Ohio Gadfly Daily

This brief by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools offers “the most comprehensive analysis to date” on what is a very convoluted topic—special education funding in charter schools. Drawing from a review of state funding laws, websites, documents, and interviews with key stakeholders, the authors present their findings in several parts.

First, “Getting Lost While Trying to Follow the Money” (apt title, by the way) offers a primer on special education funding. Understanding the flow of special education dollars requires a grasp of overlapping federal, state, and local funding streams, which the brief outlines effectively. Readers learn the history of IDEA Part B, the ins and outs of the “maintenance of effort” requirements, and instances in which schools can qualify for Medicaid reimbursements. The report also describes the types of state funding formulas used. Ohio is one of nineteen states with a weighted funding formula (i.e., special education funding is based on the severity of a student’s disability, type of placement, and overall need). The vast majority of charters can’t access local funds (in Ohio, a handful in Cleveland can). Thus, if their special education costs exceed...

  1. Job changes continue to dominate the media coverage of Ohio education. First up, the PD posited a possible interim replacement for retiring state supe Dick Ross. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/9/15) This was followed by editors in Akron opining that Ross’ retirement is “an opportunity for fresh leadership”. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/11/15) And also notice that Colleen Grady, senior policy advisor of the House Republican Caucus, will be leaving her post in the legislature and starting a similar high level post at the Ohio Department of Education on Monday. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/10/15)
  2. The Ohio School Boards Association is having a big confab in Columbus this week. The only thing reported out so far is some sort of legislative platform change that states the OSBA is in favor of prohibiting charter schools with poor grades or finances from advertising to families, among other PR limitations. (AP, via Dayton Daily News, 11/10/15)
  3. Editors in Cleveland yesterday opined upon the implications of Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s bucking of the national downward trend in NAEP test scores. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/10/15)
  4. Meanwhile, some high school students in the CLE are protesting district plans to split
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In spite of some well-publicized controversies, performance-based teacher evaluations have maintained a strong presence in most states. A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) examines the policy landscape of teacher and principal evaluations, as well as various states’ successes in using evaluations to inform teacher practice and administrative decisions.

As of 2015, twenty-seven states require annual evaluations for all teachers, and forty-five require annual evaluations for all new, probationary teachers. Forty-three states require objective measures of student achievement to be included in teacher evaluations; seventeen use student growth as the “preponderant” criterion for evaluations; and an additional eighteen count growth measures as “significant” criteria.

Despite these new policies, however, a “troubling pattern” lingers on from the evaluation systems of yesteryear: The overwhelming majority of teachers are still labeled as “effective” or “highly effective.” NCTQ notes this could be the result of several factors, including the fact that few states utilize multiple observations and multiple observers—which is problematic because many principals are either unable or unwilling to “make distinctions about teacher skills” when conducting observations. In addition, Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)—which are required or allowed by twenty-two states—fail to effectively differentiate teacher performance. According to...

  1. Chad is quoted on the successes in Dr. Richard Ross' long career in education as he prepares to retire as state superintendent. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/6/15). The formerly-Big D quoted Chad on the same subject the following day. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/7/15) The day after that, Columbus editors opined on the need for an “experienced leader with a strong resume and a commitment to openness” to fill Dr. Ross’ shoes. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/8/15)
  2. A brief but interesting piece here on the topic of extra- and co-curricular activities in Ohio. A state senator will be holding hearings in Columbus, Findlay, Cleveland and Dayton on the subject of availability, access, and fees for things such as band, sports, and field trips in advance of the introduction of a bill trying to make such activities more easily accessible for Ohio students. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 11/8/15)
  3. In the transition time between one Academic Distress Commission and another, Youngstown City Schools’ administration is still working to the academic plan which has been in place for the last year or so. Some folks are confused as to just when that plan will – or even if it will – become null
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  1. The US Department of Education has put a hold on use of the $71 million grant Ohio won from the Charter Schools Program. More conditions were put on the grant due to ongoing concerns about oversight of charter schools by the Ohio Department of Education. You can check out coverage from the Enquirer (which also notes the recent op-ed on the CSP grant written by our own Jamie Davies O’Leary and published in the Enquirer) in Cincinnati (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/15). Also covered in Gongwer in their usual just-the-facts manner. (Gongwer Ohio, 11/5/15). And here’s the DDN version, with one of those headlines. (Dayton Daily News, 11/5/15)
  2. The other big new: Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Richard Ross announced that he is retiring at the end of this year. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/6/15)
  3. Meanwhile, the president and CEO of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools penned an opinion piece in the Plain Dealer, looking forward to the implementation of the many charter school reforms contained in the recently-enacted House Bill 2. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/6/15)
  4. The mayor of Youngstown has been advised by his legal staff that he cannot appoint himself
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School finance systems are complicated, often controversial, and subject to a certain amount of speculation. Are public schools “overfunded” or “underfunded”? Are they wasting precious taxpayer dollars or putting them to effective use? From which sources are they receiving their funds, and what strings might be attached? Are our public institutions on solid financial footing, or are they in dire straits?

These are fundamental questions that parents and taxpayers have every right to ask and to which they’re owed clear answers. One crucial disclosure is a district’s statement of revenues and expenditures—akin to a business’s income and expense statement. This report describes how a district raised revenue and how it spent those funds during the past fiscal year.

But you may be surprised to learn that the state revenues received and transferred to charters are also included in a district’s financial statement. You wouldn’t know it by simply looking at the statement: Consider, for example, the statement of revenues and expenditures for Cincinnati City Schools in the figure below.

You’ll notice that the presentation doesn’t clearly display the $57 million received to educate Cincinnati...

  1. Our own Jamie Davies O’Leary is front and center in the Enquirer with an opinion piece explaining why Ohio should not consider returning $71 million in recently-awarded federal Charter School Program (CSP) funds. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/3/15)
  2. Our own Chad Aldis is heavily quoted in an ABJ piece discussing reaction to the recent CREDO report on e-school performance in more than a dozen states, including Ohio. The piece is mainly about those who are arguing against the report’s dismal findings. Chad is not one of those voices. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/2/15)
  3. The same day, editors in Akron opined to vilify e-school performance in Ohio based on the report. Snappy headline, by the way. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/3/15) Editors in Cleveland opined on the new e-school ratings as well, but took a moment to tie them in to the ongoing do-over of charter sponsor reviews in Ohio. Hold that thought. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/3/15)
  4. Another requested injunction to halt the so-called Youngstown Plan (really just a sharpening of Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission protocols currently tightly focused on Youngstown) in its tracks has been denied in court this week. Foes of the plan vow to
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Schools have long been championed as places where we can level the playing field for low-income children. Unfortunately, that leveling doesn’t happen very often. Instead, schools have become the epicenter of not only the achievement gap, but also the opportunity gap— the inequitable distribution of resources and quality opportunities that contribute to the achievement gap.   

The authors of a recent Manhattan Institute (MI) policy brief discuss how income stagnation and inequality can limit opportunities for kids. Specifically, the brief references “the vastly different pathways available to students from different backgrounds.” To be fair, these gaps don’t exist just because of schools. But as Robert Putnam argues in his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, “Even if schools didn’t cause the growing opportunity gap—and there’s little evidence that they have—they might well be a prime place to fix it.”

So how do we get schools to take on the opportunity gap? What can we do? My colleague, Mike Petrilli, has tackled this question before and emphasizes the importance of social capital. Putnam, on the other hand, emphasizes monetary capital; he advocates allocating money to schools for the exclusive goal of ending the opportunity...

The folks at ReSchool Colorado have big changes in mind for education in the Centennial State. In the works since 2013, this project of the Donnell-Kay Foundation aims to imagine a new education system that “pushes the boundaries of current thought and practice, and better prepares learners to be happy, productive, and healthy people and professionals.” The group has spent the last two years searching for breakthrough innovations through small, discreet projects they call prototypes. The outcomes of these prototypes are meant to inform a redesign of the larger education system in 2016.

A detailed new article gives us a nuts-and-bolts look at one of these prototypes. In this case, the scale was very small: nineteen low-income immigrant families with young children living in Boulder public housing. The objective was to provide everything that these families might need to access high-quality educational enrichment experiences: trips to zoos and museums, swimming lessons, and the like. In short, the kinds of out-of-school activities that rich suburban parents tend to take for granted. The ReSchool team provided, among other things, funding via debit cards (mini-vouchers) to pay for the activities; detailed information guides geared to the knowledge level of the families (meeting...

Five years ago, Ohio established an academic distress commission for Youngstown City Schools that was to oversee wide-scale improvement efforts. Youngstown had slipped into “Academic Emergency” (the equivalent of an F on today’s report cards) and failed to make adequate yearly progress for four consecutive years. It was the first district to sink low enough to activate a statute imposing state intervention.

In 2010, I wrote about Youngstown’s “unfocused, expensive, and misdirected” approach to improving schools, which included spending $2 million on reducing student-teacher ratios, “deploying a comprehensive system of outreach and support” for students that included “a community asset map,” and creating leadership teams whose sole purpose was to foster “collaboration, trust, and communication.” The original improvement plan was riddled with vague and meaningless language. Worse, it demanded no reforms that could actually move the needle on student learning: changes to how teachers teach and are evaluated, how principals make decisions affecting day-to-day operations, or how the district might carve out space for innovations typically stifled by collective bargaining agreements.

Predictably, little has changed since 2010. An update on the district’s recovery plan in March 2013 revealed an alarmingly unfocused approach by the commission,...