Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Starting today’s report with an interesting piece I missed last week. Ross County continues to be the epicenter of debate on the topic of open enrollment in Ohio – that is, allowing students to attend schools across traditional district boundaries. There is discussion of current net “losers” and “winners” of students and of the funding that follows those students. Most importantly, it seems that some districts are actually surveying the students who leave in order to find out why. A huge development in the ongoing discussion. (Chillicothe Gazette, 11/12/15)
  2. On Friday the 13th, all five members of the new Youngstown Academic Distress Commission were finally named. (WYTV – Youngstown, 11/13/15) There’s no information in this piece on the individual appointed by Youngstown’s mayor. Here is a nice profile of that appointee – a retired dean from Youngstown State University. (Youngstown Vindicator, 11/13/15) Meanwhile, the school board’s sole appointee to the commission has irked the local teachers union, who state that while the retired administrator chosen has a long track record in the district and substitutes regularly, she is “not a current teacher in the Youngstown City Schools.” Next up – assuming
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CREDO’s national study of online charter schools has prompted even ardent supporters to call for “tough changes” in how they are regulated. Released in tandem with Mathematica’s survey of operational practices of e-schools and an analysis of state online charter policy by the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), the findings showed that Ohio online charter students learned seventy-nine fewer days in reading and 144 fewer days in math. (Read our analysis of the study here.)

Where does Ohio stand in its current regulation of online schools (which serve nearly one-third of the state’s entire charter school population)? And what can policy makers—and the e-schools themselves—do to ensure that students are better served? Let’s examine each question in turn.

Ohio’s recent steps to regulate e-schools

After an eight-year moratorium, Ohio lifted its ban on e-schools and allowed three new ones to open in 2013. The state regulates their expansion more tightly than charter schools broadly. In deciding who may open, the Ohio Department of Education examines both the track record of the operator and sponsor of each proposed e-school. Statute allows five e-schools to open each year, but the department may elect to approve...

  1. Chad’s quote from last month’s Dispatch story on the CREDO e-school report was recycled in a blog post on the website of Non Profit Quarterly. (Non Profit Quarterly, 11/10/15) Ditto for this version of same on the blog of NCPA, which quotes Chad and Jamie’s blog post/testimony on the same topic. (National Center for Policy Analysis, 11/12/15) What’s the point? I don’t know either.
  2. Back in the real world, here’s a brief piece on the Men of Color event in Dayton earlier this week. This is a local iteration of the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to provide access to strong male role models for local students. More than 200 men participated. Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 11/11/15)
  3. The leader of the Men of Color initiative in Dayton is a former state board of education member. He is probably very happy to be off that board now that the search for a new state superintendent is getting underway. Even the impaneling of a group to formulate the RFP rules for a search firm has been mired in politics. It’s going to be a long winter around here. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/12/15)
  4. The Ohio Alliance of
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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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