Ohio Gadfly Daily

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. ...
  1. In case you missed it, HB 2 – the charter law reform bill everyone’s been begging for – was sent to conference committee by the Ohio House on Wednesday. As Peggy Lehner, the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill says: “I’m not sensing any great desire by House or Senate leadership to take a step backwards,” and she expects “just clarifying and strengthening amendments.” Sounds good to me. How about you, Ohio media outlets? (Columbus Dispatch, 10/1/15)
  2. Like young Joey in the movie Shane, editors in Youngstown today call wistfully for Governor Kasich to come back and visit them again. They seem to have some questions to put to him about the Youngstown Plan which he promised them a year ago and subsequently delivered on. But “Shane” Kasich just rode on out past the graveyard and into the sunset somewhere near Dubuque. (Youngstown Vindicator, 10/2/15)
  3. Back in the real world, here’s a nice look at some ongoing team teaching efforts in some Dayton area schools. (Dayton Daily News, 9/29/15)

Researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research recently examined whether financial incentives can increase parental involvement in children’s education and subsequently raise cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. The analysts conduct a randomized field experiment during the 2011–12 school year in Chicago Heights, a low-performing urban school district where 90 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch. The 257 parent participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a treatment group in which parents were paid immediately, a second treatment group in which parents were paid via deposits into a trust fund that could only be accessed when their children enrolled in college, and a control group which received no payment. Parents in both treatment groups could earn up to $7,000 per year for their attendance at parent academy sessions (eighteen sessions, each lasting ninety minutes, that taught parents how to help children build cognitive and non-cognitive skills), proof of parental homework completion, and the performance of their child on benchmark assessments.   

To measure cognitive outcomes, the analysts averaged results along the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and the Woodcock Johnson III Test of Achievement; to measure non-cognitive outcomes, they averaged results from the Blair and Willoughby Measures...

A blended Advanced Placement (AP) pilot program unfolding in Cincinnati shows tremendous promise. It provides students in poverty with in-person and virtual access to AP instruction and—if successful—could help make the case for why Ohio should provide free and universal access to online courses.

Over the years, Advanced Placement (AP) courses have been one of the most effective ways to prepare high school students for college and make it more affordable—a double win. However, there are enormous discrepancies in students’ access to AP programs based on geographic location, race, and poverty levels. The very academic programs that can help first-generation college goers and those typically underrepresented in higher education tend to be less available to them. Admittedly, some progress has been made: between 2003 and 2013, the number of students taking and scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam almost doubled nationally. But Ohio continues to lag, not just in overall access to AP, but in successful course completion. The state falls considerably below the national average: 14.8 percent of 2013 Ohio graduates scored a 3 or higher on the AP exam, compared to 20.1 percent nationally.

That’s why an AP program piloted by Cincinnati...