Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Ohio Auditor Dave Yost (!) has been absent from these pages for a bit. And here’s why: He and his team have been preparing a report of their findings during an attendance audit of charter and district schools across the state. Seems like things are generally better than last year’s audit, but a number of problems persist, especially in the district-run hybrid “site-based” charters examined. This is just a preliminary report from The D. More to come later this week, I suspect. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/23/16)
  2. Yet more coverage of the Win-Win Agreement in central Ohio; specifically, what local parents in the affected areas think. Surprising to see who knows about the agreement and who does not. Developing story, as they say. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/23/16)
  3. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has a new superintendent. He is Chris Knight, moving from the same post in Toledo. A great choice for the fifth-largest diocesan school system in the country. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/20/16)
  4. Central Ohio’s rural-suburban districts reported smoother testing processes this year as compared to last year, both in online and paper-and-pencil modes. You might say they were “walking on AIR”. (Newark Advocate, 5/20/16)
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Earlier this week, the Ohio Department of Education announced a new award for schools that exceeded expectations for student growth, the “Momentum Award.” Any school or district earning straight As on the state’s value-added measures was eligible, assuming it had at least two value-added subgroups (an idea my colleague Aaron explored last year). One hundred and sixty-five of Ohio’s 4,200 schools earned the recognition in its inaugural round.[1] The state also recognized schools and districts earning all As on every report card measure—forty-six schools and two districts achieved this outstanding feat.

We’re most excited about the Momentum Award because it gives credit to schools that make significant contributions to student growth regardless of where students enter in terms of raw achievement. In addition to earning an overall A, winning schools made gains with at least two of the following subgroups: students with disabilities, students who are low-achieving, and gifted students—populations that are often underserved or overlooked.  

It’s been said time and time again that growth measures are essential to any state’s accountability system because they show the contribution a school makes to individual student learning and because they...

  1. There are no less than three pieces about charter schools in the print version of the Dispatch today. How many does it take to officially count as “obsessed”? First up is an editorial once again lauding the awesomeness that is United Schools Network. Sponsored by Fordham, USN schools make us proud, as Chad’s quote attests. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/20/16). Next is a piece discussing SB 3. You might recall SB 3 as the “education deregulation” bill intended to exempt high-performing districts and schools from some regulation as a reward for demonstrated awesomeness. It is the end of the legislative session prior to elections, and SB 3 was perhaps going to be stuffed like a Christmas stocking prior to quick passage. One with a lump of coal in it called a “similar students” measure, which would replace Ohio’s current value-added growth measure. Chad is on record, as is governor Kasich, as being against anything which would weaken accountability for student success. SB 3 and its amendments have been declared dead until at least the lame-duck post-election session. Whew. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/20/16) You might have noticed the reference to ECOT in that last piece, the online charter school behemoth which is
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  1. Editors in Lima opined over the weekend on the topic of school choice. In a decision I could not have predicted, every option but charter schools gets a pass. Go figure. (Lima News, 5/14/16)
  2. Speaking of charter schools, a new iteration of Citizens Academy (part of the Breakthrough Network) is coming to southeast Cleveland in 2017 with the blessing and assistance of Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Shhh… Don’t tell the editors of Lima News. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/16/16)
  3. And speaking of school choice, the first graduating class for Akron’s STEM high school has big plans and seems to have gotten a big boost from their non-traditional learning environment. Kudos! (Akron Beacon Journal, 5/16/16)
  4. Editors in Akron opined favorably on the choice of Paolo DeMaria as the next state superintendent of public instruction. (Akron Beacon Journal, 5/16/16) And that positive opinion was formed before DeMaria negotiated his base salary downward…in favor of a performance bonus option. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/17/16)
  5. As of yesterday, a total of 27 candidates have applied to be CEO of Youngstown City Schools. The Academic Distress Commission is to begin its review of applicants at a meeting
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In theory, competition has the potential to boost quality and lower prices. But how is this theory working in education? This report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice provides an overview of the research on competition in American K–12 education and offers suggestions to enhance the competitive environment.  

The report finds that competition in the form of charters, vouchers, and tax credits does inspire competitive gains, but these gains are relatively small. An in-depth literature review reveals that forty of the forty-two studies on the impact of competition on public school students’ test scores find neutral-to-moderately-positive effects. These findings run counter to one of the most common arguments against choice programs—namely, that school alternatives do academic harm to those “left behind.”

The report also examines whether school choice’s ability to exert market pressure decreases educational costs. While the answer to that question is unclear, the report did note a discrepancy in the efficiency—defined as effectiveness per dollar—between traditional public and choice options. Charter schools appear to be doing more with less; although they receive about 28 percent less funding per student than local district schools, they are achieving greater student gains. According to a study by...

Ohio’s student growth measure—value added—is under the microscope, which provides a good reason to take another look at its important role in school accountability and to see if there are ways it can be improved. On April 19, state Representatives Robert Cupp and Ryan Smith introduced House Bill 524, legislation that calls for a review of Ohio’s value-added measure. In their sponsor testimony, both lawmakers emphasized that their motivation is to gain a strong understanding of the measure before considering any potential revisions.

The House Education Committee has already heard testimony from the Ohio Department of Education and Battelle for Kids; it is expecting to hear from SAS, the analytics company that generates the value-added results, on May 17. In brief, value added is a statistical method that relies on individual student test records to isolate a school’s impact on growth over time. Since 2007–08, Ohio has included value-added ratings on school report cards, though data were reported in years prior.

As state lawmakers consider the use of value added, they should bear in mind the advantages of the measure while also considering avenues for improvement. Let’s first review the critical features of the value-added...

  1. Here is a nearly unvarnished look at the amazing work of the United Schools Network of charter schools here in Columbus. As sponsor of all the USN schools, Fordham is referenced and Chad is quoted in here, but it is seriously the hard work of network boss Andy Boy and his talented staff working tirelessly on behalf of their students and families that is the real story. Reporter Bill Bush left almost all of his skepticism at the schoolhouse door (on the way out anyway) in order to tell that amazing story. He too is to be commended. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/16/16)
  2. Meanwhile, Chad was also chatting with the Detroit News, whose editors were readying their opinion regarding the possibility of Detroit Public Schools undergoing a transformation similar to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Spoiler alert: they didn’t seem to like that idea. (Detroit News, 5/14/16)
  3. Editors in Columbus were thinking about education as well, and opined this weekend in favor of the choice of Paolo DeMaria to be the new state supe. Fordham’s 2015 “Getting out of the Way” report on the potential for education deregulation – on which DeMaria was primary investigator – is
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  1. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two days, the big news in Ohio is that the state board of ed named a new superintendent this week. He is Paolo DeMaria, former state budget director, education advisor to two governors, high-level staffer with the Department of Education and the Board of Regents, and current principal with Education First Consulting. Whew! He has also worked on projects with us here at Fordham over the years, which the following stories note to varying degrees: Patrick O’Donnell was first to the post with the news. This is a later piece from him featuring a nicely detailed look at DeMaria’s career and puts some important questions to him on the topics of school choice, Common Core, and other hot-button issues. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/12/16) Gongwer’s announcement includes reaction to the pick from our own Chad Aldis.  (Gongwer Ohio, 5/11/16) Chad’s comments make up part of this piece, which also features a likely-obligatory finger wag at the state board for not picking former Springfield supe David Estrop instead of DeMaria. (Springfield News Sun, 5/11/16)
  2. Here are a few pieces of coverage of the new state supe, not mentioning
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Last month, Attorney General Mike DeWine toured Citizens Academy, one of the eleven charter schools in the Breakthrough Schools network. Breakthrough, whose schools rank among the top in the state, serves 3,300 Cleveland students in grades K–8. Founded in 1999, Citizens Academy is among Ohio’s oldest charter schools and places special focus on both academic excellence and responsible citizenship. We at Fordham spotlighted Citizens as one of Ohio’s high-performing, high-poverty schools in our 2010 report Needles in a Haystack. The charter school has also been named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education and has received honors from the Ohio Department of Education. Today, the school educates approximately 440 pupils, almost all of whom come from low-income families. 

Attorney General Mike DeWine poses for a photo with Citizens Academy students

Attorney General DeWine’s visit to Citizens Academy is especially fitting, as he has championed initiatives to rebuild Ohio’s urban neighborhoods by promoting economic development and neighborhood and school safety. High-performing charter schools like Citizens and its Breakthrough counterparts play a vital role in creating safe, sustainable neighborhoods...

In 2014, for the first time, the overall number of Latino, African American, and Asian students in public K–12 classrooms in America surpassed the number of non-Hispanic white students. To better understand what this “majority minority” student body might mean for public education going forward, the folks at the Leadership Conference Education Fund asked Latino and African American parents what they thought about America’s K–12 system, as well as what sort of education they want for their children.

Researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of eight hundred African American and Latino adults (parents, grandparents, etc.) actively involved in raising a school-aged child, also conducting focus groups in Chicago (Latinos) and Philadelphia (African Americans).

As with other such surveys, a large majority of parents rated their own children’s schools as “excellent” or “good” at preparing students for success in the future. (It is interesting to note, however, that parents whose children attended schools that were mostly white were more likely to rate those schools positively.) Yet parents were also pessimistic about the quality of public schools writ large—especially for students of color. And they felt that funding, technology, and excellent teachers were inequitably distributed in favor of predominantly white and high-income schools.

The survey...