Millions Wasted As Grant Money Goes to Closed Ohio Charter Schools

Another day, another report on how Ohio's charter schools are an academic and financial disaster for the state, its students and tax payers. This report comes from Innovation Ohio and is titled "BELLY UP: A REVIEW OF FEDERAL CHARTER SCHOOL PROGRAM GRANTS". The tag line speaks for itself:

How the U.S. Department of Education has given money hand-over-fist to Ohio charter schools that have closed and sometimes never even opened

From the report

Our latest analysis of the performance of Ohio Charter schools that have received federal Charter School Program (CSP) grants finds a staggering high rate of failure. At least 108 of the 292 charter schools that have received federal CSP funding since the 2006-07 school year have either closed or never opened.

CSP grants are geared toward the development and expansion of new charter schools, which can be a high-risk proposition. The 292 Ohio charter schools received $99.6 million in federal aid. $30 million went to the 108 schools that either closed or never opened.

Among our other findings:

  • Of those that failed, at least 26 Ohio charter schools that received nearly $4 million in federal CSP funding apparently never even opened and there are no available records to indicate that these public funds were returned;

  • The charter schools that have received CSP funding and received State Report Card grades in the 2014-2015 school year had a median Performance Index score that was lower than all but 15 Ohio school districts and would have been graded as a D.

Are Ohio's Charter Schools Damaging Property Values? Study Says Yes

A new study by Jason B. Cook of Cornell University, titled With “The Effect of Charter Competition on Unionized District Revenues and Resource Allocation,” finds not only does charter "competition" reduce federal and state funding for district schools, it also finds that charter competition has driven down local funding by depressing valuations of residential property.

The reduction is drastic. For every one percent of students transferring to a low quality charter school, property owners see the value of their properties plummet by 2.5% - or $2,500 per $100,000 of home valuation.

From section 4 of the study (emphasis added)

Unlike the effects of charter competition on federal and state revenues, the negative effect on local revenues is unexpected. I explore potential mechanisms in Panel C by decomposing local revenues into the contribution of local property taxes, school lunch funding, and all other local revenues in columns 8 through 10. While local revenues are decreasing across all three measures, I focus my discussion on local property taxes because they comprise 96.5 percent of local revenues (LSC, 2011). Charter competition can affect local property taxes through two main channels. First, competition can directly decrease appraised property values and, in turn, the base valuation being taxed. Second, charters can decrease the levied millage rates (i.e., one-tenth of one percent) that determine the fraction of the base property values being taxed.

I test these potential mechanisms in columns 11 through 13 of Panel D. In column 11, I present the effect of charter competition directly on the total appraised property values within the TPSD (Traditional Public School District). My estimates suggest that a percentage point increase in the fraction of TPSD students transferring to charters decreases real appraised property values by 2.5 percent. This property value measure aggregates residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, and mineral properties, as well as other public properties (LSC, 2011).

Column 12 presents the effect of competition solely on appraised residential property values. Charter competition generates nearly identical percent losses for both total property values and residential property values. In column 13, I find that the millage rates tend to decrease as charter competition increases. A simple back-of-the-envelope decomposition reveals that a majority of the decrease in total revenues is driven by the change in total property values.

Here's the full study

Surprise Audit of Charter Schools Reveals Over 2,500 Students "Missing" But Billed For

The Ohio Auditor of State recently performed surprise visits at a random selection of Ohio's charter schools, to match up their claimed attendance to the number of actual students in classrooms on the day of the visit. This is the second time the Auditor has done this, and the second time the results are shocking.

Three charter schools were operating as virtual schools, despite only being authorized to operate as brick and mortar schools. How is it possible that ODE was unaware of this? No surprise then, that the Auditor, at his press conference said ODE was the worst run state agency.

Attendance at drop-out recovery charter schools was an appalling 34%. The best attendance measured by the Auditor at a drop-out recovery schools was a ridiculous 50%.

All told, if the attendance being measured by the Auditor is typical, then the 44 charter schools he visited have over-billed the state for more than 2,500 students - wasting well over $17,000,000. If this is typical of the charter sector at large, then Ohio is wasting ~$200 million to educate charter students not in the actual schools billing for them. This is money taken directly from traditional public schools.

Here's the full report.

57 More Reasons ODE is Broken

The Ohio Department of Education can't decide if some schools are failing or a wonderful example for all Ohio schools.

We were recently alerted to ODE sending out notices to schools, informing them that they are Momentum Award winners. This is a new award, described by ODE thusly:

The Momentum Award is presented by the State Board of Education and recognizes schools for exceeding expectations in student growth for the year. Schools must earn straight A’s on all Value-Added measures on the report card. The school or district must have at least two Value-Added subgroups of students, which includes gifted, lowest 20% in achievement, and students with disabilities.

165 schools achieved this award, and we congratulate them. Here's a redacted copy of the letters being received by the schools

Your school is a wonderful example for all Ohio Schools

Your school is a wonderful example for all Ohio Schools

Nothing objectionable about any of this on first glance. Until, that is, you look at the list of academic watch schools that ODE maintains and you realize that 57 of the schools that have won a Momentum Award for exceptional student growth are also on the list of schools that ODE maintains for schools that aren't producing enough growth!

Here's how ODE describes its watch list

A Watch School is a school that has a “D” or “F” on the AMO Report Card measure for two years or is receiving state funding for subgroups and those subgroups are not making adequate achievement and progress. Watch Schools are a new category of school that has been added to Ohio’s accountability system. These schools must implement an improvement plan to close gaps among low-achieving subgroups by targeting resources and interventions beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.

We can only assume that ODE will be removing these 57 schools from their watch list now that they have won this Momentum Award and demonstrated they are "a wonderful example for all Ohio Schools".

Here's the list of the 57 schools trapped in a dichotomy of success and failure

Building Name District Name
McEbright Community Learning Center Akron City
Seiberling CLC Akron City
Barberton Middle School Barberton City
Canal Winchester Middle School Canal Winchester Local
Chagrin Falls Middle School Chagrin Falls Exempted Village
Cheviot Elementary School Cincinnati City
Dater Montessori Elementary School Cincinnati City
Monticello Middle School Cleveland Heights-University Heights City
Roxboro Middle School Cleveland Heights-University Heights City
Entrepreneurship Preparatory School - Woodland Hills Campus Cleveland Municipal
Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School Cleveland Municipal
Colonial Prep Academy Colonial Prep Academy
Berwick Alternative K-8 School Columbus City School District
Buckeye Middle School Columbus City School District
North Linden Elementary School Columbus City School District
Ridgeview Middle School Columbus City School District
Sullivant Elementary School Columbus City School District
West Broad Elementary School Columbus City School District
Columbus Collegiate Academy - West Columbus Collegiate Academy - West
Columbus Grove Middle School Columbus Grove Local
Crestwood Intermediate School Crestwood Local
Ann Simpson Davis Middle School Dublin City
Eastern Elementary School Eastern Local
Edison Middle School (formerly Berlin-Milan Middle School) Edison Local (formerly Berlin-Milan)
Westwood Middle School Elyria City Schools
Fairborn Intermediate School Fairborn City
Pennyroyal Elementary School Franklin City
Hilliard Crossing Elementary School Hilliard City
North Rd Elementary School Howland Local
Jackson-Milton Elementary School Jackson-Milton Local
Canaan Middle School Jonathan Alder Local
KIPP: Journey Academy KIPP: Journey Academy
London Elementary School London City
Larkmoor Elementary School Lorain City
Madison-Plains Junior High Madison-Plains Local
Marietta Middle School Marietta City
New London Elementary School New London Local
Newton Falls Middle School Newton Falls Exempted Village
Hillside Middle School Parma City
Shiloh Middle School Parma City
Pfeiffer Intermediate School Perry Local
Harmon Middle School Pickerington Local
Pike-Delta-York Middle School Pike-Delta-York Local
Pinnacle Academy Pinnacle Academy
Heritage Hill Elementary School Princeton City
Greenview Upper Elementary School South Euclid-Lyndhurst City
Memorial Junior High School South Euclid-Lyndhurst City
Galloway Ridge Intermediate School South-Western City
Park Street Intermediate School South-Western City
Prairie Lincoln Elementary School South-Western City
Skyvue Elementary School Switzerland of Ohio Local
Urbana Junior High School Urbana City
Warrensville Heights Middle School Warrensville Heights City
Jackman Elementary School Washington Local
Arrowood Elementary Xenia Community City
Central Middle School Xenia Community City
Cox Elementary School Xenia Community City

As Ed Reforms Fail, Legislators Admit They Don't Understand What They've Done

If the the latest results from NAEP testing is to be any guide, Corporate Education reformers have more evidence that their reforms have failed. If test and punish was supposed to raise test scores, their approach is failing miserably.

The average performance of the nation’s high school seniors dropped in math from 2013 to 2015, but held steady in reading, according to results of a biennial test released Wednesday.

The results, from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also showed a drop in the percentage of students in private and public schools who are considered prepared for college-level work in reading and math. In 2013, the last time the test was given, 39 percent of students were estimated to be ready in math and 38 percent in reading; in 2015, 37 percent were judged prepared in each subject.

[...]

The lower-grade results were released last fall, and they showed a similar decline in math.

The math tests are scored from zero to 300, and in 12th grade, the average dropped to 152 in 2015 from 153 in 2013, a statistically significant decline. The 2015 average was two points higher than in 2005, the first year a comparable test was given.

Corporate education reform booster, Frederick Hess noted on twitter

As we noted in response, more time testing, less time teaching hasn't been a roadmap to student success. Which brings us nicely to the latest nonsense from the Ohio General Assembly - the architects of much of the test and punish policies Ohio has been enamored with. 

You probably only need to read the headline in this Dispatch article to have your frustration levels rise. "Ohio legislators hope to pin down ‘value added’ rating for student progress". Legislators have been crafting education reform policy based largely on flawed Value-Add systems that to this day, they do not understand.

Ohio’s value-added measure is a major part of its system for evaluating student progress and teacher effectiveness, but some lawmakers admit they have too little understanding of how it works.

They hope to change that soon.

Reps. Ryan Smith and Bob Cupp, two of the more influential House Republicans on education issues, introduced a one-paragraph bill last week that calls for a review of the value-added system.

Each said there is no plan right now for changes, but they want an in-depth discussion about it. For such a major component of district report cards and teacher evaluations, there appears to be a lack of understanding of the value-added measure both inside and outside the Statehouse.

“I don’t particularly understand it. I think it will be an opportunity to inform,” said Cupp, R-Lima. “I think there’s a lot of broad-based questions about it.”

They could start by doing a search of the JTF archives for VAM and Value Add to begin to understand that this measure has been, is and will continue to be a wholly inappropriate measure currently used. 

While ignorant legislators have ignored education experts and instead listened to the profiteers, students have learned less and teacher retention and recruitment has hit crisis levels. 

High Stakes Causing Teacher Enrollments Crisis

A crisis has been brewing in education since 2008. Teacher-preparation programs have been seeing declining numbers of enrollments, and declining number of graduates, all at a time when record number of experienced teachers are leaving the profession either through retirement or seeking second careers. 

The national problem shown in the chart above is also being replicated here in Ohio. According to Federal title 2 data, in the 2011-2012 academic year, 6768 individuals completed teacher preparation programs at one of 51 Ohio institutions. In the 2015 report, just 6066 individuals completed teacher preparation programs.

Even the Dispatch has noticed

The number of newly awarded bachelor’s degrees in education has dropped by more than one-fourth in Ohio since the 2003-04 school year, challenging the state’s reputation as a fount of new teachers.

Given the historical surplus, that might be OK, except that the prospective new teachers aren’t seeking degrees in the specialties in which they’re needed most. That leaves school districts scrambling for teachers each year, especially in middle and high school math and science, plus foreign languages, physical education and other areas.

In 2003-04, Ohio’s public and private, nonprofit colleges and universities awarded 55,207 bachelor’s degrees, and 6,759 of them, or 12.2 percent, were in education. By 2014-15, the number of bachelor’s degrees had risen to 69,592, but only 4,983 were in education, shrinking the share of education degrees to 7.3 percent.

It is no surprise that enrollments and hence graduations are down. For a while corporate education reformers could blame the great recession, but now, years after recovery, the problem continues to deteriorate. Corporate reformers have created a less attractive work environment that is clearly unable to recruit enough high quality individuals. 

Nobody went in to education to suffer the joys of high-stakes anything. That much should now be obvious to everyone. What good does having high stakes do, when it drives away the very educators who are desperately needed to do the work?