Ohio Gadfly Daily

  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...

  1. The NAPCS/50CAN/NACSA report on the quality of virtual schools across the country made a splashy debut yesterday. It was big news in Ohio for sure, although folks took its messages somewhat differently. Was it an attack? A “call for action”? You decide. Our own Chad Aldis was quoted in all of the following pieces. The PD was first out of the gate with coverage. They were also the only ones (so far) to get a statement in response to the report from Ohio’s largest online school, ECOT. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/16/16). No such luck for The Dispatch, although the quote from the PD made it in here too. What? You think reporters don’t talk to each other? (Columbus Dispatch, 6/16/16). True to its nature, Gongwer went to a state legislator to get its second quote. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/16/16)
     
  2. Dayton City Schools has a new supe. She is Rhonda Corr, a veteran administrator who has worked in Cleveland, Chicago, and Indianapolis. The board also named a new treasurer from within district ranks. She is Hiwot Abraha, who has been interim treasurer and assistant treasurer in the district. Interestingly, both appointments were for only one year, although
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Today, a consortium of charter school supporters released a new report containing solid, commonsense policy recommendations aimed at improving virtual schools. This report comes on the heels of national research studies that have documented the dismal performance of virtual schools across the country. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now (50CAN), and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) intend their “A Call to Action to Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools” report as a wake-up call.

“When national groups that advocate for and champion charter schools question the impact of virtual charter schools on student achievement, policy makers should take note,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “If Ohio leaders are serious about improving student outcomes for virtual school students, they’d be wise to consider these recommendations.”

NAPCS, 50CAN, and NACSA summarize the failings in the current online education landscape nationally and propose specific policy recommendations to help states better hold full-time virtual charter schools accountable for student results. The recommendations touch on a wide variety of key areas including authorizer (or “sponsor”) incentives; student enrollment...

  1. After some drops, adds, and sifting, the list of finalists for Dayton City Schools superintendent is down to three. They were introduced to the public late last week and here are brief profiles of them all. Not sure when the board will make the decision. Hopefully soon. (Dayton Daily News, 6/10/16) However, there is some concern that said Dayton school board may run into difficulties with the superintendent hiring processes. Why? Because the district is also looking for an athletic director, but has had to rescind not one but two job offers following concerns that the interview process used was not fair to all applicants. Both times. Don’t forget the board is looking for a treasurer too!  (Dayton Daily News, 6/14/16)
     
  2. Meanwhile, in other “fourth branch of government” news, things are just as out of control as ever in Youngstown. Henry Martyn Robert, who grew up in Ohio and was married in Dayton, is likely spinning in his grave to see his rulebook used to foster what appears to be disorder, confusion, and gridlock like this. (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/15/16)
     
  3. The state board of education meeting this week wrought at least two newsworthy items. First up,
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Thomas J. Lasley II

NOTE: Tom Lasley, executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton and former dean of the School of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Dayton, addressed the Ohio Board of Education in Columbus today. These are his written remarks in full.

Thank you for this opportunity to share thoughts regarding expectations for Ohio’s K-12 students. I believe Ohio must continue to have high quality, demanding achievement assessments and set rigorous passing scores for those assessments.

To get and to keep good jobs, our children need world-class educations. Lowering the bar when our competitors in this country and around the globe are increasing expectations would tremendously disadvantage our young people. We have to be honest with ourselves and with students about what’s required to compete--and to succeed--in a knowledge economy.

Ohio and other states now have a lot of data upon which to base policy and practice decisions. This was not true twenty years ago. But it is true today--as a result...

Ohio’s largest online school, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), has recently caught flack for its low graduation rate. A New York Times article, for example, averred, “Publicly funded online schools like ECOT have become the new dropout factories.” It is true that a mere 39 percent of the ECOT’s class of 2014 graduated in four years, meaning that thousands of pupils failed to reach the high school finish line on time. Meanwhile, a recent GradNation report called out the low graduation rates of some alternative, charter, and virtual schools (for a deeper dive into the charter school rates, see Susan Aud Pendergrass’s excellent piece on Flypaper). For some, these statistics are proof positive of educational failure.

We are in no way defending “dropout factories” of any stripe. It’s well known that Ohio’s virtual schools (like those in almost every other state) have struggled mightily to demonstrate an impact on student growth, and we’ve made no secret of our own misgivings about ECOT and many of its peers. But when it comes to graduation rates, how much of the blame belongs to the schools themselves? Is it possible that the way these numbers are calculated yields...

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