Ohio Gadfly Daily

Nearly everyone agrees that high-quality pre-kindergarten is a worthy investment. Calls to expand it at public expense are born from a handful of well-known (and very costly) intensive models that appeared to deliver long-term positive effects for poor children: improved school readiness, increased graduation rates, and even the mitigation of risk factors like teen pregnancy and incarceration. These oft-cited outcomes are compelling. So is the urge to level the playing field for children who arrive at school with a thirty million word gap. But an actionable definition of “high quality” remains elusive, and studies of large, scaled up pre-K programs have shown mixed results.

The latest study from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute adds valuable evidence to the discussion of whether, when, and how pre-kindergarten is a worthy investment. In 2009, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Education, the institute launched a rigorous study of the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program (TN-VPK). This is a full-day program targeted toward exceptionally at-risk four-year-olds; researchers tracked two cohorts of children (those applying in 2009–10 and 2010–11) through the end of their third-grade years (2013–14 and 2014–15 respectively). Oversubscribed programs enabled a random design whereby children enrolled in...

  1. A guest commentary ran under Chad Aldis’ byline in the ABJ this weekend, extolling the virtues of HB 2/charter law reform in Ohio. Particularly interesting for the rundown of all the “parents of success” involved in the long process. (Akron Beacon Journal, 10/18/15)
  2. Speaking of charter schools in Ohio, remember the sponsor evaluations that were preliminarily issued and then rescinded by the department of education earlier this year? Well, those evaluations still must be done and a new advisory group has been impaneled to advise the department. And the troublesome question of how to rank large online schools within a sponsor’s portfolio remains. Chad is among the voices advocating for the importance of rating sponsors the right way. The most important reforms of HB 2 are, he says, “premised on this [evaluation] system working.” (Columbus Dispatch, 10/18/15)
  3. A guest commentary ran under Chad Aldis’ byline in the PD this weekend, discussing the ways in which Ohio’s new $71 million Community Schools Program grant could materially improve the charter school sector in Ohio…if used correctly. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/18/15)
  4. Editors in Cleveland decided to “balance” Chad’s commentary with an opinion piece of their own
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Monumental reform of Ohio’s charter school law, which began in earnest back in December 2014, culminated on October 7 with the passage of House Bill 2.

Throughout that process, journalists, editors, and bloggers across the nation reported and opined. Here is a selection of recent media coverage:

Remember that you can keep up with these stories and more through a subscription to Gadfly...

The relationship between teacher experience and quality has been widely studied, as has the relationship between teacher experience and salary. The relationship between experience and total compensation—which includes both salary and retirement benefits—is often overlooked. In a new report, researchers from the Manhattan Institute have thrown open the curtains by calculating the total compensation for teachers with master’s degrees and varying years of experience in the country’s ten largest public school systems. They explain that, although most research demonstrates that quality differences between teachers based upon experience tend to plateau after 5–7 years, most public school teachers still earn salaries according to fixed schedules that are based entirely on years of experience and advanced degrees. Retirement benefits are distributed in a similar way. Approximately 89 percent of public school teachers earn retirement benefits under final-average-salary-defined benefit (FAS-DB) pension plans, meaning that teachers earn a lifetime annuity available only after they reach their respective plans’ threshold. These thresholds, like a salary schedule, are based on a combination of age and years of service. As a result, FAS-DB plans often backload retirement benefits.

The scale of backloading varies across plans. In New York City, for example, a teacher earns an average...

  1. As you may know, a monumental charter school reform law passed the Ohio General Assembly last week. Our own Chad Aldis was a guest on All Sides with Ann Fisher on Wednesday, discussing said reform. If you’re wondering where the “monumental” part is discussed during the hour-long program, don’t. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 10/14/15)
  2. Lorain City Schools has “poured time, attention and transportation” into an all-out effort to help 90 students in the district’s New Beginnings and Credit Recovery Academy. The goal: passing the Ohio Graduation Test and having the students actually be prepared for college or a career on the other side. Good luck to everyone involved. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 10/15/15)
  3. No mention of Academic Distress Commissions in that Lorain piece, above, but it can’t be far from their minds. Lorain, as of yesterday, is the only district operating under the aegis of an old-style ADC. Graduation rate is just one of the factors that needs to improve there to avoid going down the path that Youngstown City Schools has blazed, into the new-style ADC. Speaking of Youngstown, a new community group has launched in the wake of the court-allowed implementation of the new ADC
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Ohio’s recent win of federal Charter School Program (CSP) funds has garnered much backlash. Former Governor Ted Strickland went so far as to send a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requesting that he reconsider giving Ohio the grant. All five Democrats in Ohio’s congressional delegation sent their own letter to Duncan asking questions about the conditions of the grant and whether it will be used to help charter oversight.  

Two facts are overlooked by critics in the midst of the naysaying: 1) the overall track record of CSP grant recipients in our state is solid (as we’ll see below), and 2) by infusing much-needed resources into Ohio’s charter sector, the program enables the best schools to replicate, could draw in top-notch charter school models from other states, and might even crowd out the state’s worst schools—both of the district and charter variety.

The calls to delay or rescind the money are absurd. Most of those speaking out publicly have clear political agendas. Ohio certainly needs to restore public confidence in its charter sector, and the legislature’s bipartisan passage of comprehensive charter school reform is a good start. A...

Since last December, charter schools have been a hot topic in Ohio. Because of scandals in the Ohio Department of Education and the missteps of some Ohio charter schools, many folks in Ohio have a negative view of the entire sector. Fortunately, there are several networks across the nation that challenge the assertion that charters are mismanaged, failed experiments. Even better, recent developments in the Ohio charter sector—including better laws, better funding, and new grant money—increase the possibility that Ohio could woo some of these high-performing charter networks to the Buckeye State. Let’s examine a few of the networks that Ohio should consider recruiting.

Noble Network of Charter Schools

Who they are: The Noble Network operates seventeen schools in Chicago (sixteen high schools and one middle school) and serves approximately eleven thousand students from more than seventy Chicago communities. The first Noble school was opened in 1999 by two Chicago Public Schools teachers. The network’s mission is to prepare low-income students for college and life; the student population is 98 percent minority and 89 percent low-income. Noble uses extended school days (and years) and offers athletics and arts programs. Its...

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Seventy Four; that one also lambasted Arkansas for backpedaling on its cut scores. Since then, Arkansas acknowledged that it had erred in how it described the state’s performance levels and clarified that it would use the rigorous standards suggested by PARCC.

Way back in 2007, we at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a landmark study with experts from the Northwest Evaluation Association: The Proficiency Illusion. It found that state definitions for reading and math “proficiency” were all over the map—and shockingly subpar almost everywhere. In Wisconsin, for instance, eighth graders could be reading at the fourteenth percentile nationally and still be considered proficient.

This was a big problem—not just the inconsistency, though that surely made it harder to compare schools across state lines. Mostly, we worried about the signals that low proficiency standards sent to parents: the false positives indicating that their kids were on track for success when they actually weren’t. How were parents in Madison or Duluth supposed to know that their “proficient” son was really far below grade level, not to mention way off track for success in...

In December 2014, Ohio Governor John Kasich promised wholesale charter school reform in the new year. “We are going to fix the lack of regulation on charter schools,” Kasich remarked. Now, thanks to the fearless leadership of the governor and members of the legislature, Ohio has revamped its charter law. Most impressively, the charter legislation that overwhelmingly passed last week drew bipartisan support and praise from editorial boards across the state.

It’s been a long road to comprehensive charter reform in Ohio. When the Buckeye State enacted its charter law in 1997, it became a national pioneer in charter quantity. Disappointingly, it has not been a leader on quality. To be sure, there are examples of phenomenal charter schools. Yet too many have struggled, and a surprising number of Ohio charters have failed altogether. The predictable result is that on average, Ohio charter school students have fallen behind academically. A 2014 study by CREDO found Buckeye charter students losing forty-three days of learning in math and fourteen days of learning in reading relative to their district peers.

As regular Gadfly readers know, we at Fordham have consistently voiced concerns about our home state’s ailing charter sector. In our view, many of these...

  1. Editors in Columbus opined happily over the weekend in regard to the passage of HB 2. They seem to agree with our own Chad Aldis that the bill strikes an important balance: [It] “significantly strengthens the accountability structures…without compromising the school-level autonomy…” Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/15)
  2. Meanwhile, folks far and wide were interested in talking about Ohio’s win of a $71 million grant from the USDOE’s Community School Program. To wit: two heavy-hitters from the Dispatch cover a variety of perspectives on the grant, including that of Chad Aldis. Says Chad, “Recruiting charter schools is much like attracting business to the state. They will look to bring in groups known to raise student performance.” He tells the formerly-Big D that a rigorous application will be key. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/15) The folks at EdDive also were talking with Chad about CSP last week. He points out that “low performing charters are just about as likely to replicate and expand as the high performers” in Ohio. He is hopeful that the CSP grant can be used  to change that woeful dynamic. (Education Dive, 10/12/15)
  3. Two other outlets covered the passage of HB 2 this week. First up,
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