Ohio Gadfly Daily

Auditor of State Dave Yost

I am a conflicted man.

Professionally, I lead Ohio’s auditing staff, a team of financial experts whose job it is to verify that tax dollars are being properly spent and to root out any misuse or theft of public money. That includes charter schools.

Yet personally, I’m a strong proponent of the charter school movement. I believe in the lifetime benefits of school choice and affording every parent the ability to choose the school that will best serve their children.

My friends sometimes question how I can be so tough on charters when I personally support them.

The answer, I tell them, is simple: We don’t play favorites. We can’t. We shouldn’t. Doing so would erode the public’s trust in our office, which we must faithfully and ardently protect. To ignore the misdeeds of the few problem charters would stain the great work of many. Turning a blind eye to the problems in a charter school, or any school, would mean that we failed our children, which is never an option.

It’s a conflict public officials often face when their official duties require them to make decisions that run counter to their personal beliefs.

The mission of the Auditor of...

Previous research has found that oversubscribed urban charter schools produce large academic gains for their students. But are these results related to test score inflation, defined by one assessment expert as “increases in scores that do not signal a commensurate increase in proficiency in the domain of interest”? To explore this question, a recent study examines state testing data from 2006 to 2011 at nine Boston middle school charters with lottery-based admissions. By exploiting the random nature of the lottery system, prior studies have found that these schools produce substantial learning gains on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

To carry out the analysis, author Sarah Cohodes breaks down the learning gains by the various components of the state assessment—akin to how one might disaggregate overall gains by student subgroup. For example, a math assessment contains several different testing domains (e.g., geometry versus statistics), with some topics being tested more frequently than others. The hypothesis is as follows: If the gains are attributable to score inflation, we might expect to see stronger results on frequently tested items relative to obscure ones. In line with their incentives, teachers might strategically focus instruction on items with the highest odds...

  1. The Akron Beacon Journal’s former education reporter Doug Livingston, current state Rep. Kristina Roegner, and others participated in a panel discussion last week on how awful charter schools are at the behest of the Hudson League of Women Voters. Nice summary article on the manifest evils of charter schools from the paper. No charter school supporters were invited to participate, for which Aaron is grateful. (Hudson Hub Times, 4/27/16) If you think that description of the event overblown on my part, I encourage you to check out edited video of the panel on YouTube. The well-timed gasps from the audience will tell you all you need to know.
  2. Back in the real world, Tornado pride is on the rise again, y’all! West Muskingum’s school board voted unanimously to eliminate pay to play fees for all middle and high school sports. I’m not sure from what new pot of money this largesse is emanating but lots of folks are happy about it. Honestly, reading some of those quotes from community members and staffers makes it sound like the old fees were really divisive on a very personal level. Perhaps the folks in West Muskingum need some perspective.
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The passage of comprehensive charter school reform in the form of House Bill 2 was supposed to move charters past the controversies that had overshadowed the excellent work of good schools. The new era promised to be focused less on audits and academic failings and more on how charters can create more high quality education options for families in the Buckeye State. Unfortunately, a series of troubling recent developments involving online charter schools threatens to undermine the progress that Ohio has made. Rather than waiting until the clarion call for change is deafeningly loud, Ohio charter advocates should once again step up and lead the effort to improve their sector.

Online charters in the spotlight

While the academic performance of online charter schools has been criticized before, a national study released in October by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University provided the most compelling—and shocking—data to date showing the lackluster academic achievement of online charter school students. In Ohio, for example, the CREDO study indicated that online students lost seventy-nine days of learning per year in reading and 144 days in math compared to their peers in traditional public schools....

National education reform leader and author Kevin P. Chavous will visit central Ohio to headline the June 10 event with his presentation Building a Learning Culture in America. Through personal stories of his work as an educator, advocate, and change agent, Chavous will share his vision of how to reclaim a positive learning culture and to regain international leadership in education.

The program will also feature Ohio school leaders sharing their strategies for creating a culture of learning and engagement in their classrooms. Jim Mahoney, Ph.D., executive director of Battelle for Kids, will provide the closing keynote on Creating Highly Effective Teachers.

The OAPCS Charter School Leadership Event

Friday, June 10, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

The Conference Center at OCLC, Lakeside Room

6565 Kilgour Place

Dublin, Ohio 43017

Register today by clicking here....

Since their inception in 1999, Buckeye charter schools have grown rapidly. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), Ohio had just over fifty-nine thousand charter students in 2004–05; ten years later, that number had more than doubled to 122,000 students, representing 7 percent of the public school population. These statistics demonstrate the impressive and sustained growth of the charter movement in Ohio; but where do most charters students live? Are they evenly distributed throughout the state or heavily concentrated in a few areas? Which cities have the largest charter “enrollment share,” and what areas of the state have very few charter students? Answers to these questions can help us identify opportunities for growth and partnership—and even make the case for policy change.

To conduct this analysis, I use the enrollment data from the state’s District Payment Reports (FY 2015: Final #3 payment). These reports display the number of charter students who live within the jurisdiction of each district (on a full-time equivalent basis), so we can count students by their districts of residence.[1] This analysis of charter enrollment yields three main takeaways.

The majority of charter students live in urban areas...

  1. Have you all been following the Proper Perspective series in Ohio Gadfly Daily? If not, you should. In it, our own Jamie Davies O’Leary exchanges views on important education topics with Innovation Ohio and KnowYourCharters guru (and former state legislator) Steve Dyer. And now one of those Proper Perspective entries – on the topic of testing opter-outers – has spawned a commentary piece by Jamie and Steve in the ABJ. (Akron Beacon Journal, 4/29/16)
  2. The state board of education added three more folks to the list of finalists for permanent state supe, bringing the total of candidates to be interviewed to eight. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/28/16). Interviews will start soon, which is good because the person holding the seat on an interim basis is actively looking for another job closer to home. Just like he said he would. (Toledo Blade, 4/28/16)
  3. I think we may be able to move Groveport-Madison schools from “maybe challenging” the Win-Win Agreement to “definitely challenging” the Win-Win Agreement. But I could be wrong. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/28/16)
  4. As our own Jessica Poiner has told us previously, Ohio’s new-ish College Credit Plus program – to give kids access
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Since the passage of House Bill 2, much attention has been paid to how Ohio’s charter sector can build on policy reforms and improve itself. With the imminent (we hope) arrival of federal Charter Schools Program grant dollars, Ohio has a better opportunity than ever to raise its charter game. There are already several charter networks and schools doing great work, but the Buckeye State still has tens of thousands of students, especially in urban areas, enrolled in low-quality schools. It’s time for Ohio to start recruiting top-notch charter management organizations (CMOs) to increase the number of high-quality seats. But how?

Enter a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) that examines the best way for state and local leaders to recruit high-performing CMOs. The report is based on a 2015 survey conducted by NAPCS and the Foundation for Excellence in Education of over twenty high-performing CMOs. Authors compiled the results and pinpointed the elements that CMOs consider when deciding whether and where to expand.

One of the most useful aspects of the report is its analysis of the three types of charter markets: “emerging,” “risk-reward,” and...

  1. We’ve mentioned previously that Ohio’s “value added” measure is going to undergo some scrutiny in the state legislature. The first round took place this week as “placeholder” HB 524 got its first hearing in the House Education Committee. Prior to the hearing, Fordham was namechecked in this piece looking ahead to the value-added hearing. (Gongwer Ohio, 4/25/16) Additionally, Chad was actually quoted in this piece from The D, summarizing previous discussions about value added and what if anything might augment or replace it. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/26/16) Both the House and Senate Education Committees got a presentation from the Ohio Department of Education on value added – what it is, how it’s calculated, and how its been used on state report cards in the past. Gongwer has a good summary of the presentation and of the testimony from House Ed. More to follow. (Gongwer Ohio, 4/26/16)
  2. What’s that they say about a free lunch never really being free? Having made the district 100% free lunch last year, Columbus City Schools are now choking down a big old irony burger. They have erased a long-standing deficit in their food service budget (replaced with a healthy surplus thanks
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  1. Andy Boy, Founder and CEO of United Schools Network here in Columbus, had a great commentary piece in the Dispatch this weekend on how high-quality schools like his can help close achievement gaps for poor and minority students. And I don’t just say it’s great because Fordham sponsors USN’s schools. I say it because Andy knows what he’s talking about from long and successful experience. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/23/16)
  2. Patrick O’Donnell continued his profiles of the top five candidates for state superintendent. That’s right, we’re back to five again, as noted peripherally in this profile of Dayton’s Tom Lasley. Quite a career, I’d say. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/22/16)
  3. No one is saying that there is a direct line from Reynoldsburg City Schools to the upper echelons of the Ohio Department of Education… Well, maybe Patrick is saying it a little bit in this profile of current Reynoldsburg supe Tina Thomas-Manning, another of the top five candidates for state superintendent. There’s lots to dig into here, but I would draw your attention to two of Thomas-Manning’s reference letters, among the application materials posted on the PD website. One is from former Reynoldsburg supe (and current Fordham board
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