Ohio Policy

This conversation about churches authorizing charter schools has raised my hackles. Not because it deals with religious organizations overseeing public schools and ensuring that public dollars are spent well (a conversation absolutely worth having), but because the conversation is happening in Ohio, where we already have too many charter school authorizers (70+ sponsors serving about 310 schools) - especially if the goal of authorizing is to birth and oversee great schools.

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has been sponsoring (as authorizing is called here) charter schools in the Buckeye State since 2005, and as such we have learned a ton about the business. First and foremost, that providing high-quality oversight of public charter schools is costly and time-consuming, and this is if things go well. Being a sponsor in Ohio means not only holding schools accountable for their results (and ultimately making life or death decisions about schools), but also helping schools navigate a myriad of regulatory and legal issues.

Our base sponsorship agreement with schools is more than 30 pages long - and this doesn't include dozens of pages of attachments - and deals with issues ranging from responsibilities of parties to compliance with...

A central Ohio church has appealed the Ohio Department of Education's denial of its application to become a charter school authorizer (more on the story here, subscription required):

Brookwood [Presbyterian Church], doing business as Brookwood Community Learning Center, submitted a 49-page application to the ODE in November 2007 for approval as a charter school sponsor.

The church said that instead of reviewing application materials, the ODE determined that "neither the national Presbyterian church nor Brookwood Presbyterian Church is eligible to apply to become a sponsor" because they are not "education oriented" entities as required under state law.

"Despite the fact that nothing in the Ohio Revised Code prohibits a religious organization as such from ... being approved as a sponsor of community schools in Ohio, ODE's decision made it clear that the applicant's status as a church alone was a disqualifying fact in the eyes of ODE: 'also please know that no church has been approved as a sponsor,'" the church told justices.

It is true that no churches serve as authorizers in Ohio, but church-related organizations are certainly active in the charter sector with the knowledge and approval of the state.????Educational...

Core Knowledge and Joanne Jacobs both picked up on a blog this week by Linda Perlstein, who says that Obama is "wrong" to suggest that teachers are the single most important factor related to student achievement. Perlstein points out that this is accurate only in that "of the various factors inside school, teacher quality has had more effect on student test scores than any other that has been measured."

And?

I don't think it's fair to suggest that Obama has misrepresented the evidence. He didn't say "of all things measured and non-measured on the earth, teacher quality is the most important." Of course not everything has been measured, but do you expect the president to include that nuance in a 20 minute speech? Moreover -I don't see the point in asking policymakers or politicians to clarify that teacher quality is just an "inside school" factor (which actually Obama did mention in the quote Perlstein uses).?? Of course we're only talking about inside school factors. Those touting teacher quality as a critical factor to student achievement are not claiming it's paramount to everything else, ever --just that it's the most important factor thus far that we've...

 

Fordham, along with Catalyst Ohio and the FDR Group, conducted a survey this past spring that measured Ohioans' attitudes on a variety of education issues (note: the sample was 1,002 randomly selected Ohio residents and was the third of its kind -??following 2005 and 2007 surveys). When asked about teacher efficacy as it relates to impacting poor students, the Fordham poll found a relatively even split among respondents. Slightly fewer Ohio residents (46 percent) identified with the statement "good teachers lead even students who are poor and have uninvolved parents to learn what they are supposed to" than the statement "It is too hard even for good teachers to overcome these barriers" (48 percent).

These survey results indicate that roughly half of Ohioans think good teachers can make a difference in student lives despite obstacles such as poverty, while the other half holds to the more traditional view that socioeconomics??has more weight??than teachers when it comes to impacting student learning.

 

Views on teacher efficacy from "Checked Out: Ohioans Views' on Education 2009" survey

 

 

* Numbers do not add to 100 due to...

Here's an interesting article about Harlem Success Academy, a??New York City charter school whose kindergarten field trip to a farm is more than a cute story about pumpkins and cows.

"The schools haul their students to a farm each year, hoping to expose them to rural life and lift their [test] scores," since questions on New York state tests often center on "livestock, crops, and other staples of the rural experience." A Harlem Success Academy teacher explains, "[the students] are good at reciting and remembering things, but they can't make the connection unless you show it to them."

For most students growing up in urban environments, state test questions that include passages about milking, plowing, cornstalks, and pumpkins are foreign and therefore more challenging, and "educators have long known that prior knowledge of a subject can significantly improve a child's performance on tests."

Though there's no way of knowing the precise impact that such field trips will have on Harlem Success students' test results, this charter school is right to emphasize the importance of content and background knowledge, especially for young readers. Such "real-world" learning might...

I'm usually not the first person to throw my hands up in response to extracurricular programming being cut from schools. If something's got to go in this economic climate, better to be athletics and arts than social studies testing or early college academy high schools.??

Still, it's disconcerting that Ohio schools districts like Reynoldsburg have no junior varsity sports programs left, in part because families can't afford the required $500 athletic fees. And South-Western schools-who have already lost athletic and extracurricular programs- are in the news again as they hinge their hopes on the upcoming November levy. Even if it passes, athletes will still have to pay $150 per sport and there are no waivers for low-income students. For Big Walnut schools, pay-to-play fees could rise to as high as $300 if voters don't pass the upcoming levy.

Why care about cuts to sports programs? I admit that as a lifelong soccer player, I lack neutrality. But more important than my bias is the fact that many student athletes spend years getting good at their sport because it provides a pathway to college. College access can broaden exponentially for student athletes, particularly those whose families...

While we at Fordham view the results of the much talked about Hoxby charter study as encouraging and a good rebuttal to charter critics, here's a reminder of the antagonism toward charters in Ohio.??

In this week's Ohio Education Gadfly, we critiqued a report that called for a "scaling back" of charters in Ohio (by Policy Matters, a union-backed organization). Namely, it made broad claims that charters get an unfair "head start" despite using kindergarten test scores that the Ohio Department of Education itself says "do NOT measure school readiness." Also, the report cited literature that charters perform worse than district schools (we pointed out that it failed to mention Hoxby's report disproving claims that charters steal the better students) and didn't distinguish between Ohio cities where charters are doing well and where they are doing poorly.

The author responded quickly to our post, arguing that higher kindergarten test scores among Ohio charter students (despite the fact that not all charters serve kindergarteners) is evidence of cream-skimming and that charters are not reaching Ohio's hardest-to-education children. He also criticizes Fordham for being an "outspoken charter advocate" and says that current charter policy in Ohio "weakens efforts...

Eric Ulas

Ohio's school district rating system has been getting criticism lately, and for good reason: the category of Continuous Improvement (a "C" rating) is so broad that it is nearly meaningless.

The graph below illustrates how many indicators were met by 79 school districts receiving a "C" on the 2008-09 state report card. Districts can meet up to 30 indicators, which are based on achievement test scores, graduation and attendance rates.

Number of performance indicators met by Ohio districts with a "C" rating, 2008-2009

Source: Ohio Department of Education

While nearly a fifth of "C" districts met barely any indicators (0-8), another four percent met nearly all of their performance indicators yet still received the same letter grade.

Confused? So are a lot of people. ??

Kettering City Schools met 29 out of 30 performance indicators while Marion City Schools met zero indicators, yet both received a "C" from the state. The reason for Kettering's low grade, as Emmy describes, is that they failed to make AYP with English language learners and special education students. Without this AYP provision in Ohio's rating system, Kettering would...

Tomorrow Duncan will deliver a speech to NASBE members on the role of the federal government in education reform.?? I agree with K-12 Politics that this part of Duncan's prepared remarks is refreshing:??

 

"I want to be a partner in your success, not the boss of it. But I'm not willing to be a silent partner who puts a stamp of approval on the status quo. I plan to be an active partner. As a nation, we need a federal voice encouraging our shared goal of success for every student and stimulating innovations to reach those goals. But I'm also mindful of this. For nearly 200 years, our federal government was a silent partner. It mostly sat on the sideline while a shameful achievement gap persisted."

Also,

 

"In cases where children are being underserved or neglected, we have a moral obligation to intervene, and we won't allow fear of over-reaching to stop us."

While the rhetoric is nothing new, the difference between Duncan and scores of others using such no-excuses language is that, well, Duncan's got a lot of money to bargain with. And, he represents an insurgence of new thinking in...

The Education Gadfly

In this week's edition Jamie evaluates a report calling for Ohio to scale back its charter school program because charters allegedly get a "head start" with kindergarteners who are more prepared for school. But the report (among other weaknesses) uses an inappropriate piece of data to measure school readiness.??

In a timely Q&A, Mike interviews Fordham board member and former Massachusetts education commissioner David Driscoll, who shares insight on the standards development process in the Bay State and lessons for Ohio.

For "Capital Matters," Emmy describes a proposed Senate bill that would make significant changes to Ohio's school rating system, particularly to safeguard those relatively high performing districts that took a hit this year.

Other features include a recap of our conference, World-Class Standards for Ohio, as well as Flypaper's Finest and a reminder to check out Fordham's latest report (whose title we love by the way) - Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Standards in 2009.

??...

Pages