Get Updates via Email

Executive Budget Analysis for K-12

Here’s an analysis by OEA, of Governor Kasich’s Executive Budget detailing his plans for the state budget for Fiscal Years (FY) 2016 and 2017.

The governor claims that his budget proposal would provide an additional $700 million in state foundation support to schools. However, the approximate $235 million cut in the tangible personal property tax reimbursements to school districts would result in a significantly lower amount. Changes to the school funding formula and tangible personal property tax replacement reductions will result in 323 school districts receiving less money in FY 2016 than they received in FY 2015. Calculations also indicate that approximately 287 districts will receive reductions in FY 2017 over FY 2016 levels. District numbers provided below come from state officials in various offices.

School Funding
  • Increases the per-pupil funding amount from $5,800 in FY 2015 to $5,900 in FY 2016 and $6,000 in FY 2017
  • Retains the school funding structure enacted two years ago and provides for a 2% annual increase for the special education component; 4% annual increase for careertechnical education aid; annual 5% increase for K-3 literacy component
  • Sets a 10% gain cap on annual growth in formula aid in each year of the biennium
  • 236 school districts are on the 10.5% gain cap this year (FY 2015)
  • 204 school districts will receive a cap on increases in FY 2016
  • The administration’s intent is to eliminate the cap on funding by FY 2019
  • Modifies the income adjustment portion of the formula and claims that this adjustment will target state aid to districts with a lower capacity to generate local revenue
  • 321 districts would receive no income adjustment
  • 176 districts would receive increases in the amount of aid beginning in FY 2016
  • 114 districts with higher income would result in a greater share of funding delivered by local contributions and phased in over a five-year period
  • Reduces guaranteed funding for school districts by up to one percent of the district’s combined state and local resources from the prior fiscal year
  • 278 districts would see reductions in FY 2016
  • Reduces payments to school districts from the replacement payments from the elimination of the Tangible Personal Property Tax and Kilowatt Hour Tax by between 1% 2 and 2% of total district funds. The reduction percentage is based upon the property wealth of the school district.
  • 260 districts currently receive reimbursements, 352 districts receive no reimbursements
  • 203 school districts would receive reimbursements in FY 2016
  • 136 school districts would receive reimbursements in FY 2017

Testing
  • Limits time spent on standardized tests to no more than 2 percent of the school year and time spent on practice tests to no more than 1 percent
  • Allows local districts to decide on non-reading diagnostic tests in grades 1-3
  • Eliminates the fall Third Grade Reading Test and requires that the test be taken in the spring and, if needed, in the summer while retaining alternative assessment
  • Eliminates the use of student learning objectives for teachers teaching in non-core subjects areas in grades 4-12

Charter Schools
  • Increases the per-pupil funding amount from $5,800 in FY 2015 to $5,900 in FY 2016 and $6,000 in FY 2017
  • Increases the per-pupil school facilities amount from $100 to $200 per student
  • Establishes a $25 million fund for construction and renovation projects for charter schools with the highest rated (“exemplary”) sponsors
  • Allows charter schools sponsored by the highest rated sponsors to receive local tax dollars if approved by local school boards and voters
  • Prohibits the second-lowest level (“ineffective”) sponsors of charter schools from sponsoring new schools and places them on a one-year improvement plan
  • Sponsors rated at the lowest level (“poor”) would lose their charter schools which would be reassigned to higher performing sponsors and these sponsors would be banned from sponsoring new schools

Vouchers
  • Appropriates $23.5 million in FY 2016 and $31.5 million in FY 2017 for the income-based EdChoice Voucher and expands the program to students in second and third grade whose household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($47,700 for a family of 4)
  • Increases the EdChoice Voucher amount for students in grades 9-12 from $5,000 to $5,7003

Early Childhood Education
  • Provides an increase of $40 million over the biennium to an additional 6,125 economically disadvantaged children to attend preschool
  • Allocates $14 million over the biennium to cover childcare copays for families making less than 100 percent of the poverty level
  • Appropriates $10 million over the biennium to expand access to early childhood mental health counselors for children, teachers and staff

Other
  • Allows the highest rated teachers to skip additional coursework requirements and take a year off from annual evaluation requirements
  • Exempts districts rated “exceptional” in reading proficiency, student growth and graduation rates from state rules on class size and “other rules” not identified
  • Allows local school districts to exempt third-year teachers from state-level evaluations since Ohio’s four-year licensure program for new teachers includes the Resident Educator Summative Assessment
  • Creates standards for school counselors and provides for $2 million over the biennium to improve access to school counseling services
  • Provides for $200 million over the biennium for two rounds of grants through the Straight A Fund in order to assist schools in projects that increase student achievement and increase student efficiency o Earmarks $18.5 million to train more high school teachers to teach college-level courses and encourage student participation in College Credit Plus
  • Increases funding for the Ohio Community Connectors program by $30 million over the biennium

Taxation Tax Increases (which would generate a $5.17 billion increase in revenue over the biennium)
  • Increases the state sales tax from 5.75% to 6.25%
  • Broadens the sales tax base to include cable TV, parking, travel packages and tours, debt collection services, lobbying services, public relations, management consulting and research/opinion polling
  • Raises the cigarette tax from $1.25 to $2.25 per pack
  • Raises the tax on other tobacco products to a level equivalent to the cigarette tax
  • Adjusts the rate of the Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) on business from 0.26 to 0.32 percent
  • Raises the severance tax on oil and gas, generating an estimated $325 million in revenue
  • Eliminates a number of tax deductions and credits for Ohioans making more than $100,000 in annual income including the retirement income credit, Social Security deduction, $50 senior credit and the lump sum senior credit Tax Decreases (equals a $5.69 billion reduction in revenue over the biennium)
  • Implements a 23% personal income tax reduction across all income brackets over two years
  • Eliminates the income tax for Ohio businesses with annual gross receipts of $2 million or less
  • Maintains Ohio’s 50% tax deduction on the owner’s first $250,000 of net business income for businesses with annual gross receipts of $2 million or more
  • Increases the personal exemption amount for Ohioans who earn $80,000 or less

5 Reasons Charters Schools Need Real Reform

A recent Gongwer report serves to highlight the influence the charter school sector still holds over the Legislature, dominated by law makers who have taken political contributions from charter operators for almost 2 decades. In recent weeks it has become apparent that the Charter school lobby has been on a full court press, hiring the likes of former staffers for GOP House Speaker Batchelder to lobby law makers, and crisis communications companies like the one ran by Mark Weaver, a former high level GOP staffer.
The chair of the House Education Committee said Wednesday he is open to expediting the closure of failing charters, but also thinks failing traditional public schools ought to be addressed.

The comments from Rep. Bill Hayes (R-Harrison Twp.) followed testimony from the Ohio Education Association on charter overhaul legislation (HB 2*), which garnered additional support and has yet to draw an opponent.

Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins said the measure is a starting point for strengthening charter laws. She outlined three principles that OEA and Innovation Ohio had laid out Tuesday as necessary for overhauling the community school sector. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, February 17, 2015)

She called for the accelerated closing of failing charters; making them subject to the same public records laws as other public entities; and a charter funding model that does not penalize district schools.

Chairman Hayes said after the meeting he would support faster closure if the state can identify when a school is definitely failing.

"But I'm also interested in...what are we doing about (district schools). Are we doing the same thing there?"
The effort to find equivalency between the crisis in the Ohio charter school sector and traditional public schools as a means to distract people from meaningful reforms has been a talking point promulgated by charter boosters since reform became a very real proposition. Parents, tax payers and law makers would be wise to ignore these efforts to distract from meaningful reform for a number of reasons.

1. There is no equivalency

Charter schools receive substantially more state aid than traditional schools, while being exempt from over 150 laws that traditional schools are subject to - all while picking and choosing their own students.

2. Measures to address struggling traditional schools have been taken

In 2012 we have the Cleveland plan to address Cleveland City Schools. In 2013 we had the Columbus Plan to address Columbus City Schools. Now, in 2014 we need a Charter School plan to address Ohio's charter school sector.

3. Ohio's Charter Schools are MUCH worse than Traditional Schools

According to the latest performance data from ODE, 80% of Ohio's Charter schools are failing - scoring a D or F on their performance Index score. Meanwhile, over 80% of traditional school buildings are rated C or higher. There simply is no quality equivalence here. Talk of such is nonsense designed to distract from necessary and meaningful reforms.

4. Ohio's Charter Schools are a criminal enterprise

Charter schools in Ohio have felons sitting on their unaccountable boards, and executives going to jail for theft and fraud on a constant basis. These are situations that simply do not exist in traditional public schools. There is no equivalency.

5. Ohio's Charter Schools have shady financial practices

Traditional public schools do not spend the majority of their revenues on rent, unlike a large number of charter operators, who are paying excessive rent to shell companies they control. Nor do Traditional public schools make profits so that the administrators can buy lavish Florida vacation homes, nor do traditional public schools spend money on trips to Turkey to further political causes. There is simply no equivalency to be had here.

Given just how much failure and fraud has been uncovered and reported, the days of giving the benefit of the doubt should be over. Anything less than directly addressing these very real problems is a failure on all our parts to protect the students who attend these schools and the tax payers who are paying for them.

Law makers need to ignore the rhetoric of the charter school lobby and deliver real meaningful reform that will banish the charlatans and incompetents from the Ohio educational landscape forever.

Charter legislation is welcome, but more reform is needed

Via wwwKnowYourCharter.com

HB 2 Analysis

Summary

We welcome the introduction of HB 2. Strengthening the laws on charter sponsors is certainly needed. But there is more work to be done to make sure that comprehensive charter school reform that benefits Ohio’s students and taxpayers is achieved. One of the problems with the current system is that too much money is going to poor performing charters at the expense of kids in traditional public schools. We look forward to working with lawmakers to ensure meaningful accountability and transparency for Ohio’s charter school system.

Provision-by-Provision Analysis

  • After July 1, 2016, the calculation of a school district’s report card rating will no longer exclude the academic performance of conversion charter schools that primarily enroll dropout prevention students age 16 to 22.
    • Good: More analysis of impact is needed before determining.
    • Bad: This may create a disincentive for school districts to create dropout prevention conversion charter schools. If so, it may lead to increased student enrollment in non-conversion charter schools focused on dropout prevention (White Hat).
  • Says conversion dropout recovery schools have to be included in report card data starting next school year.
    • Good: More transparency and accountability
    • Bad: Going after conversion Dropout Recovery schools means only dropout recovery programs run by school districts.
  • Says fiscal officers have to be employed by the school.
    • Good: Operators can’t employee the people looking over the money anymore, as is typically done.
    • Bad: Can still be independent contractor, so could still be connected with operators in some fashion
  • Un-grandfathers fiscal officers from having to be certified. Any that didn’t have to be certified have to be certified by a date certain.
    • Good: All charter fiscal officers have to be certified the same as public school fiscal officers
    • Bad: None really
  • No employee of a school district, vendor, or ESC can sit on the board.
    • Good: Greatly reduces conflict of interest issues
    • Bad: Not clear if operators are vendors. Could see ways of creating business relationships that would let operator employees (or ICs) sit on the board. Also, if trying to build bridges between districts and charters, why would excepting school district people from the board? Appears to only apply to membership on a governing authority for a charter school sponsored by a school district or ESC.
  • Board members have to file annual disclosure statements showing where they may have family members or business associates working with operators or sponsors of school.
    • Good: Reveals the web of relationships between operators and charters
    • Bad: None really
  • Requires the financial reports and enrollment records of the school be filed with the sponsor, board and fiscal officer on a monthly basis.
    • Good: Somewhat better transparency
    • Bad: Doesn’t mention the public, whose money funds these things. Should also require filing of these documents with ODE, where the enrollment records could be linked to funding on a monthly basis.
  • Sponsors have to file annual reports with ODE detailing how they spend money providing oversight of their charters
    • Good: Will let the public see how sponsors do or don’t provide oversight
    • Bad: No real consequences. Department should establish standards and fines or punishment for failing to follow them. This disclosure/reporting requirement should also apply to operators, where the vast majority of funding often goes.
  • Requires the sponsor and charter contract that’s filed with ODE include information about the leasing and purchase of the school building, including mortgage, lease, annual costs of each and the name of the lender
    • Good: This is the Imagine provision, which makes public all leases and purchases of charter buildings
    • Bad: It’s just a reporting requirement, no punishment for excess payments. Information about facilities should also include disclosure of whether the purchase/lease involves close relatives or companies associated with any individuals who are sponsors, governing board members or the operator/employees, i.e. self-dealing.
  • The school’s financial plan is subject to review and approval by ODE. Current schools have to submit the last two plans
    • Good: More transparency on financial statements
    • Bad: None really
  • ODE in consultation with Auditor shall provide guidance and assistance to charters for internal financial controls
    • Good: Provides more uniform and tighter controls over a charter’s internal finances
    • Bad: No consequence for failing to follow them
  • ODE by December 2015 will have a list of operators and all their contracts with schools
    • Good: Much needed transparency on charter school operators
    • Bad: None really. Should confirm that these would be considered public records held by ODE.
  • ODE will establish a report card for charter school operators
    • Good: Finally be able to establish which charter operators are doing good and bad jobs
    • Bad: No specific delineation of which are for profit or non-profit. Should require a minimum performance benchmark before an operator is allowed to renew or enter new contracts to operate schools.
  • Any new or renewed contract between school and operators have to lay out how early termination of the operator works, establish procedures dealing with it, and delineate which property is owned by the operator and which by the school.
    • Good: Makes the operation of the school clearer and more transparent
    • Bad: This is the Brennan provision and tries to deal with consequences of the current White Hat Supreme Court case. The issue is not which private entity (either for profit or non-profit) owns the furniture. The issue is that the property purchased with taxpayer dollars should be owned by the taxpayers who bought it, not the private entities. Should be on guard for the potential that contract termination guidelines could also be used by operators to “fire” their sponsors in order to link up with a more lenient sponsor. Also, there should be additional elements required for contracts between a governing authority and an operator, such as disclosure of financial expenditures, profit margin projection/caps, salaries, etc.
  • Any charter that gets a D or F on report card for performance index or value added (or dropout recovery that fails to meet standards) has to get ODE approval before it can switch sponsors.
    • Good: Prevents sponsor shopping and would force low performers to get in shape. This provision holds the greatest hope for eliminating poor performers.
    • Bad: Not clear what the ODE standard for approval for new sponsorship would be. Could be strong. Could be weak.
  • Requires sponsors of schools using a blended learning model to review to review these plans, including attendance requirements and how the school will document participation in learning opportunities.
    • Good: This seems to be targeted at the attendance findings of the Yost investigation, where some charter schools claimed that missing students were part of a blended learning program (even though the school had no documentation that such a plan was in place).
    • Bad: This is merely an additional sponsor “assurance” required by ODE, which are rarely corroborated or enforced. Blended learning protocol in charter schools should be substantially the same as in traditional public schools, especially with regard to student attendance.
  • Definition of “sponsor” includes an “independent contractor of the sponsor.”
    • Good: While a statutory definition of “sponsor” is useful, including “independent contractor of the sponsor” is problematic.
    • Bad: Allowing a sponsor to outsource its duties and responsibilities to an “independent contractor” can be used as a simple mechanism to avoid accountability. Using an independent contractor may render meaningless the sponsor approval process and other sponsor accountability provisions in law. In essence, independent contractors can go “sponsor shopping.” The phony sponsor knows ahead of time that no work will be required; they’ll just collect the fees and pass most of it along to the independent contractor.
  • Prohibits a sponsor from selling any goods or services to any community school it sponsors.
    • Good: Important provision that reduces conflicts of interests.
    • Bad: This does not prohibit the conflict of interest whereby operators use the school’s operating funds buy goods and services (e.g. curriculum) from related companies the operator has established, i.e. self-dealing.
  • Requires the State Board of Education to make recommendations by December 31, 2015 regarding a) performance standards for charter schools with a majority of students who are children with disabilities receiving special education, and b) the feasibility of removing the exemption from closure for these schools.
    • Good: This is a step toward protecting these students and addressing the lack of meaningful accountability for these schools.
    • Bad: This will be a long process.

Summary

There are positive things in this bill. The strongest provision is probably the ODE approving all sponsor swaps. But there’s a lot that’s not in it that could undermine much of this, such as what the approval standard will be for ODE to allow sponsor swapping. We’ve seen how weak they are now as the Cleveland Transformation Alliance debacle over charter approval worked its way out. There are good steps on transparency, but there’s little accountability attached to the transparency. And the Brennan provision seems like a pretty weak response to the White Hat case. Ideally, the state says the public owns the property; it’s not owned by the private entities using it.

 

Time to Move Beyond Test-Focused Policies

In this Policy Memo, Kevin Welner and William Mathis discuss the broad research consensus that standardized tests are ineffective and even counterproductive when used to drive educational reform.

nepc-policymemo-esea.pdf by National Education Policy Center

Administering PARCC takes over 1,000 pages of instructions

We received a few tips today that instruction books for PARCC testing are very lengthy. Very Length.

Here's just one of the instruction books, for Grades 6-8 Paper-Based testing

That's just one batch of tests, Heres the rest of the Test Administrator Manuals running a total of over 1,000 pages:
2015 Spring Grades 3-5 Paper-Based - 131 Pages
2015 Spring Grades 6-8 Paper-Based - 139 Pages
2015 Spring High School Paper-Based ELA - 113 Pages
2015 Spring High School Paper-Based Math - 117 Pages
2015 Spring Grades 3-5 Computer-Based - 143 pages
2015 Spring Grades 6-8 Computer-Based - Not available
2015 Spring High School Computer-Based ELA - 121 Pages
2015 Spring High School Computer-Based Math - 121 Pages

Test Coordinator Manual For Grades 3-8 and High School Computer-Based ELA/Math
Test Coordinator Manual For Grades 3-8 and High School Computer-Based ELA/Math - 141 Pages

If it requires over 1,000 pages of instructions to administer your tests, you're probably doing it wrong.

Does OTES Serve a Purpose Anymore?

The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) has been a mess since it was first appropriated by the Governor and his corporate education reform allies in the legislature. Intended to stack and rank teachers based primarily on student test scores, it has come under increasing fire. Not only has the system proven to be ineffective at measuring teacher quality, but its application has been scattershot, unfair and under constant change.

The real deal killer however has been the proliferation of testing that teacher accountability programs have created. What started as a few voices opposed to the avalanche of test requirements, has now become a widespread revolt. This revolt is causing law makers both in the state legislature and DC to take a fresh look at what they have wrought.

The first opportunity in Ohio to do so has come via the Governor's budget, where he builds upon ODE's test reduction report. Gone are SLO's and in their place is shared attribution
(c) Beginning with teacher evaluations for the 2015-2016 school year, if a teacher’s schedule is comprised of grade levels, courses, or subjects for which the value-added progress dimension prescribed by section 3302.021 of the Revised Code or an alternative student academic progress measure if adopted under division (C)(1)(e) of section 3302.03 of the Revised Code does not apply, nor is student progress determinable using the assessments required by division (B)(2) of this section, the teacher’s student academic growth factor shall be determined using a method of attributing student growth determined in accordance with guidance issued by the department of education.
The use of shared attribution is highly dubious. In Tennessee it is leading to lawsuits
Two accomplished teachers will file a lawsuit today in Nashville, Tennessee, to challenge the evaluation of most teachers in the state based on the standardized test scores of students in courses they did not teach. The teachers are joined by their representatives from the Tennessee Education Association and the Metropolitan Nashville and Anderson County Education Associations in the lawsuit, which is being prosecuted by the National Education Association and TEA. The lawsuit argues that these arbitrary, irrational and unfair policies violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Students in Tennessee are being shortchanged because of the state’s arbitrary and irrational evaluation system that provides no meaningful feedback on their instruction,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “This unfair broken system conditions the teacher’s employment on the basis of standardized test scores for courses they do not teach, including some from students they do not teach at all. The system is senseless and indefensible but, worst of all, it doesn’t help kids.”

More than half of Tennessee teachers are being evaluated in the same arbitrary and irrational manner. While most teachers do not teach courses that use standardized tests, a Tennessee statue still requires that all teachers be evaluated substantially on the basis of student growth estimates calculated from student test scores using the state’s value-added model.
In Ohio as Greg Mild at Plunderbund points out, even ODE questions its use
The Ohio Department of Education recommends careful consideration and collaboration regarding the use of shared attribution data for teachers of kindergarten through grade 12, as the intent of the new evaluation system is to capture the truest picture of an individual teacher’s impact on his or her student population.

Ultimately, the use of a shared attribution measure, including the percentage of weight designated within guidelines set in law, is a district decision. Student growth measures should collectively represent each individual teacher’s impact on student learning for his or her particular student population. Therefore, choosing to use shared attribution at any level should not be taken lightly.
Stepping back from the dubious nature of using shared attribution, one really needs to ask what's the point of it all?

If a cohort of educators in a school district, say music teachers, are all going to receive up to 50% of their evaluation based on some global shared attribution number, then only their observations performed by the district are going to differentiate their performance anyway. Why even bother using shared attribution in the first place? Once again OTES, rather than measuring an educators performance will be measuring a school, or districts, demographics and making high stakes decisions based off of it.

It's time the legislature simply scrapped OTES and rubrics trying to tie student growth to individual teachers. Instead, the legislature should once again empower the Educators Standard Board to develop a simple, effective and fair evaluation system - Or - they could just leave the whole evaluation process under local control and stop meddling.
(c) Join the Future