Moving Up: Fordham's 2011-12 Sponsorship Accountability Report

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"Moving Up" is The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation's charter school sponsorship accountability report for 2011-12. Through it, we hope to help readers understand the complexities of charter schools and better appreciate the hard work of the teachers, school leaders, and board members who serve not only the schools we sponsor but also the schools around the state and nation that are working to make a difference in the lives of children. This year's report features an in-depth look at the struggles of two Fordham-sponsored schools in Dayton; it is researched and written by former Dayton Daily News reporter and editor Ellen Belcher.

Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio's Schools

A school level anlysis of student mobility in Ohio

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Student mobility happens when kids change schools for reasons other than customary promotions. The change of schools may occur for any one of a multitude of reasons--anything from a simple change of address, to seeking out a nicer school or neighborhood, or due to family turmoil. These school changes can happen during the school year or over the summer.

This pioneering and comprehensive study investigates the phenomenon of student mobility in over 3,000 Ohio public school buildings (traditional district and charter). This is first-of-its-kind research, since as far as we know, there has never before been a statewide analysis of student mobility. In order to do this, we sorted through over 5 million student records over two school years (October 2009 to May 2011), relying on the Ohio Department of Education's database.

The result of this work is a fascinating picture of student mobility in Ohio, which we present through maps, tables, and charts. We urge you to dig into our work. You'll find in-depth analyses of mobility in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Toledo. And additional school building mobility data, presented in spreadsheet format, can be accessed through website of Community Research Partners, the study's lead researcher:

The research was made possible through the support of a diverse set of funders: Thomas B. Fordham Institute, The Siemer Institute for Family Stability, The Nord Family Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, KnowledgeWorks,, American Federation of Teachers/Ohio Federation of Teachers, School Choice Ohio, United Way of Central Ohio, United Way of Greater Toledo, and The Columbus Foundation.

Applying Systems Thinking to Improve Special Education in Ohio

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Special education is a maze of complexity, highly bureaucratic and compliance driven, often a point of contention between educators and parents, frequently litigious, and the single fastest growing portion of spending on public education. It has been largely impervious to change or improvement efforts. Worse, despite the spending children in special education programs are not making gains academically. 

Can special education be done better while controlling its growth? This is the question we posed to Nathan Levenson, one of the country’s leading thinkers on doing more with fewer resources in special education and whose District Management Council has done extensive work with local school districts here in the Buckeye State.

The result is a thought-provoking policy paper, Applying Systems Thinking to Improve Special Education in Ohio. In it, Levenson suggests three major opportunities, along with concrete examples, for making special education more efficient and better for Ohio’s students.

Future Shock: Early Common Core implementation lessons from Ohio

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has long advocated for high quality academic content standards nationally- and in our home state of Ohio. The Buckeye State committed itself to adopting more rigorous academic content standards in 2010: Ohio is one of 45 states and the District of Columbia that has adopted the Common Core standards in math and English language arts, and will implement them by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

With the 2014-15 Common-Core transition looming, we wondered: How are Ohio’s educators preparing themselves for this big change? Who is doing this work and what can other schools and districts learn from the early adopters? What are lessons, hopes, and fears facing those on the frontlines who have to lead Ohio’s embrace of significantly more rigorous academic standards?

To answer these questions and more, we enlisted Ellen Belcher—former editorial page editor of the Dayton Daily News—to interview educators from select school districts, county educational service center, and charter schools. Their stories are the basis of this report. Belcher’s findings are largely encouraging and educators are not shying away from embracing the rigor of the Common Core.

Checked Out: Ohioans' Views on Education 2009

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Governor Ted Strickland and state legislators are seriously debating the future of the Buckeye State's public education system--and much of that debate has grown more partisan than is probably healthy for the state and its children. Much of it also centers on money.

But what do Ohio's voters, taxpayers, and parents think about these and kindred issues? How do they view public schooling in 2009? Are they eager for reforms or generally content with things the way they are? Which changes do they favor? How confident are they that reforms will succeed? Indeed, how aware are they of the serious debates now swirling around the future of Ohio education?

In partnership with the independent education journal Catalyst Ohio  (see here), we resolved to find out, and enlisted the expert help of the nonpartisan FDR Group (see here), a respected survey research firm led by veteran public opinion analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett. The result is Checked Out: Ohioans' Views on Education 2009. This is the third such survey that we at Fordham have undertaken since 2005 on education issues in the Buckeye State. This makes it possible to track some key trends in public opinion over time.


Fwd: How Are Dayton's Charter Schools Doing?

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This edition of Fwd summarizes Ohio state report card data for Dayton public schools district and charter. Two major conclusions leap from these data. First, despite some recent gains, the phrase academic emergency continues to characterize the majority of Dayton's public schools. Second, youngsters in Dayton's charter schools outperformed their district peers in all parts of the 4th and 6th grade proficiency tests. This important finding flies in the face of recent assertions that charter school students are learning less.

2010-11 Ohio Report Card Analysis

Student achievement in Ohio's "Big 8" district & charter schools

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In 2010-11, 40 percent of public school students (enrolled in both district and charter schools) in Ohio's eight major urban areas attended a school rated D or F by the state. This is an improvement from the previous year, when 47 percent of students attended such schools.

The percent of students attending schools rated A or B has remained roughly the same. However, the percent of students in these cities attending a school that has met or exceeded "expected growth" (according to Ohio's value-added metric) has risen significantly, from 67 percent in 2009-10 to 78 percent in 2010-11.

City by City Analyses:

    Yearning to Break Free

    Ohio Superintendents Speak Out

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    This important survey of Ohio school leaders shows a growing disconnect of opinion between the people who teach in our public schools and those who lead them. While many teachers and other school employees resist changes to collective bargaining laws and education reform measures, superintendents recognize the need for such changes and in fact are hungry for them.

    Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak Out is the result of a statewide survey of Ohio district superintendents and other education leaders on the most critical issues facing K-12 education in the Buckeye State in 2011, including budgets, school effectiveness, and laws that make schools harder to manage.  The survey was conducted by the respected, nonpartisan public opinion research firm, FDR Group, and commissioned and underwritten by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The findings come as policy makers struggle to solve the state’s massive budget deficit while ramping up pupil achievement.

    2009-10 Ohio Report Card Analysis

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    Each year the Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducts an analysis of urban school performance in Ohio. We found that in 2009-10, 26 percent of public school students (district and charter) in Ohio's Big 8 urban communities attended a school rated A or B by the state, 28 percent attend a C-rated school, and 47 percent attended a school rated D or F.

    In partnership with Public Impact, we analyzed the 2009-10 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities:

    Ohio Urban School Performance Report, 2009-10

    Ohio Education Gadfly: Special Edition (our coverage of 2009-10 data)

    We also conducted city-specific analyses:

    Note: The pdf for Dayton's performance has been updated as of September 1, 2010. The old version had an error in Table 1 - the list of charter and district schools in the city, and has since been corrected.

    Needles in a Haystack

    Lessons from Ohio's high-performing, high-need urban schools

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    The schools that serve Ohio’s poor, urban and minority youngsters overwhelmingly fall short when it comes to academic performance. But there are a small handful of schools that buck these bleak trends and show serious achievement for disadvantaged youngsters from depressed inner-city communities.

    This study profiles eight of these high-performing outlier schools and distills their successes, in hopes that state policymakers and educators can learn from them and create the conditions necessary for more schools like them.

    To study the schools, Fordham commissioned two reseachers, Theodore J. Wallace and Quentin Suffren, who spent 16 days and hundreds of hours in eight schools in five cities to observe what makes them successful.

    See the news release here. View the PowerPoint, an overview of findings and policy recommendations that we shared with state lawmakers at a Statehouse news conference on May 25, here.

    Profiles of the eight Needles schools

    Citizens' Academy (video)

    College Hill Fundamental Academy (video)

    Duxberry Park Arts IMPACT Alternative Elementary School

    Horizon Science Academy - Cleveland Middle School (video)

    King Elementary School (video)

    Louisa May Alcott Elementary School (video)

    McGregor Elementary School (video)

    Valleyview Elementary School (video)

    In the Media

    June 23, 2010
    The Canton Repository
    June 24, 2010
    Cincinnati Public Schools