Ohio Gadfly Daily

A recent press release from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) estimated that 920,007 students are currently on a waitlist to attend charter schools, a jump from the previous year’s 610,000. For some education reformers, this may be a great statistic because it indicates charter schools are taking a more prominent role in education. For others, this same statistic may be absolutely terrifying.

As more charter schools open to meet this demand, students will have a greater potential to be exposed to innovative and rigorous approaches to education. Conversely, a greater demand for a charter school education also runs the risk of having a large number of charters open that disregard the quality of the educational services they provide. In an ideal world, sponsors would sort through charter school applicants to pick out potential high flyers, but news stories about mismanagement and the poor academic performance of some charter schools has shown that sponsors can fail in outlining rigorous criteria for the charter application and renewal process.

As we see a growth in charter schools applicants and a failure in approving high flyers, what are city leaders and legislators to do?

Columbus’s Mayor Michael B. Coleman, has decided to tackle this problem, becoming only the second mayor to sponsor charter schools in the country.  Gathering support through the legislature, House Bill 167, if signed by Governor Kasich, would allow the mayor to create a sponsorship office that is responsible for new start-up charter schools...

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Last week, I was preparing for an upcoming adventurous Alaskan vacation that included thoughts of my wife and me, peacefully floating by dangerous summer artic icebergs, when those mental images were suddenly dashed as I opened up my local newspaper.  The Cincinnati Enquirer reported dubious spending activities by the superintendent of the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA) and the contracted treasurer who was approving them. 

Both the school director and the treasurer face twenty six counts of theft in office, unauthorized use of property, tampering with evidence and tampering with records.  The amount in question exceeds $350,000, and focuses on credit card transactions over the course of a few years that covered lavish trips to Europe, Las Vegas, day spas, an Oprah show in Boston, and so on, under the guise of legitimate business expenses.

The Enquirer also made reference to three other charter school treasurers who were found by State Auditor Dave Yost, to be responsible for more than $1 million in questionable, and possibly illegal, spending of public dollars.  All three were involved in the finances of some of Ohio’s most troubled charter schools.  

As Fordham’s charter school finance expert on the ground in Ohio for our authorizing operation, the chilling effect of these activities will be remembered, as the thoughts of “why” and “how” immediately followed.  What should have been in place that, at a minimum, could have averted such avarice from happening?

As with all organizations, including charter schools, the first place to always look...

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Gov. John Kasich

*The commentary below was sent to us and other organizations by the Deputy Press Secretary of the Office of Ohio Governor John Kasich.*

The freedom to pursue our dreams and a better future for ourselves and our children is part of what makes America great.  Remembering how Ohio’s longstanding commitment to educational choices for families puts this freedom into practice is something worth celebrating this Fourth of July. 

Public schools, private schools, parochial school, charter schools, homeschooling, online schools, and vouchers to attend non-public schools are some of the education options that families and students have at their disposal in Ohio.  There is no one-size-fits-all answer in education and Ohio’s array of education options gives families the freedom to find the school setting that aligns best with their values and their children’s needs.

I strongly support this freedom of choice in education and have worked to expand families’ education choices.  In my first budget we made it possible for more families to benefit from school choice options and, working with the General Assembly, I’m proud to report that Ohio is adding to these choices in the new two-year budget that I just signed into law.

Education choices are especially important for low-income families who often find themselves trapped in failing schools.  That’s not fair.  Good schools aren’t just for the wealthy.  We have to make sure that every child has a chance to achieve, regardless of where they live, which is why families under 200 percent of poverty now will...

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*Sarah Pechan is Senior Director of Programs for School Choice Ohio*

Ohio is the newest state with an income-based scholarship, joining Indiana, Washington DC, and Wisconsin.

On Sunday, June 30, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the nation’s newest school choice program into law: a state-sponsored private school scholarship for students starting kindergarten this fall whose family income falls at or below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

This is the state’s fifth school voucher program joining the EdChoice (eligibility based on school performance), Cleveland Scholarship, (for students who would otherwise attend Cleveland Metropolitan School District), and the Jon Peterson and Autism scholarship programs (both for students with special needs).

Parent demand

For many years, parents have been clamoring for an income-based scholarship. Just because they couldn’t afford a better education, they said, didn’t mean that their kids should be stuck in an environment that wasn’t high quality or wasn’t a good fit for them. They recognized the importance of education and knew that they needed to have more, not fewer, doors open to them.

So parents met with their elected representatives and senators in Columbus on advocacy days, spoke at and attended rallies in torrential downpours, sent personal letters and postcards, came to the Statehouse to testify before legislative committees, and made hundreds of phone calls. Parents shared their powerful personal stories:

-Barb: “I wish I had a choice in the education of my children. My children’s school is not the environment that...

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The Dayton Public Schools, like so many other urban districts, has been in a state of decline. The district enrolls about 13,700 students; less than a fourth of the system’s peak (1965) enrollment, and down from 25,000 students in 2000. As the district has shrunk student achievement has languished. A majority of the district’s students (53 percent) attended a school building rated academic watch (D) or academic emergency (F) in 2011-12.

The numbers don’t lie and very few familiar with the district’s travails would deny it has long struggled to deliver the quality of education the city’s children need; 94 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged. There are many reasons behind the district’s struggles, but one thing is certain. For the district to improve academically it must have a high quality teaching force. . We know from researchers like the Stanford economist Eric Hanushek that “having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background.”

Teachers matter greatly, especially those teaching our neediest students. It is in recognition of this fact that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Learn to Earn Dayton teamed up with the Dayton Public Schools to request a review of the district’s teacher policies and practices. No organization does this work better than the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), and their in-depth study Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in Dayton offers powerful advice on how the district can improve its teaching force.

Among...

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The definition of K-12 academic rigor is “students demonstrate a thorough, in-depth mastery of challenging and complex curricular concepts. In every subject, at every grade level, instruction and learning must include commitment to a knowledge core and the application of that knowledge core to solve complex real-world problems", according to the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina. Rigor applies to both teachers and students, and that is right.

Ohio’s Department of Education talks a lot about academic rigor in the K-12 continuum, but does not define it on its own. The Common Core State Standards are an effort to raise the floor on student achievement, which we heartily support. But what about raising the ceiling?

One longstanding avenue for setting a high bar for students is found in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. While AP is not perhaps the holy grail for everyone, and perhaps it doesn’t fully live up to its own hype, it is seen by many as a way to introduce high expectations for students, to better prepare high school students for the first year of college, and especially to offer rigor where otherwise none would exist. It is also seen as a way to address concerns about high levels of college remediation, which is becoming a crisis which affects not only success in college but also growing levels of student debt for many of those who do succeed.

But as is...

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The Ohio Senate passed legislation (House Bill 167) last week that enables Columbus’ mayor to authorize charter schools. The reform legislation was introduced in response to a cheating scandal that has brought Columbus City Schools to its knees. When Governor Kasich signs the bill into law—we expect he will—Columbus will be one of two cities in America (Indianapolis being the other) that directly empowers the mayor to authorize charter schools.  

The reform legislation has one other major component, in addition to the mayoral authorization of charters. The Columbus City Schools school board will be required to place a levy on the ballot, which will require that the district share the revenue with partnering charter schools. If passed, this could be a considerable boost for Columbus’ charters, who until now have had no access to local revenue. (Cleveland Metropolitan School District is the only other school district in Ohio that is required by law to share local revenue with charter schools.)

As Columbus’ mayor acquires a portfolio of charter schools to authorize, and as he and the district prepare a levy for the November elections, let us suggest that these leaders be choosy about which charter schools they partner with. For it has become nearly axiomatic that cities around the nation and in Ohio have a fair share of both dreadful and fantastic charter schools.

Columbus is no exception. To show the variation in charter school quality, consider the chart below that shows the academic performance of Columbus’...

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Simply put, girls are outperforming boys in nearly every test-subject-grade combination of Ohio’s standardized achievement tests. The table below shows that on 105 out of 145 comparisons of boys’ and girls’ proficiency rates, girls perform better. The data are sorted to compare proficiency rates (or, "pass" rates) by race, thus comparing, for example, Asian males to Asian females, Black males to Black females, et cetera.

The cells shaded in red indicate that girls outperform boys. The cells shaded in blue indicate that boys outperform girls. Darker shading indicates a greater gender difference.

We observe a whole lot of red (girls doing better), and not a lot of blue (boys doing better).

The gender gap is especially substantial in reading and writing. For example, girls' proficiency rates are 4.9 to 11.4 percentage points higher in 5th grade reading depending on race. In 10th grade writing, girls' proficiency rates are 5.1 to 14.0 percentage points higher.

Girls outperform boys: Percentage point difference in proficiency rates for girls and boys on Ohio’s standardized tests, by race - 2011-12



SOURCE: Ohio Department of Education NOTE: Differences are shown in relation to girls’ proficiency rates (e.g., 6.9 indicates that girls’ proficiency rate is 6.9 percentage points higher than boys’). ODE reports proficiency rates greater than 95 percent as “>95”; in these cases (n=11, and all occur in...

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For most of Ohio’s youngsters, school’s out for the summer. But for the girls and boys who have dropped out of school, school may be out for good, with devastating consequences.

In its annual “Diplomas Count” report, Education Week claims that around a million students drop out of school annually. Not surprisingly, these dropouts’ prospects are bleak: diminished earnings potential, greater likelihood of unemployment, and greater likelihood of incarceration. In addition to these jarring facts, EdWeek’s interactive graphic soberingly depicts the journey from “student” to “dropout,” and how dropping out has effects that linger for a lifetime.

The report also provides a handful of examples of states and localities, which have implemented dropout intervention and recovery programs. Ohio is one such state. Since 2011, the Buckeye State has encouraged, through state law, the growth of charter schools that serve mainly students who have either dropped out of school at one point, or are at-risk of dropping out. These “dropout recovery” charter schools, of which there were seventy six in 2012-13, enroll approximately 12,500 students statewide.

In accordance with state law, the Ohio Department of Education approves “dropout recovery” charter schools, and under legislation passed last year (House Bill 555), these schools will be held accountable for student results through an alternative report card system, starting this year.

What do we know about Ohio’s dropout recovery schools? The following statistics are taken from the Ohio Department of Education’s 2011-12 data: 

1.)    School size varies. Some are relatively...

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Large or small, urban or rural–many Ohio schools continue to experience the widespread trend of high student mobility. Students may find themselves moving between schools or districts due to the positive initiative of engaged parents choosing a higher achieving school for their children, or unfortunate events like eviction or family instability.

A panel of project partners met to discuss the findings and implications of Fordham’s student mobility study, Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools. The study examined student mobility across Ohio’s school buildings and districts between October 2009 and May 2011. The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) hosted this discussion today at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  Community Research Partners’ (the study’s lead researcher) Aaron Schill presented the findings to an audience of 100 or so researchers from around the nation.  Fordham staff member Aaron Churchill joined Ann Bischoff of KidsOhio.org and John Farley of the Education Council to discuss the findings in a moderated panel.

Panelists (from left to right): Ann Bischoff of KidsOhio.org; John Farley of the Education Council; Aaron Churchill of the Fordham Institute. Moderator: Aaron Schill of CRP

The presentation and ensuing discussion reviewed how CRP, Fordham, and other school and community leaders have used this research to inform and prompt action. The panel members took questions from the moderator and audience, regarding the motivation behind the project, some of the limitations to this research, and the implications of the research for public policy. To learn more about student mobility...

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