the Cincinnati Accelerator project. That is, a public-private partnership meant to boost the number of high-quality schools open to Cincinnati's poorest students. Partners include the Cincinnati Business and Cincinnati Regional Business committees, and the Farmer Family, Haile U.S. Bank and KnowledgeWorks foundations. It also involves leaders from Cincinnati Public Schools, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and local charter schools. Whew! In five years, the goal is to double the number of seats available at high-performing schools in Cincinnati, from about 5,000 to 10,000. And in ten years, 20,000 high-quality seats. We wish them the very best in this endeavor, on behalf of children and families in Cincinnati. It is to be hoped that no further campouts will be required to access these seats. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 5/6/15)
  2. Anyone else interested in an update on the status of the so-called “education deregulation” bill currently being heard in the House Education Committee? Me too! And here it is. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/5/15)
  3. Since when does a local newspaper care about the minutiae involved in a charter school changing management companies? When the school is in Youngstown and
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The education components of Governor Kasich’s proposed budget—and the House's subsequent revisions—made a big splash in Ohio's news outlets. Much of the attention has been devoted to the House’s (unwise) moves to eliminate PARCC funding and their rewrite of Kasich’s funding formula changes. Amidst all this noise, however, are a few other education issues in the House’s revisions that have slipped by largely unnoticed. Let’s examine a few.

Nationally normed vs. criterion-referenced tests

As part of its attempt to get rid of PARCC, the House added text dictating that state assessments “shall be nationally normed, standardized assessments.” This is worrisome, as there is a big difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests.

A norm-referenced test determines scores by comparing a student’s performance to the entire pool of test takers. Each student’s test score is compared to other students in order to determine their percentile ranking in the distribution of test takers. Examples of norm-referenced tests are the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Stanford 10 exams. A criterion-referenced test, on the other hand, is scored on an absolute scale. Instead of being compared to other students, students are compared against a standard of achievement (i.e.,...

School closures should never be undertaken lightly, be they district or charter schools. Academic troubles, a fall in enrollment, economic problems, and a myriad of other issues can push the issue to the forefront. Under such times of duress, policymakers and education officials are forced to ask a difficult question: Does closing a school cause more harm than good, especially for students?

Report Co-Author, Stéphane Lavertu

Today, Fordham released a new study called School Closures and Student Achievement that seeks to answer this very question. At a breakfast event on April 28th that attracted around fifty Ohio education leaders, the report’s co-author, Dr. Stéphane Lavertu, presented a summary of the study’s findings. These findings showed that three years after closure, displaced students typically make significant academic gains.

After Dr. Lavertu’s presentation, Chad moderated a panel of policymakers and practitioners who discussed the findings and policy implications. The panel consisted of: the Honorable Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton; Tracie Craft, Deputy Director of Advocacy, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO); Stephanie Groce, former member Columbus City Schools Board...

  1. Editors in Columbus opined on Fordham’s new school closures report. The findings “make logical sense” and districts should “make a priority of explaining these findings to the public, whether or not a round of closings is imminent.” Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/2/15)
  2. The president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership opined on efforts to strengthen charter school law in Ohio. The changes will result in “a profound improvement” for charter school students and families and he urges the legislature to fast track passage of the various bills before them. Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/3/15)
  3. The Ohio Senate’s advisory panel on testing made its recommendations last week. In a nutshell: Testing only once per year (near the end of the year), shorter testing time overall, extended “safe harbor” timeframes for everyone involved, and prompt response from vendors to change/tweak the tests at state request (or risk being dumped). Check out initial coverage from the Cleveland Plain Dealer (4/30/15) and the Columbus Dispatch (4/30/15). More to come on this, I’m sure.
  4. The Ohio Department of Education last week gave a preview of the new reading proficiency grades that schools and districts around the state will receive
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In a previous review, my colleagues examined a National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) report that analyzed states’ charter policies regarding access to district-owned facilities. In a new report, NCSRC narrows its focus to charter school facilities in California. Golden State charters were asked to complete a survey about their facilities and to allow an on-site measurement; these results were then supplemented by data on school enrollment, student demographics, and funding. The results offer a sobering picture of charter facilities in the state. Charter school facilities are generally smaller than the size recommended by the California Department of Education; classrooms for elementary, middle, and high schools are, on average, between 82 and 89 percent of the state standard size (it is worth nothing that state size standards might not be appropriate for all schools in all situations). Charter facilities as a whole are 60 percent smaller than state site size recommendations, even after adjustments are made for enrollment differences. California charters also spend varying amounts of their per-pupil funding on facilities; charters that own their buildings pay an average of $895 per pupil; charters located in a school district facility pay an average of $285 per pupil; and...

Intra-district choice has long been a type of school choice supported by many people who don’t really like school choice. Since neither students nor funding leave their boundaries, district officials have fewer problems allowing families to choose their schools. But intra-district choice is also complicated. A lack of quality information about available schools, the absence of a simple system-wide method of applying to those schools, and the added burden of transportation challenges can bring the potential of intra-district choice to a screeching halt. However, there are school districts that have taken these issues head-on and offered valuable, innovative solutions. Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is a shining example.

During the 2013–14 school year, CPS made the transition to high schools that serve students between the seventh and twelfth grades. CPS offers some compelling academic reasons for the switch, but they also utilized the transition to create high schools of choice. Instead of assigning sixth graders to a high school based on their home addresses, CPS permits students to choose their high school. Each high school offers a variety of programs, classes, extracurriculars, and services that represent unique learning environments and opportunities. All schools offer college preparatory curriculum aligned to Ohio’s...

  1. In case you missed it yesterday, Fordham Ohio released a new report—School Closures and Student Achievement—looking at how students displaced students fare following the closure of their schools. We were gratified by the breadth of coverage the report received. You can take a look at in-state coverage from the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 4/28/15) and the Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/28/15), and some national coverage from the Wall Street Journal (who ran an op-ed by Mike Petrilli and Aaron Churchill on 4/28/15) and the Washington Post (Washington Post, 4/28/15).
  2. In other news, the Ohio Senate’s advisory committee on testing continues to meet and work on determining what, if any, changes to the state’s standardized testing methods will be made. Don’t tell the teacher: the PD took a peek over the shoulder of Solon City Schools’ representative on the committee and tells us what one of the state’s higher-flying suburban districts is suggesting in regard to testing changes. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/28/15)
  3. School buildings typically occupy prime land within communities. When schools are closed and the buildings demolished, that prime land is often seen as a public asset of great value…and sometimes of great contention. Especially
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How should city-level leaders manage a portfolio of schools? The first thing they should do is take stock of the city’s supply of public schools. A new report from IFF, a nonprofit community development financial institution, provides a helpful look at Cleveland’s public schools, both district and charter. In an effort to uncover those with the highest need for quality seats, the analysis slices the city into thirty neighborhoods based on several variables: schools’ academic performance, facility utilization and physical condition, and commuting patterns. The facility analyses are the major contribution of this work, principally the schools’ utilization rates—the ratio of student enrollment to the physical capacity of the building. The utilization rates are needed to determine the actual number of available high-quality seats. The analysts obtained building-capacity statistics through the district; they estimated charter capacity by using the schools’ highest enrollment point (perhaps underreporting charters’ capacity—especially for new schools). Happily, the study reports that Cleveland’s highly rated K–8 schools are at 90 percent capacity. Yet it is less satisfying to learn that its highest-rated high schools are at only 68 percent capacity (the report does not suggest any reasons why). Meanwhile, most of the city’s poorly rated schools...

We released a new report today, School Closures and Student Achievement: An Analysis of Ohio’s Urban District and Charter Schools, that could change the way we think about school closure.  The study reveals that children displaced by closure make significant academic gains on state math and reading exams after their school closes.

The study examined 198 school closures that occurred between 2006 and 2012 in the Ohio ‘Big Eight’ urban areas (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown). The research included 120 closed district-run schools and 78 closed charter schools. Taken together, these closures directly affected 22,722 students—disproportionately low-income, low-achieving, and minority students—who were in grades 3-8 at the point of closure.

Three years after closure, the research found that displaced students made the following cumulative gains:

  • Students who had attended a closed district school gained forty-nine additional days of learning in reading and thirty-four additional days in math and;
  • Students who had attended a closed charter school gained forty-six additional days in math.

Further, the study reveals that students who attended a higher-quality school after closure made even greater progress. Three years after closure, displaced students who transferred...

  1. Efforts are underway to expand Ohio’s College Credit Plus program – providing easier and more widely-available access to courses for high-school students who are ready for the rigor of college work. However, it’s that “ready for the rigor” part that’s causing some trouble with expansion efforts. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/27/15)
  2. There are parts of central Ohio where residents live in Columbus, send their kids to an assigned school in one suburb, get their trashed picked up by a second suburb, and get mail delivered from a third suburb. The genesis of this weirdness was rapid annexation of the city of Columbus back in the 1970’s and – school-assignment-and-funding-wise – resulted in something called the Win-Win Agreement in 1986. You can check out this concise Dispatch editorial for a potted history, as well as the editorial board’s take on how the state legislature absolutely cannot mess with the Win-Win Agreement without a lot more careful thought and discussion, no matter if at least one of those “wins” isn’t so winning anymore. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/27/15)
  3. Speaking of editorials, the Beacon-Journal had a lulu on Friday. In it, they gave a detailed accounting of how open enrollment works in
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