Ohio Gadfly Daily

  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,
  4. ...
Kelly Robson

Ohio’s charter school sector has been a thorn in the side of the Buckeye State for far too long. The Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) has documented that, on average, students in Ohio’s charter schools achieve fourteen fewer days of learning in reading and forty-three fewer days of learning in math than their traditional public school peers. The proliferation of authorizers has led to low-quality, sometimes questionable authorizing practices that allow persistently low-performing schools to remain open. And State Auditor David Yost has harshly criticized the charter school sector for misspending public tax dollars.

But at last, there may be a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Yesterday, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 2 by an overwhelming majority (91-6 in the House and 32-0 in the Senate). The bill is designed to remedy many of the incoherent policies and loopholes in the current law, which my colleagues and I documented last December in our report, “The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio’s Charter School Sector.”

The legislation follows our recommendations quite closely, making considerable changes that will strengthen authorizer oversight, governing board independence, and school operator transparency. The...

  1. Anyone got more bandwidth for reading about HB 2? Yep, me too! Editors in Cleveland opine today – not on repeat this time – in praise of the bipartisan, bicameral effort that led to the passage of a strong bill earlier this week. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/9/15) The Enquirer ran a guest column from the new CEO of the Accelerate Great Schools project in the Queen City, also in support of HB2’s reforms. Awesome and welcome input from a great new partner on the education reform scene in Ohio. Now, about your website, Patrick… (Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/8/15)
  2. Lest you think that everyone is holding hands and singing round the same campfire regarding charter schools in Ohio, that is not so. Case in point, a tussle has arisen between the State Auditor (I know!) and the President of the state Board of Education regarding some documents that the auditor would like and which the board president says are protected by attorney-client privilege and would show no more than has already been admitted to by the board on the topic. That topic is the rescinded charter sponsor evaluations conducted by the Ohio Department of Education earlier this year.
  3. ...

In case you’ve been hibernating away from news lately, the Ohio General Assembly passed landmark charter school law reform legislation yesterday. HB 2 had a long gestation and filled up a lot of news coverage over that time. The clearing of the final hurdle did not disappoint in terms of additional coverage. Here’s a selection:

  1. To many observers, the biggest hurdle was not the floor votes in the House and Senate, but the conference committee that took up the Senate changes to the original House bill. The concern was that the bill would come out of committee “watered down” or compromised in its efforts to strengthen accountability and transparency for charter schools and their sponsors and operators. In the end, it came out of conference on Tuesday unscathed and with bicameral and bipartisan support. As Fordham’s Chad Aldis said, “It contains provisions that charter advocates and opponents alike have urged for a decade.” Whew. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/6/15)
  2. The AP also covered the favorable report of HB2 out of the conference committee. As Chad told them, “This won't
  3. ...

The Ohio House and Senate each voted overwhelmingly this afternoon (October 7, 2015) to approve the report of the Conference Committee on House Bill 2 (HB 2). This action sends HB 2, a comprehensive effort to reform Ohio’s much-criticized charter school sector, to Governor Kasich for his signature. Today’s vote follows nine months of hearings and public debate on how to improve charter schools in the Buckeye State.

“It’s amazing what can be accomplished in nine months,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  “The reforms in House Bill 2 have the potential to give new life to Ohio’s charter school sector. By holding accountable the entities that regulate, oversee, and manage charter schools, we can create an environment where high performing charter schools grow and prosper and low performers are shuttered.”

After facing heavy criticism the past few months for not passing charter legislation before the summer recess, approval of the conference committee report comes just one week after the House sent the...

On October 7, 2015, the Ohio legislature overwhelmingly passed House Bill 2 (HB 2). The bill significantly strengthens the accountability structures that govern Ohio’s charter sector without compromising the school level autonomy that is critical to the charter school model. If implemented with fidelity, the bill’s provisions hold the promise of dramatically improving the educational outcomes for the 120,000 students who attend more than 350 Ohio charter schools. This landmark reform legislation has had months of public hearings and debate, and it won bi-partisan support in both the Senate and the House. The key areas of reform are as follows:

1. Strengthening State Oversight of Sponsors[1]

As the entities responsible for opening schools and holding them accountable for performance, sponsors are the gatekeepers of overall charter-sector quality. HB 2 ensures that only high-quality sponsors are allowed to authorize schools by requiring sponsors to obtain state approval before sponsoring schools and by strengthening the sponsor-evaluation system.

A. State approval of sponsors

  • Requires all new and existing sponsors (except two[2]) to enter into a contract with ODE in order to sponsor schools.
  • Requires such contracts to include stipulations on when ODE can intervene or
  • ...

What would happen if both sides of today’s education reform debate—the “public common school” crowd and the education reformers—got everything they wanted all at once? The newly released Student Success 2025 plan aims to envision just that for the state of Delaware.

The plan was crafted by the Vision Coalition of Delaware, led by a Who’s Who of education, business, philanthropy, and state government heavyweights. The Student Success 2025 project included dozens of additional committee members from all stakeholder areas. The project was informed by the public input of more than four thousand Delawareans, including over 1,300 K–12 students. The intent was to create a broad plan for the future of public education in the state in order to “cut through the noise” and to think big on “issues on which most people can agree.” By keeping the two sides in regular communication for a decade, the coalition has accomplished a minor miracle. The plan they have produced is reflective of that effort.

Student Success 2025 reads like a laundry list that includes universal, free, high-quality pre-K; comprehensive wraparound services for kids and families at every school; mastery-based learning with limitless remediation and acceleration as...

Fordham, which sponsors (a.k.a. authorizes) eleven charter schools across the state, is proud to see two of its Columbus-area schools and their leaders featured in the news recently.

United Preparatory Academy

Columbus Alive, a weekly alternative paper focused on arts, culture, and entertainment, gave credit to United Schools Network for its work in revitalizing Franklinton, one of the city’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods. Even cooler than the artist lofts, tattoo shops, and hipster-filled farmers’ markets (and arguably more critical to the community’s long-term health), United Schools is providing a high-quality educational option for families living there. United Preparatory Academy (UPrep) opened in 2014 and serves students from kindergarten to second grade, one-quarter of whom come directly from the neighborhood. Columbus Collegiate West—a replication of United’s award-winning Columbus Collegiate Academy, located on the city’s east side—opened in the same building in 2012 and serves students from grades six through eight. UPrep will continue adding a grade each year until meeting up with Columbus Collegiate West to create a K–8 building.

United Schools Founder and Chief Executive Officer Andy Boy recognizes United’s role in long-term community transformation, as the Franklinton Development Association recruits homeowners who are...

The Akron Beacon Journal recently reported on the struggles of Next Frontier Academy, a charter school whose failures have included incomplete student records, missing funds, inflated enrollment figures, an inability to make payroll and rent, and student-on-student (and student-on-staff) violence that went unreported to the police. This type of educational malpractice ought to make everyone angry—especially charter school supporters and allies. Mercifully—for its forty students and Ohio’s taxpayers alike—the school closed this summer.

The closure isn’t an anomaly in the Buckeye State. Since the charter school movement’s inception in 1997, over two hundred schools have shut their doors. According to the Beacon Journal, “more charter schools closed last year than at any point in the industry’s seventeen-year history in Ohio.”

Closure isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. It certainly isn’t proof that the movement has failed, as some critics suggest. Charter schools that are under-enrolled, financially unstable, or academically deficient should be closed. This feature sets them apart from traditional public schools that stay open forever regardless of performance, and it should be embraced. Moreover, evidence suggests that students are the winners when low-performing schools are closed, despite the initial disruption and inconvenience that may occur. A Fordham...

  1. I know that almost no one gets tired of hearing from State Auditor Dave Yost (!) – especially not me. What does the state auditor think of the recent $71 million grant award Ohio won from the U.S. Department of Education to help beef up its charter school sector? He is “shocked” to learn that we were ever in contention for federal funds, let alone able to win. But that boat has already left the dock and more important is what he and his office plan to do once the money hits Ohio’s coffers: “My concern is that it is well-spent with proper monitoring. We’re going to haul out the microscope on this. We’re going to have active observation.” Yep. Classic Yost. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/3/15)
  2. What do editors in Akron think of the recent $71 million grant award Ohio won from the U.S. Department of Education to help beef up its charter school sector? “The grant award clashes with what Ohioans know about the sorry state of charter schools here.” Yep. Classic ABJ. (Akron Beacon Journal, 10/2/15)
  3. Here is an interesting story about a potential new charter school in Cincinnati – a second location for
  4. ...