Ohio Gadfly Daily

On June 22, the Dropout Prevention and Recovery Study Committee met for its first of three meetings this summer. The committee is composed of two Ohio lawmakers (Representative Andrew Brenner and Senator Peggy Lehner) and several community leaders. It was created under a provision in House Bill 2 (Ohio’s charter reform bill) and is tasked with defining school quality and examining competency-based funding for dropout-recovery schools by August 1.  

Conducting a rigorous review of state policies on the state’s ninety-four dropout-recovery charter schools is exactly the right thing to do—not only as a legal requirement, but also because these schools now educate roughly sixteen thousand adolescents. The discussion around academic quality is of particular importance. These schools have proven difficult to judge because of the students they serve: young adults who have dropped out or are at risk of doing so. By definition, these kids have experienced academic failure already. So what is fair to expect of their second-chance schools?

Let’s review the status of state accountability for dropout-recovery schools and take a closer look at the results from the 2014–15 report cards. In 2012–13, Ohio began to provide data on the success of its dropout-recovery...

Traditional districts that serve as charter school sponsors are often glossed over in the debate over Ohio’s charter sector. But given their role in two recent reports, it’s an opportune time to take a closer look at their track record.  

First, a Know Your Charter report covered the failings of a number of Buckeye charters receiving federal startup funds (either they closed or never opened). Though the report itself didn’t draw attention to it, we pointed out that school districts sponsored more than 40 percent of these closed schools. Meanwhile, the auditor of state released a review of charter school attendance; among the three schools referred for further action because of extraordinarily low attendance, two had district sponsors (the third was sponsored by an educational service center).

With all of the talk about charters being created to privatize education, it might surprise you to learn that Ohio school districts have long had the authority to sponsor (a.k.a. authorize) charters. In fact, the Buckeye State allows districts to sponsor either conversion or startup charters within certain geographic limitations (e.g., a school must be located within a district’s jurisdiction or in a district nearby)....

  1. Maybe THIS will be the final word on this topic. The young man who finished third in the SkillsUSA Ohio masonry competition – but who ended up going to the national competition instead of the young woman who “won” the state contest due to a reported scoring error – placed second in said national masonry competition. Pretty impressive. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/26/16)
     
  2. It is a big week for high-profile new hires here in Ohio. First up, Paolo DeMaria starts today as State Superintendent for Public Instruction. I was going to bike to work today too, but the path was too wet. (Associated Press via Toledo Blade, 6/27/16) Krish Mohip starts Wednesday as the first CEO of Youngstown City Schools. Whatever biking he’s doing will be decidedly uphill.  (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/26/16)
     
  3. What do I mean by “uphill”? The Ohio Department of Education has found three areas in which Youngstown City Schools “did not adequately or properly follow required procedures regarding its special-education students”. Things like clustering special education students in one or two buildings and denying them equal access to CTE courses. The interim supe seems to think it’s no biggie and in fact had already
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School choice advocates have long agreed on the importance of understanding what parents value when selecting a school for their children. A new study from Mathematica seeks to add to that conversation and generally finds the same results as prior research. What makes this study relatively unique, however, is that its analysis is based on parents’ rank-ordered preferences on a centralized school application rather than self-reported surveys.

To analyze preferences, researchers utilized data from Washington, D.C.’s common enrollment system, which includes traditional district schools and nearly all charters. D.C. families that want to send their children to a school other than the one they currently attend (or are zoned to attend) must submit a common application on which they rank their twelve most preferred schools. Students are then matched to available spaces using a random assignment algorithm.

The study tests for five domains of school choice factors: convenience (measured by commute distance from home to school),[1] school demographics (the percentage of students in a school who are the same race or ethnicity as the chooser), academic indicators (including a school’s proficiency rate from the previous year), school neighborhood characteristics (crime rates and measures of...

A short article published this week in the Columbus Dispatch makes serious reporting mistakes that leave readers with a distorted view of school finance. According to the article, a Columbus citizen millage panel recently discussed a state policy known as the funding “cap.” Briefly speaking, this policy limits the year-to-year growth in state revenue for any particular school district. As we’ve stated in the past, funding caps are poor public policy because they shortchange districts of revenue they ought to receive under their funding formulae. State lawmakers should kill the cap; it circumvents the state’s own formula, it’s unfair to districts on the cap, and it ultimately shortchanges kids.

The article would’ve been right to stop there. Yet somehow charter schools got pulled into the discussion, and that is where the coverage went way off track. The Dispatch writes:

But the formula for one class of school [i.e., Columbus district schools] is now capped, while the other [Columbus charters] isn’t.…But today Columbus charters get $142.4 million from the state to teach 18,000 students, while the district is left with $154.4 million to teach the remaining 52,000 kids, many of whom rank among the poorest in the state. ...

  1. I sometimes feel like I’m the only person who has no further need to be convinced that kids dropping out of school without graduating is a bad thing. Why? Because it seems any discussion of “what to do about dropouts” still requires an obligatory introduction about WHY we need to do something about the problem. Anywho, Ohio’s got a newly-appointed panel on the topic of dropouts. They held their first meeting earlier this week and guess what they talked about?  They have until August 1 to make recommendations to the state. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/22/16)
     
  2. Journalist Patrick O’Donnell continued his look at Cuyahoga County school district expenditures. This time, he ranked per-pupil spending on students with special needs, students who are English language learners, students with families in poverty, etc. No charter schools were included in this list. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/23/16)
     
  3. I can’t imagine this will be the last word on the subject, but folks from SkillsUSA finally offered an explanation as to how the girl who came in first in the Ohio masonry competition by a long chalk ended up not going to the national competition in favor of the boy who had originally
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Last year’s biennial budget (HB 64) required Ohio to define what it means to be a “consistently high-performing teacher” by July 1, a date that is fast approaching. This particular provision aimed to make life easier for such teachers by excusing them from the requirement to complete additional coursework (and shell out extra money) each time they renew their licenses. It also exempts them from additional professional development requirements prescribed by their districts or schools. Who could oppose freeing some of our best teachers from a couple of burdensome mandates?

More people than you might think, starting with the group tasked with defining “consistently high-performing”: the Ohio Educator Standards Board. The board recently “voted unanimously to oppose the law” according to Gongwer News—never mind the fact that the law passed last year and contesting it now is futile. Chairwoman Sandra Orth said that defining a high-performing teacher was disrespectful and unproductive. Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) President Melissa Cropper also weighed in, calling it “another slap in the face to our profession.” Meanwhile, state board of education member A.J. Wagner characterized this provision as a “law that was made to be broken” and urged fellow members to follow...

  1. Having failed, thus far, to scupper Ohio’s $71 million federal Charter School Program grant award, opponents of charter schools seem to be pivoting toward begging for additional oversight of whatever money Ohio’s charter schools might receive. Unfortunately for Sen. Brown and those feeding him information, our own Chad Aldis is here to set their mistaken arguments straight. First, the “smoking gun” report that purports to show previous CSP grant money went to “failed” charter schools actually shows that the money went in large measure to traditional school districts who founded over 40 percent of those closed schools. Second, Ohio’s charter reform law (HB 2) is already starting to have its desired effect. Poor-performing schools are closing and sponsors are proactively pruning their portfolios, making it even more likely that CSP grant funds will go to the high-performing charter schools they are intended to help. What could be wrong with that?  (Columbus Dispatch, 6/21/16)
     
  2. Speaking of dispelling myths, none were during last week’s meeting of the Columbus City Schools’ citizen millage committee. Instead, the group was treated to a line-toeing presentation (from the district treasurer no less) that oversimplified the topic of school funding yet again. As reported
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  1. There was more talk of the “HB 2 Effect” this weekend. The Dispatch didn’t go into quite the level of detail that the Plain Dealer did, but Chad was quoted saying the same thing. The closure of underperforming charter schools seems to be ramping up and it seems to be happening quite quickly. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/19/16)
     
  2. But all that is not to say that more charter schools aren’t going to open. The Canton Rep had no sooner finished celebrating the demise of one charter school in their town only to turn around and discover another one on the way. They pulled out the fine-toothed comb and got to work. (Canton Repository, 6/15/16)
     
  3. Here’s a local story that seems to be gaining some national traction. Shania Clifford, a female competitor from a southern Ohio career tech school apparently slayed during a statewide masonry competition in April. Yes, that’s bricklaying. However, by the time the national competition roster came around, Shania had been demoted and learned via Facebook that she would not be competing after all. The organizers say the Ohio competition scores were erroneous and recalculation showed Shania didn’t win after all. Others, including her teacher,
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On the heels of national research studies that have uncovered troubling findings on the performance of virtual charter schools, a new report provides solid, commonsense policy suggestions aimed at improving online schools and holding them more accountable for results. Three national charter advocacy organizations—NAPCS, NACSA, and 50CAN—united to produce these joint recommendations.  

The paper’s recommendations focus on three key issues: authorizing, student enrollment, and funding. When it comes to authorizers, the authors suggest restricting oversight duties for statewide e-schools to state or regional entities, capping authorizing fees, and creating “virtual-specific goals” to which schools are held accountable. Such goals, which would be part of the authorizer-school contract, could include matters of enrollment, attendance, achievement, truancy, and finances. On enrollment, the authors cite evidence that online education may not be a good fit for every child, leading them to suggest that states study whether to create admissions standards for online schools (in contrast to open enrollment). They also recommend limits to enrollment growth based on performance; a high-performing school would have few, if any, caps on growth, while a low-performer would face strict limits. Finally, the report touches on funding policies, including recommendations to fund online schools based...

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