Ohio Gadfly Daily

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...

Ohio is one of fifteen states with an automatic closure law for low-performing charter schools, meant to serve as a minimum floor for performance and clean up the sector during an era when bad schools proliferated and authorizers failed to close them.[1]

Ohio’s academic death penalty for charter schools has been described as the “toughest in the nation.” In reality, it’s had minimal impact on either the number of schools closed or the number of students affected. A current three-year safe harbor on closure (among other sanctions) makes it all the more anemic. In its early days, it may have motivated some charter school authorizers to intervene and prevent their schools from facing a similar fate, but it hasn’t curbed poor oversight decisions among some authorizers in the nine years since the law was enacted.

Even so, accountability advocates needn’t be concerned or press for a stronger closure law. All in all, Ohio is a case study for how a minimum performance threshold for charter schools by itself doesn’t lead to wide-scale sector improvement. Our experience shows that direct state intervention cannot accomplish much and that strong accountability controls on charter...

As 2015 comes to a close, the long-awaited reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will likely soon become a reality. Among many proposed changes is the jettisoning of the federal waiver requirement mandating teacher evaluations. Before critics rejoice and demand an immediate end to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), it would be wise to remember why evaluations were instituted in the first place: Several research studies indicate that while teacher quality isn't the only factor affecting student achievement, it is a significant one. Ensuring that all students have a good teacher is a worthy and important goal; without a system to evaluate and differentiate effective teachers from ineffective ones, though, it is impossible to achieve. It’s also worth noting that many of the evaluation systems that existed prior to federal waivers—those that were solely observation-based—failed to get the job done. Teacher evaluations have come a long way.

That being said, Ohio’s system needs some serious work. Fortunately, fixing evaluation policies isn’t without precedent: In 2012, only 30 percent of Tennessee teachers felt that teacher evaluations were conducted fairly. In 2015, after the Tennessee Department of Education ...

We are inundated with news every day, and parsing what’s worth a look and what’s plain worthless takes time and energy. Quite honestly, you probably have better things to do. Fortunately for you, Fordham offers a thrice-weekly news service that is personally researched, curated, and annotated with Ohio’s education reform interests in mind. You might not think you want—let alone need—another news clip email appearing in your inbox, but Gadfly Bites is different, providing two parts news and one part snark.

For example: A story in the Akron Beacon Journal may discuss local transportation issues with a busload of unacknowledged slant. At the same time, a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer may discuss an unexpected but welcome rise in an urban school district’s student population without realizing an even more important positive outcome in it. Gadfly Bites not only highlighted those two stories as part of the day’s news but also told you what they’re about and found a vital connection that might not occur when reading the pieces individually. And those were just two of the stories featured in a recent Gadfly Bites edition that highlighted other stories from Cincinnati and Columbus as well.


  1. The good folks at The 74 Million blog referenced Fordham’s blockbuster school closure and student achievement report while discussing the same topic in terms of New York City school closures earlier this week. What; you don’t know about this particular bit of Fordham awesomeness? Shame on you. Go check it out right now. Partially because it’s the end of the year and we’re trying to max out on our stats, but mainly because it is – as I mentioned before – awesome. (The 74 Million, 12/2/15)
  2. Thanks for checking out our school closure and student achievement report. Glad to have you back with us here at Gadfly Bites. Last week in this very spot, we noted that Columbus City Schools had five days or so of tech hell when several systems melted down at once and moving to backups was found to be more difficult and time consuming than expected. I can sympathize and am happy to report that a previously-planned full-blown tech audit for the district has been moved up in the schedule as a result. Once again, CCS, I know a great tech consultant if you’re looking bidders. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/4/15)
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