Archives for category: Ohio

In a report on the powerful and profitable virtual charter school industry in Ohio, Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio documents the failure of these schools. 35,000 students are enrolled in E-schools.

Not a single virtual charter school is rated A or B by the state. Most earn an F.

The graduation rates at the state’s nine virtual charters are abysmal. The worst-performing district in the state has a higher graduation rate than all the E-schools.

Dyer writes:

Since 2000, E-Schools have received well over $1 billion from the state that was originally slated to go to school districts. In return for this money, E-schools have delivered extremely poor student achievement results. And while the statewide E-Schools perform only slightly better overall than they did in the 2011 report, the tepid improvement is significantly tempered by the $60 million annual increase in their funding over the same period. In fact, the sector has grown from a $115 million program in 2006 to a $250 million program in 2014. At the same time, local taxpayers have been forced to subsidize their substandard performance.

Why does Ohio continue to fund these low-performing schools? Why are they never held accountable? Because the owners of the two biggest E-schools make generous campaign donations to important elected officials.

A strange affliction has taken control of American public education. Or perhaps it is better to say a group of people with a mindset from some fantasyland are now making policy, all geared to produce standardized children and standardized minds.

Here is an exemplar.

As I read this article, my eyes began to blur, the words lost all meaning. Who are these people? Why do they think that all children can be rated,ranked, and labeled by their scores on a standardized test? How do they define “proficiency”? What does it mean? Who decided?

One voice of reason: Bob Schaeffer of Fairtest says that “standards” are not objective, they are subjective.

If you can jump higher than me, am I a failure? If you can solve a crossword puzzle faster than me, are you better than me in general or just better at solving crossword puzzles?

I know that the people who are immersed in data and who believe in data like a religion, think they are being scientific. So did the eugenicisys of the 1920s,who thought they could use test scores to sort and label people and to decide who was allowed to reproduce; they thought they were “scientifically” improving the human race, like plant genetics or animal genetics. By the 1930s, they were recognized as quacks, but on another continent, a mad dictator loved the eugenics philosophy and drove the world mad.

Will anyone hear if I put in a word for humanism? For valuing the different gifts of each person? For loving every child, regardless of their test scores? For abandoning the nutty quest to have standards so high that most children are designated failures by arbitrary measures?

This website, called “KnowYourCharter” is powerful. It dispels the myth that charter schools are superior to public schools. A few are, but most are not. Even in some of the lowest-performing, most impoverished districts in the state, the public schools outperform many charter schools.


You can plug in the name of any school district in the state and see how the public school district compares to individual charter schools. They are compared by such factors as state funding per pupil, overall state performance rating, average teaching experience of teachers, and how much money the charters extract from the public system.


It takes only a moment to click the button. Open the link and you will learn more in a few minutes than by reading tomes about charters.

This is part 3 of Stephen Dyer’s series about charter schools in Ohio. What he has learned from state data is that charter schools perform worse than public schools and take money from children in public schools in every district.


His series is titled “Ohio Charter Schools Just Don’t Work.” Something tells me you won’t read anything about this in the Wall Street Journal, and very likely not the New York Times either, although they are fast to shine a bright light on high-performing charters which are not representative of the charter industry.


He writes:


Now that I’ve shown how state data indicate that Ohio’s charter schools simply aren’t up to snuff with Ohio’s school districts, costing children in those districts millions of dollars a year, and that the excuses posited by some in the charter school community just don’t hold water, I’m going to spend some time today looking at building-level data.


This is the data charter school proponents have argued for years should be the only comparable data when look at charter and public school performance.


Even though the state does not track which kids go from which public school buildings to which charters.


And the funding comes from the district, not the district building the kids leave.


And charters are considered districts in state law for funding and accountability purposes.


And charters are considered Local Education Agencies for federal funding and grant making purposes.


The primary reason I look at district-level data in my comparisons is pretty simple: when a kid leaves a district for a charter, the money that flows to the charter for that kid’s education comes out of every child’s state funding pot, not just the pot going to the most failing building in the most failing district. So it’s not punishing the most failing building in a district –it’s punishing every building and child in the district, even the best of both.


But for argument’s sake, let’s look at charter and public school building performance. What you’ll see is even in the light most favorable to charters, public schools outperform charters overall. Period.


Ohio’s charter schools perform worse overall than all local public school buildings, including those in the Big 8 urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) – the areas where charters were supposed to offer better alternatives. Charters register lower percentages of As and Bs while having higher percentages of Ds and Fs than local public schools.


Read the whole post to read the links and the rest of the story.


Why is the new ESEA setting aside new money for a sector that performs worse than public schools? Why are hedge fund managers and philanthropists funding more such schools? When will they pay attention to data?


When Jeb Bush invented school grades, he no doubt thought they would embarrass public schools and help charter schools and voucher schools, but it is not working. Just as charters are not working.

This is part 2 of Stephen Dyer’s series called “Charters Just Don’t Work.”

In this post, Dyer examines the excuses that charters offer for their poor performance relative to district public schools.

For example,

Claim: Charter schools struggle because their populations are so much more challenging than districts’.

Fact: While charter schools do have higher percentages of students in poverty and minorities, they have smaller percentages of special education children.

But here’s the deal: Charters do worse on the report cards than districts with greater challenges. So that means that while charters’ poor performance compared with districts overall can perhaps be explained by more challenging populations, districts with greater challenges are doing better. So charters are not, on the whole, doing a better job serving our state’s most challenging students than districts with more challenges than the charter faces.

There are other excuses, but as Dyer says, they don’t hold water.

Stephen Dyer, former legislator, now affiliated as an education policy fellow with Ohio Innovation, has been a close observer of charter schools in his home state. When he writes, he relies on nonpartisan data. This is the first in a series about the disappointing results of charter schools in Ohio.


This first post finds that taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars (that is, taking it away from public schools) to subsidize charter schools that perform the same or worse than the regular public schools.


Here is what the data show:

Out of the $774 million that were transferred from districts to charters with state report card grades , 56% – or more than $430 million – went to charter schools that performed worse overall than the district that transferred the money. If you include districts that performed the same, nearly 2 out of every 3 dollars went to charter schools from a district that performed the same or better, at a cost of $504 million.

Local taxpayers had to subsidize $180.3 million to cover the money transferred to the same or worse performing charter schools.

Districts were more likely to lose money to charters that underperformed on all 8 report card categories and not a single transfer occurred where the charter outperformed the district on all 8 report card grades.

When districts and charters were both graded in every category, 97% of the time districts outperformed the charters. Just 1.8% of the time did a charter outperform districts in the majority of the categories.

There were 461 school districts – accounting for more than ¾ of all of Ohio school districts – where all the kids attending charter schools were transferred to equal or poorer performing charter schools. That adds up to 19,042 kids and $136.6 million.



Meanwhile, every district lost at least some funding to poorer performers, with only 17 districts losing less than half their children to poorer performing charters.
In 84 of 88 counties, more than half of children attended poorer performing charters, and in 43 of Ohio’s 88 counties, all the children going to charters attend charters that perform the same or worse than local school districts.


Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition sent this commentary by a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, retired Judge A.J. Wagner..

State Board of Education member A. J. Wagner weighs in on testing

Retired Judge A. J. Wagner, member of the State Board of Education, shared his views in a letter to Senator Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee and the members of an ad hoc committee she appointed to examine issues regarding the current testing debacle. His views are worthy of a read.

Dear Senator Lehner and Members of the Committee:

I am writing to you to share my opinion which is formed by the February 2015 Policy Memo from the National Education Policy Center on “Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Time to Move Beyond Test-focused Policies.” I urge you to carefully consider the analyses and recommendations in this Memo.

A compelling body of research exists about the problems with test-focused reforms, as described in the Memo. (available online at Key concerns include:

i) Research suggests at least two major problems with test-driven school reforms. First, the tests themselves have validity issues. The resulting scores are only loosely linked to the wide array of topics and depth that we all want for our students. So attaching high stakes consequences to those test scores results in decisions being made on weak data. Second, and probably even more important, when we attach high stakes consequences to test scores we change what and how our children are taught. This is not always bad, since much of what is tested is indeed important. But the overall effect is to narrow our children’s learning opportunities, squeezing out important and engaging lessons.

ii) Not surprisingly, then, we now face the failure of more than a decade-and-a-half of test-focused reforms. Even though we’ve been focusing on the content of our tests and even though we’ve been preparing students to demonstrate knowledge on tests, the testing trends after No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) implementation are almost identical to the trends before NCLB’s implementation. Not only did we come nowhere near the NCLB goal of almost-universal proficiency on standardized tests, we gained no benefit at the cost of broader, deeper learning – and at the cost of pursuing evidence-based practices that could have helped our children.

I urge moving away from test-focused reforms, and to a state role that encourages a focus on sustained and meaningful investments in practices shown to be effective in improving the educational opportunities and success of all students, particularly those in highest need. There are no magic wands, and the formula for success is very straightforward: children learn when they have opportunities to learn; closing opportunity gaps will close achievement gaps.

Key recommendations from the Memo include:

i) Assess students, teachers, and schools using frameworks that paint a more robust, accurate, and complex picture, with multiple data sources and scientifically credited methods of analysis. For example, for students, we might look at authentic performance assessments ( assessment), and for schools, we might look at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s “Time for Equity Indicators” ( or the National Education Policy Center’s “Schools of Opportunity” criteria (

ii) Enrich opportunities through proven interventions such as high-quality early-childhood education beginning before birth. Extend learning time in ways that engage students, rather than just more time on drill-and-kill test preparation. Demand more of our schools, but only when providing the supports for students and teachers to succeed. Address problems not only at the level of individuals, but also at the level of systems. Test-focused reforms detract attention from deeper and more systemic factors that can hinder any student’s opportunity for success, including such factors as poverty, racial segregation, inadequate resources, narrow and ineffective curriculum and assessment.

iii) Involve students, families, educators, and educational researchers in more substantive ways in decision-making processes involving educational policy and reform. It is particularly important to have powerful, listened-to voices arising from the communities that have been targets of educational reform.

This is a brief summary of the Memo, a document supported by over 2000 researchers and professors from colleges, universities, and other research institutions throughout the United States. I urge you to, please, consider the evidence based practices put forth by the National Policy Education Center.

My prayers and best wishes are with you for these important Deliberations.

Judge A.J. Wagner, Retired
Member of the Ohio Board of Education
District 3

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coaltion for Equity and Adequacy explains the origins of choice in Ohio and how it has evolved into a lucrative for-profit industry. If “choice” meant better education, Ohio by now should have the best schools in the nation. It doesn’t. What has happened has been the transfer of $8 billion out of the state’s public schools to satisfy rightwing, evidence-free ideology.

Phillis writes:

“The school choice movement in Ohio: Is it about parents choosing good schools or the school choosing good students?

Open enrollment was a product of SB 140, an education “reform” bill more than a quarter century ago in the 118th General Assembly. The rationale set forth for enacting the concept was that parents should be allowed to choose a better academic option in a neighboring district. Although there has been no extensive research regarding why people choose open enrollment, experience indicates that better academics is the least frequent reason for the choice of another school district.

Open enrollment was the precursor to the Ohio privately-operated choice movement. Then-President George H. W. Bush told a large gathering of people in Columbus on November 25, 1991, you have open enrollment and now you need to go the whole nine yards and give a voucher to every student. Bush’s speech was reported in the November 26, 1991 Cincinnati Enquirer article-Bush: Give private schools money, Ohio audience wary of proposal.

The Cleveland Voucher Plan, a brainchild of Akron Industrialist David Brennen and then-Governor George V. Voinovich, followed the Bush recommendation. Ohio’s education choice programs have removed nearly $8 billion from Ohio school districts since “choice” began.

The education choice gospel is preached in a way that resonates with lots of folks. Who would take issue with such a sacred-sounding verse–choice? But the reality is that choice is more about private and privately-managed education entities choosing students than parents choosing a school. Private schools and charters are not obligated to take students and many of them screen out or counsel out students they don’t want.

The irony is that those parents who choose charter schools are, in a majority of cases, opting for schools with lower academic ratings than the district of residence. But that phenomenon, as long as folks are blinded by the empty promise of choice, will continue to lead to consumer fraud. Massive snake oil salesman-type advertising misleads parents. Most of the solicitations for student enrollment do not match the charters’ educational opportunities and results.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

Over 100 teachers in Toledo demonstrated in front of school district headquarters, asking the district to opt out of the PARCC tests.

Teachers said there was too much testing and it is used punitively, not to inform instruction.

A post yesterday reported that Florida is considering eliminating district lines so that students may choose to attend any public school, so long as there is space available and parents provide transportation. Michigan has such a system, and districts spend millions of dollars advertising to “poach” students from other districts because every new student means additional money.


As reader Chiara points out, Ohio has the same system, and it has intensified racial and economic segregation.


Open enrollment, which allows children to transfer from one school district to another, leads to widespread racial segregation and concentrates poverty in many of Ohio’s urban school districts, including Cleveland and Akron.
That’s one finding of a Beacon Journal study of more than 8,000 Ohio students who left city schools last year for an education in wealthier suburban communities.
The majority of students who participated in Ohio’s oldest school choice program are disproportionately white and middle class. Students attending the schools they left, however, are nearly twice as likely to be minority and seven times more likely to be poor.
The program gives parents the option to enroll children in nearby school districts without changing their home address. By doing so, parents must find their own transportation — an act that in itself narrows who is able to make the change.


Where is the NAACP, the Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU? If a state adopts a policy that demonstrably promotes segregation, shouldn’t someone sue them for knowingly enacting a program to segregate children by race and income?


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