Ohio Gadfly Daily

Matt Verber

On October 12, in the ornate Rotunda and Atrium of the Ohio Statehouse, surrounded by family and many of the state’s top education leaders, some of Ohio’s highest-performing beginning teachers were honored for demonstrating superior practice. We at Educopia, Ohio’s partner in administering the Resident Educator Summative Assessment (RESA), feel truly privileged to have hosted the event, which recognized Ohio educators who earned the top 100 overall scores on RESA in each of the past three years. More than 120 of the state’s highest-scoring teachers attended, joined by their spouses, children, and parents in celebration of the honor. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, Representative Andrew Brenner - Chair of the House Education Committee, and other state policymakers attended the event. Seeing the teachers beam with pride in front of their families and hearing their sincere gratitude for being recognized for their professional excellence was by far the most moving experience of my career in education policy.

For background, RESA is required for all third-year educators seeking a permanent teaching license in Ohio. It consists of four performance...

  1. Our own Jessica Poiner is cited in this high-level discussion of recently-released federal guidance on new Academic Enrichment Block Grants designed to fund a more varied curriculum, a more positive school environment and a more integrated use of technology in schools nationwide. Nice! (EdSource, 10/23/16)
  2. Closer to home, the media scrutiny of Ohio’s largest online school continues apace. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted on the necessity of fully owning one’s statistics – for good or ill. (Dispatch, 10/23/16)
  3. Last week, it was pointed out that Ohio’s new charter sponsor evaluation results showed the Ohio Department of Education was in the bottom tier of sponsor quality and therefore might have been in danger of losing all the schools they sponsor. Fear not – turns out the legislation creating the sponsor review process had a safe harbor provision for the department in regard to this. Whew! (Columbus Dispatch, 10/21/16) This is especially good news because all of the other low-rated sponsors’ schools are now scrambling to find new sponsors on the off-chance that their current ones (mostly school districts) are forced by the ratings to end their sponsorship work. This very scenario was on the
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It’s October, and that means election season. One important decision facing many Buckeye voters is whether to approve their school districts’ tax requests. These referenda represent a unique intersection between direct democracy and public finance; unlike most tax policies, which are set by legislatures, voters have the opportunity to decide, in large part, their own property-tax rates. In Ohio, districts must seek voter approval for property taxes above 10 mills (equivalent to 1 percent) on the taxable value of their property.

Some citizens will enter the voting booth well-informed about these tax issues, but for others, the question printed on the ballot might be all they know. Voters have busy lives and they may not always carefully follow their district’s finances and tax issues. This means that the ballot itself ought to clearly and fairly present the proposition to voters. State law prescribes certain standard ballot language, but districts have some discretion in how the proposition is written. County boards of elections and the Secretary of State approve the final language. How does the actual language read? Is it impartial? Can it be easily understood?

Let’s take a look at a few high-profile ballot issues facing voters...

  1. Common Core State Standards Ohio’s Learning Standards in English language arts and math will be further “Ohioized” after public input. (Gongwer Ohio, 10/20/16)
  2. Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon received the "Urban Educator of the Year" award earlier this week, bestowed by the Council of the Great City Schools. Congrats! (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/20/16)
  1. A recent Fordham blog post about relying on growth measures rather than proficiency rates to evaluate schools drew the attention of a writer at the University Herald News, who reviewed the post and threw in a few tidbits from our recent Ohio report card analysis too. Thanks! (University Herald News, 10/19/16)
  2. Fallout from Ohio’s first-ever charter sponsor evaluations continues. To wit: Patrick O’Donnell took a look at how the Ohio Department of Education’s rating as “ineffective” might impact the department’s sponsorship work going forward. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/18/16) In the Queen City, Hannah Sparling investigated the “poor” sponsor rating received by the Cincinnati City School district. Existing schools sponsored by the district will need to find new sponsors and the planned new Phalen Academy school may not happen at all. Pending appeal, of course. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/18/16)
  3. Here’s a nice piece looking at the various ESSA-related public input events now winding up in Ohio after several months of effort. The work of crafting a new accountability plan for the state from the tons of feedback now begins. (WVIZ-FM, Cleveland, 10/18/16)
  4. Lorain City Schools officials are to meet with the State Superintendent this week
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The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) recently released the results of its revised sponsor evaluation, including new ratings for all of the state’s charter-school sponsors. Called “authorizers” in most other states, sponsors are the entities responsible for monitoring and oversight of charter schools. Under the current rating system, sponsors are evaluated in three areas—compliance, quality practice, and school academic outcomes—and receive overall ratings of “Exemplary,” “Effective,” “Ineffective,” or “Poor.” Of the sixty-five Buckeye State sponsors evaluated, five were rated “Effective,” thirty-nine “Ineffective,” and twenty-one “Poor.” Incentives are built into the system for sponsors rated “Effective” or “Exemplary” (for instance, only having to be evaluated on the quality practice component every three years); however, sponsors rated “Ineffective” are prohibited from sponsoring new schools, and sponsors rated “Poor” have their sponsorship revoked.

Number of charter schools by sponsor rating

Evaluating sponsors is a key step in the direction of accountability and quality control, especially in Ohio, where the charter sector has been beset with performance challenges. Indeed, the point of implementing the evaluation was two-fold. First, the existence of the evaluation system and its...

  1. The Dayton Daily News was talking about Ohio’s first-ever charter sponsor ratings late on Friday. Sponsors of Dayton-area charter schools did a bit better than the state average. Fordham’s own sponsor ranking (“effective”) is noted and our own Chad Aldis weighed in on the process and the outcome. (Dayton Daily News, 10/14/16) The Buckeye State is entering the “what’s next?” phase after these first-ever sponsor ratings. Chad is also quoted in this piece looking at the ratings process and the fallout from the results – specifically, what will happen too the schools whose sponsors were rated as “poor”? (Gongwer Ohio, 10/14/16)
  2. Fordham is namechecked in this editorial from the weekend, in which editors in Columbus opine in favor of a swift legislative fix to end the ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the state department of education. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/16/16)
  3. The reporter on the bus goes write write, write, write…. (Lancaster Eagle Gazette, 10/16/16)
  1. Ohio’s first ever charter school sponsor ratings have been released after much tumult. No sponsors achieved the highest rating, and most were clustered at or near the bottom. More details on what this all means comes from the usual journalistic suspects. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in all of the following pieces. Check out coverage in the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 10/13/16), Gongwer (Gongwer Ohio, 10/13/16), the Blade (Toledo Blade, 10/13/16), and the redoubtable PD (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/13/16).
  2. Speaking of charter schools, here’s a piece from the Dispatch touting something their sports writer found remarkable: a local professional soccer team helping an inner-city district school to get their prep soccer program back up and running. While this is a good thing and a nice story if you like sports, it is hardly an unusual occurrence. What IS unusual in this story is that a charter school has a competitive sports team of any kind. This rare and important fact (the school is Fordham-sponsored KIPP Columbus, by the way) goes completely unremarked other than in photo captions. Thank heaven for photo publication waivers! (Columbus Dispatch, 10/12/16)
  3. The Plain Dealer has already covered the
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Ohio Charter Accountability Takes Big Leap Forward with First Sponsor Evaluation Ratings

Today the Ohio Department of Education released results for the state’s new comprehensive sponsor evaluation system. The ratings resulted in 5 sponsors being deemed effective, 39 ineffective, and 21 poor. No sponsors were rated exemplary.

“Completion of the first sponsor performance review is a critical step forward in Ohio’s goal to improve its charter sector,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Sponsors provide critical oversight for charters schools, determining when to intervene, non-renew, or close schools—and just as importantly, when and where to allow charters to open in the first place. Given this tremendous responsibility, they are essential to our accountability system.”

Ohio’s sponsor evaluation system—initially put in place by HB 555—was revised last fall by a Department task force. The evaluations grade sponsors on three equally weighted categories: compliance—how well they follow applicable rules and laws and ensure their sponsored schools do the same; quality practices—whether they are adhering to general principles of quality authorizing; and academic performance—how well their schools performed on a variety of report card metrics.

“The Department of Education deserves...

Our goal with this post is to convince you that continuing to use status measures like proficiency rates to grade schools is misleading and irresponsible—so much so that the results from growth measures ought to count much more—three, five, maybe even nine times more—than proficiency when determining school performance under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We draw upon our experience with our home state of Ohio and its current accountability system, which currently generates separate school grades for proficiency and for growth.

We argue three points:

  1. In an era of high standards and tough tests, proficiency rates are correlated with student demographics and prior achievement. If schools are judged predominantly on these rates, almost every high-poverty school will be labeled a failure. That is not only inaccurate and unfair, but it will also demoralize educators and/or hurt the credibility of school accountability systems. In turn, states will be pressured to lower their proficiency standards.
  2. Growth measures—like “value added” or “student growth percentiles”—are a much fairer way to evaluate schools, since they can control for prior achievement and can ascertain progress over the course of the school year. They can also differentiate between high-poverty schools where kids are making steady
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