Archives for category: Ohio

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio helped to create an excellent website that allows anyone to review and compare data about charter schools and public schools in Ohio. All the data comes from public sources. Know Your Charter is a product of Innovation Ohio and the. Ohio Education Association.

 

“When we started http://www.KnowYourCharter.com, some criticized us for only posting district and charter school data. They said the only “fair” comparison (even though it is districts that lose money from the charter school funding system, not schools) was to look at building-to-building data. We chose to look at district-level data first because it is districts, not individual schools in them, that lose money to charters.

 

“Well, today we posted the building data as well. So now it is possible to compare every Ohio school building — district or charter — with each other, as well as districts. This adds to the comparative data available at Know Your Charter. Including the building level data increases by 17 the number of data points now available for the public to compare. Adding those 17 points to the 26 from the original site and there are now 43 data points for comparing districts, schools and charters.

 

“Can we finally stop claiming Know Your Charter isn’t fair? Everything is there for all to see. And what you’ll see is that urban buildings more than hold their own with charter schools overall — outperforming them on proficiency tests while having higher levels of poverty. You’ll also see that less than 10% of charter school children are in buildings that outperform urban districts. Overall, urban buildings do better than charters, with a few exceptions in Cleveland and other places.

 

“The time has come to stop debating whether the Ohio charter school program is working. It clearly isn’t in the vast majority of cases. It’s up to the state to figure out how to make it work better for the kids in the charters without unduly hampering the educational opportunities for the 90% of Ohio children in local public schools.”

Did you know that charter authorizers in many states are paid a fee for every student who enrolls in a charter they oversee? Did you know this fee removes any incentive to demand accountability?

This article shows how fraught with self-dealing, conflicts, and indifference many of these relationships between authorizers and charters are. It is a wild, wild world out there.

Consider this:

“Nestled in the woods of central Minnesota, near a large lake, is a nature sanctuary called the Audubon Center of the North Woods. The nonprofit rehabilitates birds. It hosts retreats and conferences. It’s home to a North American porcupine named Spike as well as several birds of prey, frogs, and snakes used to educate the center’s visitors.

“It’s also Minnesota’s largest regulator of charter schools, overseeing 32 of them.. ”

“Many of these gatekeepers are woefully inexperienced, under-resourced, confused about their mission or even compromised by conflicts of interest. And while some charter schools are overseen by state education agencies or school districts, others are regulated by entities for which overseeing charters is a side job, such as private colleges and nonprofits like the Audubon wildlife rehabilitation center…..”

“In 2010, an investigation by the Philadelphia Controller’s Office found lavish executive salaries, conflicts of interest and other problems at more than a dozen charter schools, and it faulted the authorizer – the School District of Philadelphia’s charter school office – for “complete and total failure” to monitor schools. In 2013, more than a dozen Ohio charter schools that had gained approval from various authorizers received state funding and then either collapsed in short order or never opened at all. [That hasn’t stopped Philadelphia from opening more charters.]

“Considerable state funds were lost and many lives impacted because of these failures,” the Ohio Department of Education wrote in a scathing letter last year to Ohio’s charter-school regulators. The agency wrote that some authorizers “lacked not only the appropriate processes, but more importantly, the commitment of mission, expertise and resources needed to be effective….

“It’s not just Trine. In the esoteric world of charter authorizing, there’s long been confusion and tension over the basic role of authorizers. Are they charter-school watchdogs, or are they there to provide support?

“In Ohio, many charter authorizers fall on the “support” end of the spectrum. Some go so far that they sell “support services” – back-office services, for instance, or even professional development – to the very schools they regulate. It’s a way for these groups to make additional revenue on top of the fees they’re allowed to charge the schools.”

This statement appeared on the blog of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition. I gladly add Tom Dunn to the honor roll for speaking out when the state is going in the wrong direction.

Another superintendent distressed by Ohio’s testing rage

Tom Dunn’s column in the February 22 The Troy Daily News should be requires reading for state officials.

How much of a bad thing is a good thing?

by Tom Dunn
Contributing Columnist

I have long contended that there hasn’t been an intelligent discussion held about public education in the Ohio legislature in years, and I have written more than fifty articles highlighting the many indefensible mandates lawmakers have enacted proving that to be true.

The recent hearings held by the Senate Education Committee on whether or not schools are testing their students too much (we are) and what to do about it is a perfect illustration of just how worthless political dialogue is. If their discussions weren’t so tragic they would be comical.

Before I go any further, let me say that there is no debating that properly used student assessments, otherwise known as tests, are a staple in an excellent classroom. Assessments, particularly those implemented in a way that provides immediate feedback, can help drive instruction, because the results can clearly show the teacher what his or her students know and don’t know. That teacher can then use this information to develop follow-up lessons to address those weaknesses … and kids actually learn what they didn’t know before.

There is also no debating that there are too many state-mandated tests, that the results from these tests are constantly used inappropriately, that the results, even if meaningful, are so long in coming back to schools that they lose their worth, and that this inappropriate use is dictated by lawmakers who apparently don’t know the first thing about how students are educated or how to use test data appropriately. Worse, they apparently don’t want to learn given the fact that there is plenty of scientific research that refutes their claim that student test results should be used to evaluate teachers, schools, and districts.

But something interesting has happened over the last few weeks that has given some lawmakers reason to reconsider their position on the testing epidemic, and I suspect it was the growing outcry they were hearing from parents who have finally had enough of their children being treated like human guinea pigs to satisfy political agendas. As a result of this push-back against excessive testing, State Superintendent Richard Ross was charged with researching if, indeed, we are testing students too much. Dr. Ross, after hours and hours of research, discovered what he should have known without doing any research at all; that being that, by golly, we are testing students too much. Nowhere in his report does he even so much as acknowledge the misuse of test data, which should be the crux of the discussion. But, true to their superficial view on education, politicians were focused on testing time, not testing effectiveness. So, instead of trying to engage them in meaningful dialogue, that is exactly what Dr. Ross gave them. God forbid he would try to engage them in meaningful dialogue about teaching and learning.

His stunning discovery resulted in legislative hearings where the folks who have created this mess listened with furrowed brows as superintendents from around the state trekked to Columbus to provide input on just how this dastardly problem could be properly addressed. And, this is where it gets really good.

Instead of focusing on something meaningful like the hours and hours of instructional time lost to testing, the unnecessary stress these tests place upon students, the fact that performance on a single test does not necessarily equate to future success or lack thereof, the narrow view of education these tests provide, and the rampant misuse of the data gathered from them, lawmakers focused on how we can reduce the time we spend assessing students and how much is too much.

In other words, they apparently feel that spending less time doing a bad thing rather than eliminating the bad thing altogether is real progress. As a result of this superficial view of life, they ignore the real issues that need addressed.

Isn’t it amazing that in the eyes of our policy makers that doing something that is wrong less often than we did it before is the blueprint for excellence? Do we need any more proof that they must be removed from all discussions on education if we ever hope to have meaningful conversations about what is best for our children?

Tom Dunn is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

There is much talk in Ohio about accountability for charters, but here is the real deal: the governor’s budget has more funding for charters, while half the state’s public school districts get budget cuts. Here is the latest from the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy:

“All charter schools get a funding increase while half of the school districts are cut

The Legislative Service Commission, a non-partisan office controlled by the legislature, has determined that all charter schools will receive an increase under the Governor’s budget proposal, while half of the school districts will be cut.

An article in the February 18 Columbus Dispatch indicates that Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) will receive 11% of all charter school funds by FY 2017. Of course, the ECOT operator contributes extremely large sums to the political campaigns of those in control of the Statehouse.

Kasich budget plan increases funding to all charter schools
Gov. John Kasich

THE DAILY BRIEFING

By Jim Siegel The Columbus Dispatch Wednesday February 18, 2015 5:52 AM

Charter-school funding in Ohio could exceed $1 billion by 2017 under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed two-year budget, which provides increases to every school.

Most of the attention thus far has focused on the charter-school accountability and transparency provisions included in Kasich’s budget. Lawmakers more recently got a look at the breakdown in charter-school funding.

About half of traditional public schools would see funding cuts over the next two years under Kasich’s education funding plan, though it spends $459 million more. The non-partisan Legislative Service Commission calculated that charter-school funding will rise 5.4 percent over two years, with no schools facing a cut.

The commission estimates total charter-school funding of $990 million by 2017, though that figure does not assume any growth in enrollment over the next two years. It also does not include the additional $25 million in facilities money that Kasich would allow top-performing charter sponsors to use.

In 2017, about 11 percent of all charter-school funding would go to the online Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, better known as ECOT. With more than 15,000 students who take classes from home, it is by far the largest in the state. Nearly one-third of all charter-school students in Ohio take classes at an online school.

Innovation Ohio, a liberal research group and frequent charter-school critic, questions the fairness of the charter-school funding while so many traditional districts face cuts.

“With school funding levels not keeping pace with inflation, Gov. Kasich’s plan makes matters worse by funding charter schools at the expense of local school districts,” said Keary McCarthy, president of Innovation Ohio.

Very little of the increased charter-school funding, McCarthy said, is going to districts with a performance index score above the state average.

Greg Harris, state director of StudentsFirst Ohio, a supporter of school choice, disagrees that charter-school funding is hurting traditional schools.

“We want to move more towards a system of school funding where parents are empowered over the state to determine what’s best for their children,” he said. “We don’t think public charter schools ‘rob’ traditional public schools.”

But StudentsFirst Ohio and Innovation Ohio largely agree on the charter-school oversight provisions in Kasich’s budget, including requirements that fiscal officers be independent of sponsors and operators, and that every sponsor be approved by the state Department of Education. Sponsors would be prohibited from selling services to their schools.

“We support quality school choice, not crappy school choice,” Harris said. Under the budget and a priority House bill that includes other charter-oversight provisions, “sponsors with bad track records will increasingly find Ohio a hostile state to conduct business,” he said.

Innovation Ohio and the Ohio Education Association also argued for some additional concepts, such as a process for closing failing charter schools faster, a requirement on following state public-records laws, and funding that ensures that traditional schools are not financially penalized.

“If parents want to send their kids elsewhere, there should be a viable choice,” said spokesman David Williams of the OEA, the state’s largest teachers union. “Unfortunately, there are too many charter schools that are underperforming the local public schools, so there is no real choice in a situation like that.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Denis Smith, formerly a state official in charge of charter schools, here reviews Governor Kasich’s penchant for colorful and inaccurate statements.

Smith writes:

“According to the Columbus Dispatch, the governor said “We need more superintendents who are educators, and less superintendents who are politicians.”

Evidently, Kasich doesn’t know that Ohio law requires its superintendents to be highly professional:

“State law directs that the head of an Ohio school district must hold a professional school administrator license to serve as a superintendent. According to the Ohio Department of Education website, a superintendent must “Earn a master’s degree from an accredited university; Complete an approved preparation program; Receive a recommendation from the dean or head of teacher education at the institution where he or she completed the preparation program; Complete the Ohio Assessment for Educators licensure exam #015, Educational Leadership, prescribed by the State Board of Education.”

“In addition to all of these requirements, Ohio professional administrator licensure requires that a school superintendent “must have three years of successful experience in a position requiring a principal or administrative specialist license.”

Contrast this with the lack of requirements to lead a charter school:

“Under Ohio law, there are no education or professional requirements for an individual to serve as a public charter school superintendent or principal. None. As Woody Allen might have put it, if 80% of success in life is just showing up, you’ve got a good chance of becoming the top administrator of a charter school just by showing up, with a new start-up school proposal in hand, at the offices of a charter school sponsor.

“And yes, governor, let’s say it again: there are absolutely no administrative licensure requirements in charterdom. You don’t even have to be an educator in order to open and become a superintendent of a “public” charter school.”

As for politicians, no requirements there either.

Charter schools in Ohio collect $1 billion a year from the state. The charters on average have lower performance than public schools. Although Governor Kasich is a big fan of charters and vouchers and has received campaign contributions from charter owners, others think charters should be subject to accountability and should have open records.

Even the state Auditor, a Republican, thinks that the legislature must increase charter accountability.

Will it happen? We will see.

It is no secret that charter owners are major campaign contributors to Governor John Kasich and the Republican legislature. After newspaper revelations, the legislature recognized the public demand for charter accountability. At hearings, 18 people testified. 17 are charter advocates.

Here is an account from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy:

House Bill 2 (HB 2)-a nominal start toward charter school reform

Ohio is known nationwide for its Wild, Wild West charter school policies. After nearly fifteen years of a failed experiment in the charter school industry, at long last, a bill (HB 2) has been introduced to curb some of the abuses. HB 2 needs to be greatly expanded to deal with a multitude of disquieting problems.

So far in the HB 2 hearings before the House Education Committee, it is obvious that the charter school advocates are driving the testimony train. At the first hearing of HB 2, the head of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, instead of the Legislative Service Commission or some other neutral party, provided legislators with background information on charter policy. During the most recent hearing, 18 individuals testified, orally or by written testimony. 17 of the 18 represented pro-charter organizations.

Testimony from public school advocates is sorely needed.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Mark Neal, superintendent of the Tri-Valley Local Schools in Ohio, wrote a sharply worded statement about parents’ right to opt their child out of testing.

 

When parents asked if they had the right to opt out, he responded with this advice:

 

While I am not (and never have been) an advocate of the PARCC Testing, Ohio got into this testing debacle with little to no input from local school officials. Therefore, I feel no responsibility to stick my neck out for the Department of Education by defending their decisions. What’s happening now, in my opinion, is that parents have figured out what is being forced upon their children, and the proverbial rubber… is beginning to meet the road. However, it is not our goal to discourage nor undermine the laws of our governing body.

 

Therefore, our position as a school district is that we do not discourage nor encourage a parent’s decision to opt out their child. We must respect parental rights at all costs. This is the very reason I advocate for local control. Our own Tri-Valley Board of Education is in a much better position to make sound decisions for the families of our school district, than are the bureaucrats in Columbus and Washington. I say that with no disrespect toward our own legislators, whom have worked diligently behind the scenes to address the over-testing issue. The unfortunate reality is that the parents who have contacted the school district up to this point, are the parents of high achieving students who undoubtedly would do well on these assessments. We will effectively be rating school districts and individual teachers based on test scores that do not include many of their highest achieving students….

 

I am quite confident that reason will ultimately prevail. In the meantime, we will respect the rights of our parents to make the best decisions for their children while simultaneously following the laws and policies of the Ohio Department of Education.

 

For defending common sense and speaking plainly to his community, I place Mark Neal on the honor roll of the blog as a champion of American public education.

The blogger Plunderbund (aka Greg Mild) here describes the chaotic, pointless, and ceaseless bureaucratic and political meddling in Ohio’s public schools.

 

Just as the schools began to implement the previous teacher evaluation plan, the legislature decided to “reform” the process yet again:

 

The full text of Ohio’s latest proposed budget bill (House Bill 64) was posted last week and, as in years past, it includes much more than just financial recommendations. There are numerous education-related “reforms”, some of which have promise, others that will place additional expenses on the backs of local school districts, and some that will continue to just continue the chaotic environment of change that teachers and administrators have been dealing with under the Kasich regime.

 

statehouseA key piece of reform that falls into the latter category involves the ever-changing Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). In only its third year of implementation in most schools across the state, it appears as though we can look forward to major modifications to the system even as educators are still adjusting to the massive changes that occurred last summer.

 

The process of implementing the OTES has already been a burden on schools and districts as they have been forced to create entirely new systems of tracking and reporting, all while continually trying to keep both teachers and principals abreast of the latest options and requirements. Last years changes were particularly troublesome as the law did not become official until mid-September, after the school year had already started, requiring most local school boards to delay the official adoption of all of the modifications while trying to get the process started in a timely fashion and educating all personnel about the overhaul that had occurred while they were out on summer break.

 

The new system will be horrendous, as those who teach non-tested subjects will be evaluated by “attributed” scores. That means that teachers of the arts, physical education, K-2, high school, foreign languages, etc., will be evaluated by the scores of their entire school, the scores of students they didn’t teach, the scores of students they never met.

 

 

In practice, shared attribution is essentially taking the value-added ratings of an entire school or district and assigning those ratings to teachers in the non-value-added grades and subjects. The result in Ohio over the past two years is that we have had teachers receive individual evaluation ratings based on students that they have absolutely no direct connection with. For example:

 

High school teachers of all subjects receiving a student growth measure rating based on the math and reading test results of children in grades 4-8.
Physical education, music, and visual art teachers at all grades receiving ratings based on the test results in subjects they don’t instruct.
Newly-hired teachers in grades PK-3 with an evaluation rating based in the test scores of students in grades 4-5 that they have never even taught.
There are numerous other combinations like these few examples in which teachers have had their evaluations based on students that are not even in the same building (any teacher receiving a district’s value-added rating as shared attribution).

 

In the comments on the Plunderbund blog, someone asks: “What difference will it make?” Well, let me count the ways: teacher demoralization (a commenter on this blog wrote to ask why he was getting a degree in music education with a specialty in string, when he would be judged by the math and reading scores of 4th and 8th grade students); confusion in the schools about yet another implementation of a policy that has no basis in research or experience; a waste of millions of dollars for compliance that might have otherwise been spent on reducing class sizes, buying musical instruments or upgrading buildings.

 

As Plunderbund says: Now let the chaos begin….

Peter Greene writes here about the 16 superintendents of Lorain County who are fighting the bad policies that will hurt students, demoralize teachers, and destroy public schools.

Greene has a special interest in Lorain because his first teaching job was at Lorain High School. Where the school was stood is now an empty lot.

The superintendents “have come together to call for big changes, particularly targeting “excessive student testing, overly strict teacher evaluations, loss of state funding to charter and online schools, and other cuts in funding.”

“Funding formulas are a special kind of bizarre in Ohio. According to the superintendents, the state actually pays more to send students to charters and cybers than to send them to public school. They offered some specific examples but the overall average is striking by itself– the state average per pupil payment to traditional public schools is $3,540 per student, but the average payment to an Ohio charter is $7,189.”

When the superintendents conducted a survey of the community, this is what they learned from the public:

“* their school districts are doing an excellent or good job,

* high quality teachers are the most important indicator of a high quality education

* earning high marks on the state report card isn’t that important

* increased state testing has not helped students

* decisions are best made at the local level,

* preschool education– especially for those students from poverty– should be expanded (and they said they would increase their taxes to support it)

* school finance is the biggest challenge facing our schools,

* and their local tax dollars should not be going to support private schools and for-profit and online charter schools”

Greene concludes:

“Ohio has been hammered hard by the reformsters, and the political leaders of the state have made no secret of their love for charters and privatization. It’s nice to see an entire county’s worth of school leaders standing up to fight back for public education.”

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