Additional Topics

  1. Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP, was in Cleveland this week for an event. The folks at public radio’s Sound of Ideas had Feinberg and Breakthrough Schools’ president John Zitzner as guests that morning, talking about the state of Ohio charter schools. Also along to provide context and history (which he had to do several times) was the Plain Dealer’s education reporter Patrick O’Donnell. Lots of great info, details, and nuance throughout the show. Callers too! An excellent listen, and not just because Fordham is namechecked as a “good sponsor” at around the 25:00 minute mark. (IdeaStream Public Media, Cleveland, 8/24/16)
  2. Wednesday was the first day of school for Columbus City Schools. Sounds like it went pretty well. This piece follows Superintendent Dan Good on his whirlwind morning of opening day school visits. At one, he was joined by State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria. At another, he was joined by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown. At yet another (unscheduled) stop, he dealt with the issue of a very young child dropped off without paperwork or contact with staff. That story had a happy ending. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/24/16) It is encouraging to note in that Columbus story that the district employed
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The EdNext poll edition

On this week’s podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and Brandon Wright discussEducation Next’s tenth annual survey. During the research minute, Dara Zeehandelaar examines the challenges of building a diverse teaching workforce.

Amber's Research Minute

Hannah Putman, Michael Hansen, Kate Walsh, and Diana Quintero, “High Hopes and Harsh Realities: The real challenges to building a diverse workforce,” Brookings (August 2016). 

  1. While it seems that the question of “worst-run” state government entity in Ohio has been settled for the time being, maybe “most boring” is up for grabs again? After the Funeral Board went into overload last year, I was pretty sure that the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) had the title locked down. But when they got a chance to look at the state’s charter sponsor review rules this week, the word “boring” went out the window. To wit: said rules were sent back to the Orwellian-sounding “Common Sense Initiative” office (CSI) with a question about their retroactivity. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted calling for a swift review of the rules and a return to JCARR or perhaps an even quicker executive or legislative fix. “If legislators are really concerned about retro-activity, then we should take action to quickly rectify that issue.” (Columbus Dispatch, 8/23/16) Chad is then quoted again today, concerned that there could be far-reaching consequences if the rule review is not swiftly settled and the sponsor reviews not completed. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/24/16) Gongwer covers the same ground and quotes Chad similarly. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/23/16) Chad is of course speaking about the
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  1. Late last week, the Ohio Department of Education announced the first ever recipients of state grants for charter school facilities. Given the stringent quality criteria, we are proud that two schools sponsored by Fordham are among the winners. We look forward to even more greatness from Columbus Collegiate Academy West and DECA Prep. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/19/16) Other coverage of the grants which focuses on local winners but does not mention Fordham or quote Chad can be found in the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 8/20/16) and in the Plain Dealer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/19/16)
  2. Editors in Cincinnati were keen to mention Fordham while opining on how to improve schools in Ohio. No, we are not part of the solution. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/22/16) North Coast curmudgeon Marilou Johanek must have been on the same conference call as the Enquirer editors, opining very similarly this weekend. (Toledo Blade, 8/20/16) The target of Ms. Johanek’s ire is concentrated: Ohio’s largest online school. So how did the ongoing legal kerfuffle over paperwork end up on Friday? With a courtroom victory for the school. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/19/16)
  3. How’d that door-to-door visit to Youngstown homes go on Friday evening?
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  1. Ohio Auditor Dave Yost (yes, him again) convened the first ever statewide Charter School Summit in Columbus last week. There were workshops and keynotes and heavy hitters; it was great to welcome folks the caliber of Geoffrey Canada and Steve Perry to our city. It was, as the auditor said in his opening remarks, a chance to celebrate great charter schools in Ohio. “Shining stars”, as he called them. Perhaps it is a bit too bad, then, that press coverage of the event was dominated by the auditor’s own opening remarks in which he called for performance-based funding for online charter schools in the state. Coverage of that particular bombshell included Gongwer (Gongwer Ohio, 8/11/16), the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 8/12/16), and two different outlets of public media (IdeaStream Public Media, Cleveland, 8/11/16 and WOSU-FM, Columbus, 8/12/16). All of these pieces included positive reaction to the proposal from our own Chad Aldis. Even over the weekend, editors in Columbus were still thinking about the radical idea, adding their opinion to the mix on Saturday and citing a recent Ohio Gadfly Daily blog post on the topic while opining. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/14/16)
  2. Editors in Akron
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The surprising best seller Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis has become something of a cause célèbre on the grounds that it explains the appeal of Donald Trump to the white underclass (from which author J.D. Vance emerged). Writing in the American Conservative, Rod Dreher aptly notes that the book "does for poor white people what Ta-Nehisi Coates's book did for poor black people: give them voice and presence in the public square."

The book should also be required reading among those of us in education policy. It reminds us of the roles that institutions play (and fail to play) in the lives of our young people, and further suggests that education reform cannot be an exclusively race-based movement if its goal is to arrest generational poverty. Poverty is a "family tradition" among Vance's people, white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who were once "day laborers in the Southern slave economy, sharecroppers after that, coal miners after that, and machinists and millworkers during more recent times."

Vance emerges as something of an emissary to elite America from Fishtown, the fictional composite of lower-class white America that Charles Murray described in his 2012 book Coming Apart. This growing segment of American...

In Educational Entrepreneurship Today, edited by Frederick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane, a gaggle of authors examines how entrepreneurship can fuel the engine of educational innovation. The authors paint a complex portrait of risk, reward, and regulation.

The book defines educational entrepreneurship as “risk-taking behavior intended to boost school productivity or offer new services in a manner that makes a lasting difference for students.” The authors remind us that the very premise of entrepreneurship is novel within education. Typical initiatives in this realm are-risk averse because failure may harm children. Yet recent years have provided plenty of examples of entrepreneurial effort.

One theme throughout the book is that the structure of organizations and initiatives matter, although the authors differ on what structure is best. Some favor small, precisely targeted programs like the Tiny School Project, which focuses on testing educational ideas on a micro level. Others focus on scaling successful initiatives, such as the KIPP charter network’s growth from a single classroom to over two hundred schools across the country.

Entrepreneurial ventures like Teach For America, TNTP, the Broad Residency, and New Leaders for New Schools have both grown and become pipelines for educational talent to undertake yet more initiatives. The...

A new Mathematica study examines whether school-level value-added measures adequately capture principals’ effectiveness. Many districts hold them accountable for their schools’ academic performance; this study probes that assumption by asking an important question: Does school-level value added actually reflect the principal’s contribution, or does it mostly reflect other school-level influences (such as neighborhood safety) that are outside the principal’s control?

The authors use longitudinal data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to study school and principal effectiveness for grades 4–8 from 2007–08 to 2012–13. They include in the data set principals who have been involved in a leadership transition—meaning that, during the analysis period, they started leading a school they had not led before or were replaced by incoming principals. The authors compare departing principals with successors who assumed their positions during 2009–10 to 2012–13. (Alarmingly, 41 percent of schools serving students between the fourth and eighth grades experienced such leadership changes during the study window.) To disentangle the principal’s contribution to growth from the effect of other school-level factors, they sought to isolate the portion of the principal’s impact that is consistent across time and across different samples of students—i.e., the effects on student achievement that principals persistently demonstrate.

Here’s the bottom line: School-level...

August 16 marked the first day of school for the thousands of children who attend the Dayton Public Schools (DPS). They returned to a district with a new superintendent, but many old problems. Regrettably, Dayton is at the end of a five-year strategic plan that barely moved the needle on the city’s dismal track record for student achievement. In 2014–15, DPS was the lowest-performing of Ohio’s 610 public school districts. That distinction should make Dayton’s citizens cringe.

Superintendent Rhonda Corr—who knows Cleveland well but is new to the Gem City—was given only a one-year contract by the board of education. That’s not enough time to accomplish much beyond figuring out what needs fixing. She’ll need to determine why so few of Dayton’s young people are learning enough to put themselves on track for success in later life.

She may find something nobody has ever spotted before, but previous diagnoses of Dayton’s education woes have uncovered plenty of problems. Some of them are outside the school system’s immediate control, such as the tragic challenge of multi-generational poverty. Others, though, are endemic to the district itself, including a stubborn bureaucracy, eleven different bargaining units, high rates of truancy, and huge numbers of suspensions in the...

A new Education Next article examines the impact of New York City school closures on a variety of student outcomes, including graduation rates, attendance, and academic performance.

Analysts studied twenty-nine high school closures announced between 2003 and 2009, analyzing outcomes for over twenty thousand affected ninth graders in several groups: those who were just beginning their ninth-grade year when closure was announced (called the “phase-out” cohort); those who chose to stay after the closure announcement (the “phase-out” process allowed them to stay until their expected year of graduation); those who transferred elsewhere; and those rising ninth graders who were required to attend a different high school because of closure. The  schools in the treatment group slated for closure were, as you would expect, among the lowest-performing in the city. (Another group of high schools that exhibited both similar poor performance and similar low-achieving students served as the comparison group, although it was not clear why they weren’t slated for closure.)

Analysts first predicted the impact of the closure decision on graduation rates for the “phase-out” cohort. They found small but statistically insignificant differences, concluding that the phase-out process did not negatively impact graduation rates or make a clear impact on credits earned,...