Ohio Gadfly Daily

We invite you to check out our new Ohio Gadfly daily news blog posts, rounding up the most relevant education news stories from around the state and serving them up with a side of Fordham-style commentary by yours truly.

Here’s a taste of what we were commenting on last week:

  • Fordham’s Chad Aldis had the best time ever on the radio yesterday morning, talking Common Core with two knowledgeable hosts and debating with Rep. Andy Thompson and Dr. Terrence Moore with their feisty assistance. It was great fun to listen to, and the comments underneath the post on the website are insightful as well. (IdeaStream/WCPN-FM, Cleveland)
  • Lots of newspapers around the state and into West Virginia today note that the education MBR bill passed the House yesterday and is headed on to the Senate, with lots to talk about for dropout recovery, charter-school accountability, voucher programs, and all the things we love. Here is the Dispatch's take on the bill. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Speaking of dropout recovery, here is a story in the continuing series about high-school dropouts in Ohio—a very personal one about a woman from Cleveland who actually dropped out of school in seventh grade due to early reading difficulties. She is now a mother of three and has learned to read at age 30. What a great story. (WKSU-FM, Kent)
  • Budget cuts in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s 2014–15 budget have been reduced from $21M to $5M, and maximum cuts for the
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Elsewhere in this issue, I write at length about my take on last week’s event talking about Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee and what it means to students in Columbus. As you read, the mantra was “all hands on deck,” even while hosts and presenters and audience members alike betrayed a worrying language of “reading is hard” and “tests are icky” that could easily undo a ton of great work.

And it didn’t stop at the door of the event.

Case in point: the Columbus Dispatch’s coverage of this event, which comprised two subtly different stories by the same journalist.

So maybe this is just perception, or maybe I’m being too sensitive, but the messaging concerns me. This is an important effort that must succeed and must continue to succeed for year upon year....

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  1. Fascinating discussion on the first proposal of a modernized education section of Ohio's Constitution. Among the proposals, removal of that favorite sacred cow: “thorough and efficient system”. Let the fireworks begin! (Gongwer Ohio)
  2. Yesterday’s clip barrage failed to note specifically that the "loophole" exempting students using vouchers from the provisions of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee  would be closed if the House-passed education MBR bill remains unchanged in the Senate. Most of the big players are singing from the same hymnal on this one, so expect it to go through. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. In what is likely a sign of things to come in Columbus, the Dispatch today reports on some identified data scrubbers in other districts – including two superintendents – who will lose their licenses forever over their part in data tampering. (Columbus Dispatch)
  4. This is interesting: discussion of PARCC field testing in a Bowling Green-area vocational school. Technology was not a problem, difficulty of the test was remarked upon by kids and adults alike, the potential “hammering” of students with testing next year was remarked upon only by adults. (Bowling Green Sentinel Tribune)
  5. Community Learning Center advocates have descended on Cincinnati this week, discussing best practices to help schools fully support the students and families they serve. Yesterday’s guest commentary in
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  1. In case you missed it yesterday, Fordham’s Chad Aldis had the best time ever on the radio yesterday morning, talking Common Core with two knowledgeable hosts and debating with Rep. Andy Thompson and Dr. Terrence Moore with their feisty assistance. Great fun to listen to. The comments underneath the post on the website are insightful as well. (IdeaStream/WCPN-FM, Cleveland)
  2. Lots of newspapers around the state and into West Virginia today note that the education MBR bill passed the House yesterday. On to the Senate, with lots to talk about for dropout recovery, charter school accountability, voucher programs, and all the things we love. Here is the Dispatch's take on the bill. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Speaking of dropout recovery, here is a story in the continuing series about high school dropouts in Ohio – a very personal one about a woman from Cleveland who actually dropped out of school in 7th grade due to early reading difficulties. She is now a mother of 3 and has learned to read at age 30. Wow. Great story. (WKSU-FM, Kent)
  4. So Aaron and I attended an event yesterday on the topic of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee and what it means to students in Columbus. While the awesome Andy Boy from USN was there and was recognized, the focus was on what Columbus City Schools and the Columbus Library were
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The proposal of a few members of the state legislature to increase the transparency around charter schools is a fine idea. But their allegation that charters “waste” public funds—apparently without acknowledging the infirmity of Ohio’s urban districts—is shameful discourse that conceals the woeful facts about public schools in urban areas, where most charters reside.

Consider the Columbus Dispatch’s report of what two lawmakers had to say about charters.

The lawmakers say increased scrutiny of spending is needed because 87 percent of charters received a D or F on recent state report cards.

“These changes are urgently needed to ensure that our school children receive the education they deserve and that tax dollars are not wasted,” Schiavoni said.

Carney noted that after excluding dropout recovery and special-needs charter schools – which many agree should not be held to the same standard – nearly $500 million went to failing charters last year.

Granted, $500 million per year is a large amount of public funds and again, let me be clear, charter schools must show a return on that public investment. But why don’t we put this figure into perspective, in light of what we know about Ohio’s large urban districts?

The table below displays the performance index rating (student achievement), the value-added rating (a school or district’s contribution to learning), and the amount of state revenue provided for Ohio’s “Urban Eight” school districts. As you’ll note, state spending on Cleveland and Columbus school districts alone exceeds $500...

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  1. A group of lawmakers pledged yesterday to introduce legislation to require what they say will be more transparency and accountability for operators and sponsors of charter schools. This was, of course, covered all over the state. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was quoted on the topic by the Dispatch. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Chad was not included in reports on the announcement in Cleveland (Plain Dealer) or in Akron. (Beacon Journal)
  3. Here’s the first of two stories from Zanesville about the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. The first one discusses the results of the first test last fall in several local districts, along with discussion of what is being done to help those students who did not pass. Says Zanesville’s Title 1 coordinator: “I never have a problem with accountability. I don’t feel any panic or trepidation toward the test at all.” Nice. (Zanesville Times Recorder)
  4. And, if it’s so good for traditional district and charter school students, the provisions of the TGRG should apply to voucher students at private schools as well. (Zanesville Times Recorder)
  5. Tussles over public schools wanting to hold graduation ceremonies in church buildings are not new in Ohio. Here’s a new one from Toledo that involves a statewide virtual school and a nationwide organization who is weighing
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  1. Last week, you no doubt heard that the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving White Hat, a large and well-known charter school management company, and 10 of its former managee schools over the issue of just who owns the assets of a charter school should it seek to disengage from its management contract. It’s a complex question with a lot at stake based on the final ruling – not just for charter school contracts but potentially for contract law writ large across the state. Fordham’s Chad Aldis spelled it out succinctly in an interview for Kent State’s public radio station.  It is important to note that Chad’s participation in this piece comes as a direct result of the Sunshine Week assault on White Hat by all the cub reporters overseen by the Beacon Journal’s Doug “Dog” Livingston. I guarantee that Chad’s answers were not what this particular cub was expecting. (WKSU-FM radio)
  2. It is with great pleasure that I announce on this page that Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins (DMC!) has decided to break the city council’s tie vote in favor of Horizon Science Academy's application for a use permit that would allow them to purchase the Toledo YMCA building  – after more than six months of work/delay/debate/votes – to move and expand the school. It is with even more pleasure that this is the on-the-record reason why Mr. Collins decided the way he
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Welcome to Ohio Education News, a new daily roundup of stories from news outlets across Ohio in blog form from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Hopefully delivered with just a little bit of Fordham-style commentary.

Comments welcome below.

  1. Editors in Columbus opine on charter school accountability, referencing the recent stories and editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal. And, really, who can blame them? (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. “We’ll go immediately into recruitment and identification of the students,” said Toledo Schools’ superintendent Romules Durant, speaking about Pathway to Prosperity, a local effort to make students career-ready through rigorous academic and career-focused curriculum, which received a competitive federal grant of nearly $4 million last week. Toledo is the only Ohio recipient of these funds. Don’t know whether this bodes well or ill for TPS’ Head Start grant, on which much is still hanging. (Toledo Blade)
  3. The first ever year-round high schools may be on the way in Cleveland. Can’t believe it’s taken this long to get there. Even Columbus has had them for several years, even down to the elementary level. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  4. The Vindy reports on Ohio's new teacher evaluation protocols, with some interesting input from the Mahoning County ESC, just as efforts are ramping up in the legislature to change it. Stay tuned! (Youngstown Vindicator)
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School boards matter. Indeed, in Fordham’s new report Do School Boards Matter?  researchers found that knowledgeable, hard-working boards that prioritize student achievement govern higher-performing districts. Perhaps this is no surprise, particularly given the wide-ranging authority of boards. In Ohio, school boards’ statutory powers include prescribing curriculum, appointing a treasurer and superintendent, creating a school schedule, and entering into labor contracts with teachers. Meanwhile, we in Columbus have painfully observed what happens when a school board fails to exercise diligent oversight.

School boards, then, can be potent entities (or dismally impotent ones). But does anyone care about them?

To dig into this question, I look at the November 2013 school-board elections for Franklin County. The county has a nice mix of districts, including one big-city district (Columbus) and a number of both high- and low-wealth suburban districts. I look at three data points: The number of contested seats, voter turnout rates, and “undervotes” among those who actually went to the polls. This slice of data portrays a general air of apathy among the electorate toward school boards.

First, when it comes to competition for seats, many of the seats went uncontested. Remarkably, there were just seventy-two candidates vying for fifty board seats across Franklin County—less than two candidates per open seat. In fact, five of the seventeen school districts had entirely uncontested races (the number of candidates equaled the number of open seats). If you ran for office in those districts, you automatically...

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In the waning days of 2013, I highlighted five big issues to keep an eye on in 2014. Ohio’s new teacher-evaluation system was number two on the list. In terms of predictions mine was anything but bold; after all, this is the first school year that the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) has been implemented. Any new system, especially one as important and controversial as OTES, is going to make headlines.

Last fall, Senator Randy Gardner introduced legislation (Senate Bill 229) to make minor modifications to the evaluation system. Most notably, he proposed reducing from 50 to 35 percent the amount of a teacher’s performance evaluation that is based on student achievement and lengthening the time between evaluations to three years for many teachers. The bill sailed through the Senate in less than a month, but it stalled in the House Education Committee until recently.

The House last week unveiled a substitute bill (legislative comparison document) that clarifies some ambiguities in the law and offers helpful tweaks. Other modifications are more substantive and could help school leaders to more accurately determine a teacher’s performance level. The most substantial among the House’s proposed changes include the following:

  • Incorporate student surveys into teacher ratings. Borrowing from the recent Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study sponsored by the Gates Foundation, it would allow (not require) school districts to use student surveys as 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation and would reduce the emphasis on the teacher-observation
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