Ohio Gadfly Daily

The time for standing by and hoping that Ohio’s lowest-performing charter schools will improve on their own is over. As a strong supporter of charter schools, my resolution this year is to seize the promise of change that accompanies a new year and resolutely champion the effort to improve the quality of the charter sector.

While I am committed to raising the performance of our state’s charter schools, I also know that undertaking such an effort sans allies likely leads to failure. But timing is everything—and luckily, I believe that now is the right time for all of Ohio’s charter advocates to take up the fight for quality charter schools.

The problem

Charter schools have been operating in Ohio for well over a decade, and their performance can be most accurately described as mixed. There have been some resounding successes, such as the Breakthrough Network in Cleveland, Columbus Preparatory Academy, and Columbus Collegiate Academy. These schools, and dozens other like them, highlight the great potential of charter schools to change the educational trajectory of our most at-risk students. Yet there are other charter schools that have struggled mightily, as documented by a series of newspaper stories and editorials. In our most recent review of Ohio charter schools’ performance, we found that urban charters performed at the same low levels as district schools—which simply isn’t good enough.

The challenges in Ohio’s charter sector have garnered national attention, as well. The Center for Education Reform aptly...

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We know that student mobility negatively impacts achievement and increases the likelihood of dropping out, not to mention the spillover effects on non-movers in high-churn schools. But can schools really do anything to curtail mobility among students? This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Rice University, seeks to answer that question by randomly assigning an intervention designed to build relationships among families and between families and school personnel. Parents are recruited into a program comprising eight weeks of gatherings after school that last two to three hours, followed by two years of monthly parent-led meetings where parents, students, and school staff have meals together, play bonding games, and engage in other family rituals. Fifty-two elementary schools in Phoenix and San Antonio—all with high proportions of Hispanic and poor children—were randomly assigned to the treatment, with half receiving the intervention and half serving as the control group. Data were collected during the students’ first- through third-grade years. In the treatment schools, 73 percent of families attended at least one gathering and half attended multiple sessions. Of those who attended at all, a third completed the full program. Analysts found that on average, attending a school with the intervention did not reduce mobility. However, there were subgroup differences; specifically, black students in the control schools were more likely to move overall, but the intervention reduced their likelihood of moving by 29 percent in intervention schools—and that percentage rose for students whose families completed the entire program. Survey...

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Nationally, dropout rates have consistently declined over the past twenty years. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s estimates, 12.1 percent of seventeen- to twenty-four-year-olds had dropped out of school in 1990, while in 2010 just 7.4 percent had dropped out. This is a demonstrably positive trend in American education. However, as this report documents, not all is well in schools’ efforts to get all their students to graduation. The researchers from the newly formed Ohio Education Research Center find that some of Ohio’s schools have massive dropout-rate problems. Using student-level data collected by the state Department of Education from 2006 to 2010, the analysts report dropout counts and rates for Ohio’s high schools, both district and charter. While the report is chock-full of data, the pieces that are most jaw dropping relate to Ohio’s virtual and “dropout-recovery” schools. For example, in 2009–10, Virtual High School, operated by Cincinnati Public Schools, had a 93 percent dropout rate (196 dropouts over the school year, relative to a baseline high school enrollment of 211) and the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) had a dropout rate of 53 percent (2,908 dropouts relative to an enrollment of 5,468). The dropout rates for Ohio’s brick-and-mortar dropout recovery schools were worse, some greater than 200 percent, meaning that these schools had more than twice the number of dropouts than their baseline enrollment. These appalling statistics should call into question the efficacy of Ohio’s virtual and dropout-recovery-school programs. Still, these statistics could be more...

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Join us on Thursday, January 30, 2014, at the Athletic Club of Columbus for the release of our revealing, in-depth look at five private schools across Ohio that accept voucher students and what that has meant for parents, students, administrators, and school culture.

Find more information by clicking here.

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  • One needs a score card to keep track of the rapid changes in the state school board’s membership. On the heels of the recent departures of Angela Thi Bennett (off to work for a charter school) and Bryan Williams (booted due to ethics issues), Jeffrey Mims—the elected board member from the Dayton area—has resigned to take the position of Dayton city commissioner. Just today, the governor’s office announced that Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings has been appointed to fill the Bennett’s seat. One down, three to go.
  • In a strongly worded editorial, the Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (in Eastern Ohio) urges the state board of education to enforce the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee law, even under pressure to weaken its provisions. Governor Kasich, the editorial board argues, should appoint members to the state board who will ensure that the Guarantee is carried out. In short, we couldn’t agree more.
  • Cross-cultural education comes to Akron: LeBron James’s alma mater, St. Vincent–St. Mary High School near Akron, offers Chinese students the opportunity to participate in an extended exchange program. According to the Akron Beacon-Journal, the exchange students live with host families for a year and enroll in the school. Hu Jin, a junior exchange student, expressed her taste for American education over Chinese education, remarking, “I don’t like Chinese education. There is so much homework and no time for activities. Here, I can try some new things.”
  • The black-white achievement gap is the topic
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The results of last November’s election are now being felt within the Columbus City Schools’ Board of Education. In yesterday’s first meeting of the year, the Board swore in and seated two new members, elected a new president and vice-president, extended the contract of Interim Superintendent Dan Good, and simultaneously removed the interim label from Good’s title.

I listened to this meeting on the radio last night, cruising around in a nice warm car waiting for my daughter to finish choir practice. I mistook it for live initially due to the copious amounts of “dead air” at which I laughed…at first.

The most important part of that meeting, I think, was the inauguration speech of freshly-sworn-in President Gary Baker. He warned us at the outset that his remarks wouldn’t be brief, as anyone who knew him could attest that he likes to talk. And talk he did. About the importance of public schools as a civic institution and as the most important aspect of democracy in any city. He noted the immense importance of the job he was about to undertake as president of the board and how excited he was to work with his board colleagues, the superintendent, and the staff of the district to make good on a promise to provide an excellent education for all the students in the district.

But, Baker said, before he could address the future he had to address the past. Specifically, the student data rigging scandal that the district still has...

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There is near consensus that teacher-preparation programs need a facelift. Last summer, the National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a withering critique of schools of education, characterizing their programs as “an industry of mediocrity.” Recently, the New York Times editorial board called America’s teacher-training system “abysmal” in comparison to other nations’ preparation programs. When Arthur Levine, former president of the Teachers College at Columbia University, studied teacher-prep programs, he found them to be a “troubled field characterized by curricular confusion, a faculty disconnected from practice, low admission and graduation standards, wide disparities in instructional quality, and weak quality control enforcement.”

Given these well-documented struggles of schools of education—with exceptions of course—you might find it hard to believe that every single teacher-prep program in Ohio, save one, received an “effective” rating from the Board of Regents.

But, let’s dig deeper into the content of the Regents’ second-annual Educator Preparation Performance Report  released this week. The report, required by state law, provides a wealth of information about Ohio’s teacher-prep programs. Here are the three key things to know about the results.

1.The teacher licensure exams: Everyone passes

An astounding 97 percent of Ohio’s teacher candidates achieved the state’s minimum score for passing their subject-matter licensure exam (Praxis II). In some content areas, the passage rate is a remarkable 100 percent. Seriously 100 percent. A closer look, however, indicates that Ohio’s “qualifying scores” are set too low—in fact, they...

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As ESEA waivers change the school-accountability landscape, charter authorizers need to take the opportunity to rethink how we too can measure school progress. Ohio, as part of its Title I waiver, moved to an “A” to “F” rating system for schools, is implementing new standards and assessments, and is providing some flexibility around various reporting requirements. Ohio has also developed a new report card for schools that reports on—among other measures—AP/IB participation rates, student growth in multiple categories, gap closing, honors diplomas, industry credentials, and graduation rates. This revamp at the federal and state levels has, in turn, compelled us at Fordham to reconsider how we structure our own accountability plans for the eleven charter schools we authorize. This tension is captured in our recent report, Remodeled Report Cards, Remaining Challenges.

As per Ohio’s new school report card, the Buckeye State now deploys and reports on a slew of academic measures, including value-added scores for gifted students, students with disabilities, low-income students, and low-performing students. All are part of state accountability. Should they also be part of charter-to-authorizer accountability? Should we hold our charter schools to account for improving their performance on every measure that the state throws into its report card? When it comes to important authorizer decisions about schools—renewing their charters, putting them on probation, or letting them add grades or additional campuses, for example—what matters more: proficiency rates or growth? What about IB and AP passing rates? Graduation rates?

Looking at our authorized...

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The achievement of Cleveland’s public school students continues to be appalling low, and the city’s students are falling even further behind their peers from other urban areas.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released city-level data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Cleveland is the only Ohio city that participates in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which reports data from twenty-one cities across the United States. NAEP--the "Nation's Report Card"--administers the assessments to a representative sample of U.S. students.

Among the cities that participated, Cleveland’s test scores placed them second-to-last, with only Detroit scoring lower. The percentage of Cleveland students who met NAEP’s proficiency standard are as follows: fourth-grade reading—9 percent; fourth-grade math—13 percent; eighth-grade reading—11 percent; eighth-grade math—9 percent. In comparison to 2011 (the last round of testing), Cleveland’s test scores were flat. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s average test scores in the four grade and subject combinations fall 30 to 37 points below Ohio’s statewide average NAEP score.

Startling also is the increasing gap between Cleveland’s test scores and those of other large cities. Consider the “Average Scores for District and Large Cities” trend charts (available here, here, here, and here and reproduced below). As one can see the achievement data (and the trend) for Cleveland’s students are grim, bleak, and unacceptable—and are yet another stark reminder that Cleveland’s bold education reforms, which have just begun, must be vigorously implemented and with all due haste.

Increasing gap between Cleveland achievement and...

  • Fall results on the state’s third-grade reading assessments provide a grim picture of student achievement and predict that thousands of children may be retained under the state’s new “reading guarantee” law.
  • The Ohio Department of Education reported a record-breaking year for enrollment in the state’s voucher programs. Over 31,000 students were awarded a publicly funded voucher to attend a private school for the 2013-14 school year.
  • Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) first year of allowing for open enrollment has gotten off to a strong start. CPS reports that it has “recruited several hundred students” from outside their district to attend a CPS school this fall.
  • Labor unions’ “Day of Action” spurs Cincinnati Public Schools school board to approve a “Resolution Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education,” but not all are on board with big labor’s principles.

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