Ohio Gadfly Daily

We here at Fordham Ohio are in a reflective mood and on Monday will reveal our winners for the best and worst events from 2015 in Ohio public education. There were many contenders for the prize and it was hard to pin down just three. In the spirit of anticipation (while drinking eggnog and watching a fireplace video on loop), here are the honorable mentions that didn’t make the final cut (in no particular order).


  1. What is the definition of “teacher”? According to a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court magistrate, it is nothing less than a person currently teaching in a K-12 classroom. And that means that the Youngstown school board president’s appointee to the new Academic Distress Commission (currently a substitute principal with a teacher’s license) is barred from the gig. The pres can either appoint someone else who fits the court definition (which must be done within 48 hours of the ruling, i.e. today) or appeal the decision. Sigh. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/17/15)
  2. Editors in Columbus opined this week on a raft of charter school related issues, and especially the currently-stalled federal Charter School Program grant. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/17/15)
  3. $10 million in state grants were awarded this week to a number of colleges around Ohio, to help them train K-12 teachers to be ready for rigorous College Credit Plus courses. The same story is in a number of outlets, depending on where winning colleges are located. Here’s the one from the Blade, talking of their local winners – the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. (Toledo Blade, 12/18/15)
  4. Loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers will recall that your
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  1. The state board of education discussed the state’s proposed new charter sponsor rating system – you know, the one that needs to replace the one that was scrapped following scandal? The clock is ticking as well, with a December 31 deadline looking. Chad’s testimony before the board is quoted by the PD in their piece. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/15/15) It is also quoted by the Dayton Daily News in their piece, along with some commentary on Chad’s testimony by hometown Sen. Peggy Lehner. (Dayton Daily News, 12/15/15) To read Chad’s written testimony in full, click here. For an in-depth look at the board’s discussion of this thorny issue – but not including Chad’s testimony, Gongwer’s got you coverage. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/15/15)
  2. The board also this week named an interim state supe. As predicted, the job went to Dr. Lonny Rivera, an accomplished district administrator from Northwest Ohio and current assistant state supe. Also, the only person put forward for the job. You can read a brief piece on the appointment in Dr. Rivera’s hometown paper, the Blade. (Toledo Blade, 12/15/15) Or you can check out a more interesting piece from the formerly-Big D wherein
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In its 2015 state policy analysis, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) found that fourteen states (including Ohio) saw positive charter policy changes since its inaugural report last year. These wide-ranging improvements demonstrate the value of sizing up a state’s legal framework, diagnosing its structural problems, comparing it to peers, and using that information to press policymakers for change. In other words, rankings like this—and other seemingly wonky law and policy reviews—may actually pave the way for real improvements.

NACSA analyzed and ranked every state with a charter law (forty-three, plus the District of Columbia) against eight policy recommendations meant to ensure a baseline of authorizer quality and charter school accountability: 1) Can schools select from at least two authorizers? 2) Does the state require authorizers to meet endorsed standards (like NACSA’s)? 3) Does the state evaluate its authorizers? 4) Do poor authorizers face sanctions? 5) Do authorizers publish annual performance reports on schools? 6) Is every charter bound by a contract that outlines performance expectations? 7) Are there strong non-renewal standards, and can authorizers effectively close poor performers? 8) Does the state have an automatic closure law on the books?

Additionally, the report offers...

NOTE: Chad Aldis addressed the Ohio Board of Education in Columbus this afternoon. These are his written remarks in full.

Thank you, President Gunlock and state board members, for allowing me to offer public comment today.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-oriented nonprofit focused on research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C. I testified to you in September urging the state to quickly and thoroughly implement the charter school provisions contained in HB 2. I also emphasized during my testimony the importance of moving quickly to get the sponsor performance review (SPR)—which was required by legislation passed in 2012, but took three years to develop and pilot—back on track. The success of Ohio’s recent reforms lie heavily on the SPR, so the department deserves tremendous credit for installing an independent panel to review the SPR and draft recommendations quickly. It is a strong sign that the department is serious about implementation and sponsor quality.

We are pleased to say that we agree with many of the recommendations and commend the panel for its thorough...

  1. Discussion of ESSA provisions comes down to the local level, with Cincy’s WCPO doing a pretty good analysis of possible changes ahead. Our own Chad Aldis shares thoughts on the topic. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 12/14/15)
  2. Former Fordhamite Terry Ryan has been talking up Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy – and especially its innovative food science program – as a possible model for replication in his current home state, Idaho. A delegation of Idahoans was in Springfield last week to check it out. (Springfield News Sun, 12/11/15)
  3. Speaking of innovation, the new round of Straight A Fund grant proposals have been received by the Ohio Department of Education. Requests once again outpace available funds. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/11/15)
  4. The superintendent of Shaker Heights Schools opines today on the topic of standardized testing. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/14/15)
  5. Editors in Cleveland opined in frustration over the weekend over their reporter’s unfulfilled request for the state supe’s emails. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/12/15)
  6. In its efforts to shake loose the federal CSP grant it won from the US Department of Education, Ohio has provided detailed information on charter school audits over the years. The Dispatch takes
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The Ohio Coalition for Quality Education (OCQE) has hit the airwaves in an effort to change the state’s accountability policies. The group claims that Ohio doesn’t take into account differences in student demographics across schools—and is thus unfair to schools educating at-risk pupils. Along with the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), they are promoting the adoption of a new accountability measure that they believe will solve the problem.

The trouble with their argument is that Ohio policymakers have already implemented a robust measure—value added—that takes into account student demographics. Given what these groups are lobbying for, it is important to review the basics of student achievement, demographics, and school accountability, including value-added measures.

Let’s first keep in mind that the concerns about student demographics and educational outcomes are hardly new. For decades, analysts have recognized the link between demographics and achievement. The famous “Coleman report” from 1966 was among the first studies to show empirically the massive achievement gap between minority and white students. Gaps by race or income status remain clearly evident in today’s NAEP and state-level test data.

These stark results, of course, call into question the use of pure achievement measures (e.g.,...

  1. The PD is going out on a limb to announce the name of Ohio’s interim state superintendent a smidge early. It’s a pretty sturdy limb, though, since only the one name was actually put forward by state board members for consideration. A vote will be held on Tuesday of next week. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/10/15)
  2. Comparing their proposal to the parental “broccoli rule”, legislative sponsors discuss the merits of a new bill introduced earlier this week to overhaul truancy policies in Ohio. (WBNS-TV, Columbus, 12/9/15) I kid our elected officials, of course, because there are some really good things in this legislation. Including one of my favorites: trying to get at why kids are absent from school, compiling this data, and actually addressing what is found. Should be more coverage of this when hearings begin. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/9/15)
  3. When city and school district boundaries don’t align – which happens often in more-developed parts of Ohio – things can get weird. For example, an effort by the city of Lorain to build a swanky new housing development within its municipal borders is causing alarm in the neighboring Amherst Local Schools, where most new residents’ children
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  1. Our own Aaron Churchill is briefly quoted in this piece tap-dancing on the grave of NCLB. In cleats. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/9/15)
  2. Speaking of children being left behind, the first meeting of the new Youngstown Academic Distress Commission has been blocked from occurring by another judicial ruling. The commission cannot meet until the issue of the district’s appointee has been resolved. You’ll recall that said appointee has been barred from being impaneled (by the same judge and due to the same plaintiff) because of some disconnect over the definition of “teacher”. There are too many ironies in this situation to note. But practically-speaking, the 60-day clock for the selection of a district CEO has been paused until the appointee and meeting issues are resolved. No sooner than Monday of next week. We can all smell the smoke – all that’s missing now is the fiddle. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/9/15)
  3. Speaking of job openings, the head of the state teachers union opined this week on what she’s looking for in the next state supe. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 12/8/15)
  4. Ohio’s school report cards have been a work in progress since 2013. Thanks to wide-ranging “safe harbor” provisions for schools,
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The California Charter Schools Association and The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

There has been much recent debate as to the utility in Ohio of a school accountability model similar to the one employed in California. During public policy debates like this one, the big picture can sometimes be obscured by the details. In an effort to raise the level of discussion, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (Fordham) have joined forces to co-write this commentary sharing our perspectives on the key principles that should govern school accountability policy.

Before digging in, it’s critical that we address some of the misperceptions that have emerged around the issue. First, Fordham does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the guest commentators who submit articles to its blogs. CCSA has deep concerns about the accuracy of the analysis by Dr. Vladimir Kogan that was published by Fordham on November 16. This commentary is not intended to address these statistical matters; rather, CCSA addresses those issues on its own website.

Second, Fordham believes that the Similar Students Measure developed by CCSA is a robust measure that makes extremely good use of school-level...