Remodeled Report Cards, Remaining Challenges

A sea of changes in education policy have begun to affect classrooms across Ohio. Schools are implementing the Common Core, the state has overhauled teacher- and principal-evaluation systems, new assessments will undergo field-testing this year, schools are scrambling to comply with the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee and to address the accompanying staffing issues, and the first portion of Ohio’s new statewide accountability system has been phased in with the release of the completely overhauled 2012–13 school and district report cards.

We at Fordham recently analyzed student achievement statewide and in Ohio’s eight largest urban cities in Parsing Performance: Analysis of Ohio’s New School Report Cards. In the interests of transparency and accountability, we reported in our annual sponsorship report how our own portfolio of sponsored schools fared under the new academic performance requirements.

Prior to delving into our results, allow us to refresh your memory on the new system and its implementation timeline. Schools were graded on a set of components for 2012–13 and will be assessed against additional components in 2013–14, still more in 2014–15, and all components when the system is fully implemented in 2015–16. Although schools will be graded on component parts of the report card in 2012–13 and beyond, schools will not receive an overall rating (i.e., the sum of the components) until 2014–15, at which time each building will be assigned an A to F grade for overall performance.

Graph I, below, details the performance of Fordham’s sponsored schools under two key components of the system: the performance index (which measures achievement in tested subjects) and value added (which measures progress over time). Our sponsored schools’ performance is benchmarked against the average performance of the top-five charter schools in the state, the average performance of the top-five high-poverty charters, and the statewide (district and charter) average.

As Graph I shows, Columbus Collegiate Academy–Main led Fordham’s group of schools with respect to student achievement (a performance index score of 93.3), and it had a strong impact on student-learning progress (an A rating on value added). That said, CCA-Main’s student-achievement was still below the statewide average performance-index score (including those of all public, district, and charter schools) and below the performance-index scores of Ohio’s highest-performing charter schools. Sciotoville Elementary was among the highest performing of Fordham’s schools, with respect to student achievement (a performance-index score of 93.3), but its impact on student-learning progress (a C rating on value added) was weaker than that of CCA-West, KIPP, Phoenix, and Dayton Liberty—all schools whose student-achievement levels were lower than Sciotoville Elementary. Springfield Academy of Excellence (SAE) and Dayton View were the laggards among Fordham’s charter schools, with performance-index scores that were among the lowest in the state. Meanwhile, both schools also received F ratings on value added, indicating that both schools had a weak impact on student progress over time. Please see the publication for more details on school performance.

Growth, challenges, and looking forward

Fordham is a statewide authorizer, and in 2012–13, Fordham sponsored (i.e., authorized) eleven public charter schools, serving approximately 2,700 students in six Ohio cities. We fully expect the number of new schools and students served to grow in the coming years, as we sponsor additional schools and diversify the types of school models within our portfolio.

We’re excited to report that two high-performing operations, United Schools Network (USN) and KIPP Columbus, are expanding. USN, a nonprofit charter-management organization that serves Columbus Collegiate Academy–Main and Columbus Collegiate Academy–West, is headed by Columbus Collegiate founder Andrew Boy and was awarded an $800,000 Excellent Schools Network Inflexion grant in 2012–13 to grow the network to four schools. In addition to Main and West, USN will open United Preparatory Academy—the network’s first elementary school—in Fall 2014. United Preparatory Academy will be located in Columbus, will be led by veteran Columbus Collegiate educator Ben Pacht, and will serve grades K–5. The Inflexion grant will help seed a second elementary school, which is planned for 2015. The principals of the USN schools have all come from within the school system and have undergone extensive leadership training. John A. Dues is the School Director for Columbus Collegiate Academy–Main, and Kathryn Anstaett is the School Director at Columbus Collegiate Academy–West.

KIPP Columbus is also expanding: It has broken ground on a new campus for KIPP: Journey Academy that will open to students in Fall 2014. The campus will be located on the former Bridgeview Golf Course on Agler Road and will feature playgrounds, athletic fields, and a 145,000-square-foot school building. By 2021, the school will offer grades K–12 and will serve approximately 2,000 students. Like USN, senior leadership for the expansion has been recruited and trained from within. Along with KIPP: Journey Academy school director Dustin Wood, Fisher fellow Aaron Epting and Journey Academy assistant school leader Alex Thanos will play key roles in the growth of the elementary- and middle-school programs, respectively. KIPP Columbus executive director Hannah Powell Tuney is leading the expansion.

DECA Prep (located in Dayton and sister school to the nationally recognized Dayton Early College Academy) and Village Preparatory School :: Woodland Hills Campus (located in Cleveland and part of the nationally recognized Breakthrough Schools network) completed their first years in 2012–13. DECA Prep opened with grades K–2 and 6; Village Prep :: Woodland Hills opened with grades K–2. Both schools will add one grade this year and one in 2014–15, when they will both reach full capacity.

We are also looking forward to diversifying our sponsorship portfolio with the addition of the Early Career Academy. The school, approved during our most recent application cycle, will open in Columbus in 2014 and will offer eleventh and twelfth graders a diploma and college credit or an associate’s degree in Network Systems Administration. The school will be managed by Educational Services, Inc. (ESI), which is affiliated with ITT Technical Institute, and the Early Career Academy will be housed on ITT’s Columbus campus.

Three of our sponsored schools—the lowest performing, academically—continue to face challenges. In our 2011–12 annual report, we covered the struggles of Dayton View and Dayton Liberty as they disengaged from a management company and began implementing a locally led effort to fix a broken school culture, halt declining enrollment, and significantly improve students’ academic performance. Last year saw some bright spots—namely, an A grade in value added for Dayton Liberty and an end to the decline in enrollment. The governing authority, Alliance Community Schools, made the decision to consolidate the operations of the two schools and focus all available resources on Dayton View (the newer and better equipped of the two facilities) to improve student achievement. Over two-thirds of the Dayton Liberty families and almost all of the staff made the move to Dayton View, and the school opened in August with 460 students in grades K–8 and an instructional staff of twenty five, eleven of whom are Teach For America corps members. The 2013–14 school year is a critical one for Dayton View.

Unfortunately, we must report that the Springfield Academy of Excellence also struggled in 2012–13. As set forth above, the school’s academic performance was poor in both proficiency and value added and—almost every school in Springfield, be it charter or district, bested it in performance.

Conclusion

While progress from a policy standpoint has been made since Ohio’s charter law was enacted in 1997, it’s clear that more needs to be done. Moving forward, our focus should not be on whether a school is a charter or district school—they’re all public schools, after all. Rather, we ought to focus on what policies and resources are needed to support high-performing schools throughout the state that are doing an excellent job serving children with the highest levels of need.

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