Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Let’s time travel back a couple of days where we find Fordham’s Chad Aldis quoted in a widely-distributed AP piece looking at what’s next for charter school accountability in the aftermath of this week’s state school board meeting and state Supreme Court decision. (Associated Press, 9/16/15)
  2. Moving in space but not in time, here’s a story from earlier this week in which local hipsters laud Fordham-sponsored UPrep Academy as a vital piece of the revitalization of the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus. (Columbus Alive, 9/16/15)
  3. Our own Aaron Churchill posted a blog on Ohio Gadfly Daily earlier this week looking at the state board’s decision to set PARCC-test cut scores for proficiency below the level of college and career readiness. That post seems to have been bigger on the inside than the outside because it has generated a lot more interest in media outlets than one might have expected. Case in point, this story on the same topic from the PD which quotes liberally from Aaron’s blog and reproduces one of his comparison charts. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/17/15)
  4. Speaking of the state board meeting, editors in Akron opined in frustration following its conclusion. Specifically,
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During the summer of 2012, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 525 into law. The bill, dubbed the Cleveland Plan, implemented aggressive reforms aimed at substantially improving academic performance in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). The plan focused on four strategies: growing the number of high-performing schools while closing and replacing failing schools; investing and phasing in educational reforms from pre-K to college and career; shifting authority and resources to individual schools; and creating the Cleveland Transformation Alliance (CTA), a nonprofit responsible for supporting implementation and holding schools accountable. Soon after the bill was passed, Cleveland voters approved a four-year, $15 million levy to support the plan.

Soon, the district will need to go back to the voters to renew the levy that passed in 2012. District leaders have been working hard to demonstrate enough progress on their goals to maintain community support, and they’re right that several promising signs of progress exist. But Cleveland has long been one of the worst-performing districts in the country, and incremental glimmers of progress may not cut it for families and taxpayers. One only needs to glance at the comments section of a Plain Dealer article...

  1. Before we get to the action from this week’s state board of education meeting, let’s take a look at a pretty important Ohio Supreme Court ruling in the case of Hope Academy Broadway Campus v. White Hat Management which came down yesterday morning. We’ve discussed this one before and you can find a concise summary here, but outside of the legal arena the story goes like this: charter school opponents think of it as a referendum on the fundamental structure of charter school sponsors/operators/boards while charter school supporters – and a majority of supreme court justices, it appears – think of it as fundamentally a case of contract law with a public-funding twist. The court’s decision swung toward the latter, ruling in favor of the management company. Our own Chad Aldis (J.D.) is quoted in two stories in regard to the contractual issues in the case. One from the ABJ (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/15/15) and one from Ohio public radio (WKSU-FM, Kent, 9/15/15). Here’s hoping the term “judicial gymnastics” doesn’t conjure up any weird images for you. And if you’re interested in coverage of the ruling without Chad or that term, you can check out Gongwer.
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NOTE: Chad Aldis addressed the Ohio Board of Education in Columbus this morning. These are his written remarks in full.

Thank you, President Gunlock and state board members, for giving me the opportunity to offer public comment today.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-oriented nonprofit focused on research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

One of the major strands of our work involves support for school choice, and that’s why I’d like to talk with you this morning about charter schools. Before I begin, and in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to note that Fordham’s Dayton office currently sponsors eleven charter schools around the state.

We believe that charter schools can make a huge positive impact in the lives of kids, and in many places around the country, they already are. It has become increasingly clear that while Ohio has many outstanding charter schools, the state’s laws must be strengthened if our charter sector is going to match the success being realized elsewhere. This past year, to achieve that goal, we’ve sponsored two major...

At this week’s meeting of the state board of education, board members accepted Ohio Department of Education (ODE) recommendations on cut scores that will designate roughly 60–70 percent of Ohio students as proficient (based on the 2014–15 administration of PARCC). While this represents a decline of about fifteen percentage points from previous years’ proficiency rates, it isn’t the large adjustment needed to align with a “college-and-career-ready” definition of proficiency. In fact, this new policy will maintain, albeit in a less dramatic way than before, the “proficiency illusion”—the misleading practice of calling “proficient” a large number of students who aren’t on-track for success in college or career.

The table below displays the test data for several grades and subjects that were shared at the state board meeting. The second column displays the percentage of Ohio students expected to be proficient or above—in the “proficient,” “accelerated,” or “advanced” achievement levels. The third column shows the percentage of Ohio students in just the “accelerated” or “advanced” categories—pupils whose achievement, according to PARCC, matches college- and-career-ready expectations. The fourth column shows Ohio’s NAEP proficiency, the best domestic gauge of the fraction of students who are meeting rigorous academic benchmarks.

Under these...

  1. Chad is quoted in this piece looking at improvements in passage rates on reading tests for third graders in central Ohio school districts. Without exception, fewer third graders are being held back in reading in these districts due to poor scores on tests. Chad warns, however, of the possible downward creep of not only test quality but also scores regarded as passing. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/15)
  2. School funding in Ohio is complex and not well-understood by most folks. The last couple of weeks have seen analyses – along with resultant news coverage – of charter school funding by both opponents and supporters of charter schools. Neither side can agree on which way to look at it. Case in point, this guest commentary from a charter school supporter published this weekend in the Enquirer, from the weekend, responding to an article on the subject published last week. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/13/15)
  3. There’s a state board of education meeting today and tomorrow here in Columbus. Journalists across the state are hoping for some fireworks relating to the rescinded charter school sponsor ratings from earlier this year. They have been prepping this weekend. First up, the PD appears to have
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In a previous post, I explained course access and its potential to revolutionize school choice in Ohio. The best example of this is the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), which Brookings evaluated in 2014. But Ohio wouldn’t have to copy Florida’s entire model. Instead, it could create a unique one complementing its successful CTE and College Credit Plus programs. While there are plenty of ways to get to the mountaintop, here are a few ideas for how Ohio could establish a pilot program that—if it successfully meets the needs of students—could be grown into a statewide program.


FLVS was created as the nation’s first statewide, Internet-based public high school. Students can enroll full-time, but approximately 97 percent of students are part-time. Students who are enrolled at a traditional school (district, charter, or private) can sign up part-time for a course for a multitude of reasons: to make up course credit, to take a class not offered at their schools, or to accelerate their learning. Just imagine the possibilities for schools that want to incorporate mastery grading or competency-based education!

To provide Ohio students with similar options, policymakers in the Buckeye...

  1. Our own Aaron Churchill was among the panelists for a surprisingly-cordial discussion of charter schools in Ohio held in Dayton earlier this week. In discussion of the charter reform bill still pending in the legislature, Aaron said, “I think (the bill) tried not to impinge on charter schools’ autonomy and their ability to be flexible and nimble — some of those very benefits that we think are inherent in the charter school model.” Nice. (Dayton Daily News, others, 9/10/15)
  2. Speaking of that stalled charter reform bill, editors in Cleveland got their Google calendar alert and opined, again, urging the legislature to pass that bill as soon as they return from summer recess. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/9/15)
  3. Speaking of op-eds, here are two on the rescinded charter sponsor ratings (well, mainly just on the process of it) at the Ohio Department of Education. Editors in Columbus mainly just put their own sheen on the information made public so far but finally opine in favor of the state board of education keeping “a close eye” on the next round of sponsor ratings. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/11/15) Editors in Canton simply opine in favor of the state supe’s
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  1. Gadfly Bites is back on the beat after a long Labor Day break. Let’s cast our net back to last week, in the wake of the Ohio Department of Education’s release of 10,000 pages of emails and attachments (!) in regard to the withdrawn charter sponsor evaluations from earlier this year. It is unclear whether this piece from the Enquirer is opinion or journalism on the part of the cadre of authors, despite being tagged as the latter. What I do know is that our own Chad Aldis is quoted here, with two items standing out. First, he says, “Charter schools have gotten a lot of bad press over the last couple of years.” Truer words have rarely been spoken. And much of that bad press has been warranted. Also true, and likely more important in the context of this particular journalism/opinion piece: “Pointing fingers doesn’t get us one step closer to providing a better charter-school experience for our kids.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/6/15) Other Gannett outlets also ran this piece.
  2. Here’s another piece from last week, in the immediate aftermath of ODE’s release of its emails. It contains a frankly incomprehensible chart but really concerns the question
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Most states, including Ohio, have reported large majorities of students as proficient on annual exams over the past decade. This has led the public and parents to believe that most students are doing just fine. Sadly, however, we also know that too many young people require remedial education when they enter college, have great difficulty finding gainful employment, or can’t pass the test to serve our country in the military. A staggering 65 percent of first-year students in Ohio’s two-year colleges require remediation, while the rate is nearly 35 percent in some four-year universities.

A wide chasm—an “honesty gap”—has emerged between how student success in the K–12 realm is portrayed versus how colleges and employers view the skills of those leaving high school. To bridge that gulf, states have adopted higher learning standards, including the Common Core in math and English language arts, as well as rigorous next-generation assessments that are aligned with them. With these new exams in place, the practice of vastly overstating student proficiency is drawing to a close.

Indeed, several states have already unveiled 2014–15 results from Common Core-aligned assessments. Connecticut, a member of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), recently reported that...