Fordham hides from facts

UPDATE: Fordham has now published our comment on their site, for which we are grateful. See the comments to this article for their explanation.

The Fordham Foundation, one of Ohio's more vocal charter school boosters, has a post on their website defending the high number of failing charter schools. The piece is written by Aaron Churchill, someone we have observed stretching facts and the truth before (Fordham loses its bearings). Like his previous piece's error addled analysis, his latest defense of failing charter schools goes to great lengths to obfuscate hard truths using indefensible "statistical analysis".

Rather than write a post here on JTF, we tried to leave a long comment pointing out just some of the errors in the post. Fordham has decided they would rather that comment be hidden and not be published, so we are publishing it below, in response to a Fordham reader asking us to

Aaron states "The chart shows that a nearly equal number of charters reside in the state’s bottom 111 schools"

Let's just assume that is correct. What if utterly fails to recognize is that there are orders of magnitude more traditional public school buildings than charter schools - so the fact that so many charter school buildings appear in the bottom 111 should be disturbing to everyone, not glommed onto as a point of false equivalence. As an overall percentage of school buildings charter schools dominate the bottom rankings.

Let's look at another claim made by Aaron...

"The fact of the matter is that taxpayers spend less on each child in a charter school then is spent on their district peers."

That claim is contradicted by the Ohio Department of Education (link here:

"The average of total expenditure per pupil for public districts is $10,110.72.

The average expenditure per pupil for community schools is $9,064. When broken out: For e-schools it’s $7,027. For non-eschool community schools it’s $10,165.

So only when one combines the cost of the laughably cheap (and ludicrously underperforming) e-schools do Ohio's charters look inexpensive - and that's using ODE as a source.

Aaron did a good job, as all charter school boosters do, of obfuscating the facts - which is that the vast majority of Ohio's charter schools deliver a poor quality education at an inflated cost.

Let's close them down and concentrate our energy on the schools that 95% of Ohio's students go to, and maybe learn some things along the way from the few charter schools that are getting it right, instead of this constant non-debate and excuse making about the terrible charter schools we all know exist in very high numbers.

Fordham likes to hide behind their advocacy for charter school accountability and quality, but whenever they are pressed on this, they obfuscate the difficult facts and revert to defending the rotten and the failing. They may talk a good game, but in the end they are no less a charter school booster as White Hat owner, David Brennan. Mr. Churchill's post and decision to avoid a discussion on it are further proof of that.

Education News for 12-05-2012

State Education News

  • Ohio Senate passes student-athlete concussion bill (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Starting as soon as the spring sports season, Ohio’s young athletes would have to be immediately removed from a game or practice when they showed symptoms of a concussion…Read more...

  • Columbus school district must pay audit bill (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The cost to Columbus City Schools for being investigated for data-rigging continued to grow this week: The district has become the only one in a statewide probe…Read more...

  • Program to help Ohio schools teach historic texts (Newark Advocate)
  • An educational program unveiled Tuesday by the Ohio Historical Society is meant to help schools comply with a new state law requiring students in grades 4-12…Read more...

  • State audit finds discrepancy in school’s bank deposit (Springfield News-Sun)
  • A state audit released Tuesday included a finding that required the Graham Local School District to repay about $330 to the district’s athletic fund, because of an accounting error…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Adena students' service projects address multiple issues (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • This fall, one class at Adena High School spawned four service projects, most of which had students working within the school…Read more...

  • Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon rolls out draft plan aimed at lifting district's performance (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Six failing schools in the Cleveland school district could be overhauled in the fall. New specialty schools could open in the district a year later…Read more...

  • Opinions split on freshman reading assignment in Grandview (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Any other year, students needed a signed form from their parents to read the book. If they got that, they would meet after school to discuss the novel with their teacher in small groups…Read more...

  • Vanlue takes over BVS busing service (Findlay Courier)
  • Going along with the recent statewide trend of sharing services to reduce cost, Vanlue schools has taken over busing for Blanchard Valley School's preschool and school-aged children…Read more...

  • High school seniors finding they can't procrastinate in college search process (Willoughby News Herald)
  • Preparing to apply to colleges is a task seniors often begin long before they’re set to make the jump from high school. For example, students at Mentor High School start thinking about career choices in the ninth grade…Read more...

  • CMSD to Restore Full K-8 School Day (WJW)
  • Changes are under way to kindergarten through 8th grade school days in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District…Read more...


  • Extended learning (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Next year, 40 schools in five states will participate in a three-year pilot program to extend the school year by 300 or more hours. Research indicates that properly applied, more instructional time…Read more...

Mixed messages from legislature

Greg Mild at Plunderbund delves into the 3rd grade reading guarantee and discovers that it's provisions could potentially cost teachers $17,000 out of their own pocket.

The same Ohio legislators who sought to reduce teacher compensation through Senate Bill 5 last year and who have cut public school funding (including to the Ohio Department of Education), included a requirement in the 3rd Grade Guarantee that will cost individual teachers over $17,000 each — most likely an out-of-pocket expense.
Absent the revisions (where was ODE when this law was being passed in the first place?), all teachers working with students who fall under this law’s provisions will be required to have a reading endorsement as part of their teaching license.

Greg goes on to detail the costs.

But, let's back away from the details for a moment to look at the underlying policy itself. If the legislature truly believes that licensure is not one of the best ways to measure a teachers effectiveness, why then are they relying upon a license in the case of the 3rd grade reading guarantee?

Why are they not instead mandating that a principal assigns the most highly rated teacher to the task of providing 3rd grade reading remediation, rather than some potential slacker with a license?

Talk about mixed messages. Why would any teacher bother to go to the time and expense of getting this license, when there is clear policy that it bares no relationship to pay in the eyes on the legislature?

Public education - a middle class bargain

The USDA has just released their annual report (issued annually since 1960), "Expenditures on Children by Families". finding that:

  • A middle-income family with a child born in 2011 can expect to spend about $234,900 ($295,560 if projected inflation costs are factored in*) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years.
  • For the year 2011, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,290 to $14,320, depending on the age of the child.
  • A family earning less than $59,410 per year can expect to spend a total of $169,080 (in 2011 dollars) on a child from birth through high school.
  • Similarly, middle-income parents with an income between $59,410 and $102,870 can expect to spend $234,900.
  • A family earning more than $102,870 can expect to spend $389,670.

For middle-income families, housing costs are the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging $70,560 or 30 percent of the total cost over 17 years. Child care and education (for those incurring these expenses) and food were the next two largest expenses, accounting for 18 and 16 percent of the total cost over 17 years. These estimates do not include costs associated with pregnancy or the cost of a college education or education beyond high school.

Child care and education expenses consist of day care tuition and supplies; baby-sitting; and elementary and high school tuition, books, fees, and supplies. Books, fees, and supplies may be for private or public schools. However, according to the report, child care and education was the only budgetary component for which about half of all households reported no expenditure.

Without a free public education, the educational expense of raising a child would be the number 1 expense by far. Consider that in Ohio, the per student public school cost is ~$10,000. That would cost the typical 2 child family $20,000 per year, for a total of ~ $260,000 for the entire K-12 education - more than the total expense the USDA reports for raising a child!

It's hard to imagine a greater bargain that that.

Here's a look at how costs have changed since 1960

Expenditures on Children by Families, 2011

Education News for 05-23-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • Ohio House adds gifted schools to education bill (Dispatch)
  • Ohioans could see charter schools set up for gifted students in 16 regions of the state under a still-evolving education plan in the legislature. An Ohio House committee continued making changes yesterday in Gov. John Kasich’s sweeping education proposal, which already had been altered by the Senate before that chamber approved its version this month. In another revision, the House Education Committee removed a provision that would have allowed school principals to pass third-graders who failed the state reading test. Read More…

  • State Superintendent Stan Heffner talks about direction of schools (News-Herald)
  • State Superintendent Stan Heffner was in Lake County this week to lay out the direction of Ohio’s schools. The former Madison Schools Superintendent, in a gathering Monday at Lakeland Community College’s Mooreland Mansion, keyed in on the importance of retooling the current Kindergarten through 12th grade system. Classrooms of the future will be learner-centered rather than teacher-centered; content coverage will be replaced with learning and doing; and textbook dependency will take a back seat to multiple sources of information, Heffner said. Read More…

  • Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's schools plan slows down in Ohio legislature amid concerns over charter schools (Plain Dealer)
  • COLUMBUS - Negotiations to pass Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's education reform plan have reached a critical stage, as state lawmakers continue to wrestle with provisions that deal with charter schools. At the heart of the stalemate is a new panel Jackson proposed to serve as gatekeeper for charter schools in Cleveland. Charter-school proponents want to weaken the panel's authority but Jackson and his Democratic supporters in the legislature have held their ground. Read More…

  • State schools chief outlines changes ahead (Canton Repository)
  • CANTON — By the 2014-15 school year, school as we know it will change. Ohio Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner made the rounds in Stark County on Tuesday to deliver that message and ask public school districts and parents to prepare. “Since 1989, we have focused on a minimum set of standards,” he said during a meeting at The Repository, “but as technology evolved, our system didn’t.” Now, said Heffner, plans are progressing to replace the existing state standards with the new College and Career Ready Standards. Read More…

  • Budget fine-tuning wins panel’s support (Dispatch)
  • The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel will avoid a significant budget cut next year, youths can take driver’s education online and Thomas Edison is headed to Washington, under changes completed last night in the wide-ranging mid-biennium review. The bill, introduced by Gov. John Kasich this spring and described by House Finance Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster, as a “process improvement package,” touches on nearly every agency in state government, often with minor adjustments intended to improve efficiency. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Galion school board votes to cut 20 positions (News-Journal)
  • GALION - After cutting 32 positions last year, the Galion schools are faring no better. Tuesday night, in a special meeting of the Galion City Schools Board of Education, the district did away with more than 20 additional positions -- some administrative -- in a cost-saving measure that made a dismal five-year-forecast look only a little better. The move last year saved the district $960,000. This year, the jobs being cut will save $956,000, said Superintendent Kathy Jenney. Read More…

  • Indian Valley High going totally electronic in fall (Times Reporter)
  • GNADENHUTTEN — This fall, Indian Valley High School will go totally electronic when its comes to educating students. The Indian Valley Board of Education voted Monday to implement the One-to-One Laptop Initiative for students in all four grades in the high school at a cost of $222,605. That amount will cover the cost of everything involved in making the switch, from purchasing computers to teacher training. Read More…

  • More local teachers considering retirement (Journal-News)
  • A proposed change to the state’s teacher retirement system may be the reason more local teachers are seeking retirement after this school year. Nick Treneff, spokesman for the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, said the state has seen a “slight increase” in the number of retirees recently. He said the state is proposing changes to the State Teachers Retirement System and the Schools Employees Retirement System that may result in more contributions and less take-home pay for teachers, and could push the retirement eligibility age back at least five years. Read More…

  • Howland schools expect tough times (Tribune Chronicle)
  • HOWLAND - The Howland Board of Education approved a measure that will require some financial investment from its student athletes in the upcoming year. According to Tom Krispinsky, treasurer, the board approved a measure Monday that will cost student athletes $100 per student per sport at the high school level and $75 per student for unlimited sports at the junior high level. The measure does cap a maximum of $200 per student and $400 per family for grades 7 through 12. There is, however, a little relief for some. Read More…

  • Bluffton looking at deficit spending (Courier)
  • BLUFFTON - Bluffton school board this week approved a revision of the district's five-year forecast for fiscal years 2012-16, which predicts the district may outspend revenue this year by $345,616, said Superintendent Greg Denecker. "More than likely, that number will not be that great," he said. "Not everything is in" and the district's fiscal year does not end until June 30, he said. The amount is "probably a conservative projection," he said. Read More…

  • East Holmes district recalls six teachers (Times Reporter)
  • BERLIN — The East Holmes Board of Education approved an extensive realignment of its teaching staff Monday in the wake of a decision in March to eliminate 16 full-time teaching or staff positions as a cost-savings measure. Six teachers were recalled because more teachers retired than the district anticipated. Among the changes: Special-education classes were eliminated at the Winesburg and Mount Hope buildings. Students in those classes will be shuttled to classes at the Berlin and Chestnut Ridge buildings. Read More…

  • Hamilton High School honors seniors headed for military (Journal-News)
  • HAMILTON - Hamilton High School paid tribute Tuesday to its 17 seniors that will be joining a branch of the United States military upon graduation. Keynote speaker was Lt. Col. Joseph Copas, U.S. Army, a graduate of Taft High School in Hamilton who enlisted in the military in 1983. “I can’t think of any two more honorable careers than being a teacher or serving in the country,” Copas said. “How appropriate it is that we gather for a recognition of what these young men and women are about to do.” Read More…

  • Springfield teachers ratify new contract (ONN)
  • HOLLAND - On what would have been the day Springfield Local Schools teachers hit the picket lines, they ratified their new contract after almost a year of working without a contract and a year's worth of negotiations. A potential deal has been reached between Springfield teachers and the Board of Education. Now it's just up to both sides to approve it. There are 233 members of the Springfield Education Association, and while not every one of them approved of the new contract, majority rules. Read More…

3rd grade retention plan could cost $500 million

One of the signature policy initiatives in the Kasich MBR is the proposed change in the 3rd grade reading guarantee.

Specifically, according to LSC analysis, the bill (SB316) makes several changes to the third grade reading guarantee beginning with the 2012-2013 school year. Under current law, the third grade reading guarantee requires school districts and community schools to retain in third grade a student who scores in the "limited" range on the third grade English language arts assessment, unless the student's principal and reading teacher agree that the student is academically prepared for fourth grade or the student will receive intervention services in fourth grade. The bill changes the "cut" score and applies the guarantee to all students who do not receive at least a "proficient" (or passing) score on the assessment. The "limited" score, which currently triggers the guarantee, is the lowest of five scoring ranges and two levels below "proficient."

In short, more students will be held back, and less flexibility will be granted to educators in determining if a student who misses the proficient level can proceed to the fourth grade.

None of this expansion is funded, so let's take a look at what this policy might additionally cost cash strapped schools.

In October 2011, a total of 126,569 3rd grade Ohio public school students participated in the Reading Achievement Test. Here are the aggregated results, according to ODE statistics.

Level Number Percent
Advanced 22,987 18.2%
Accelerated 23,619 18.7%
Proficient 28,038 22.2%
Basic 23,574 18.6%
Limited 28,351 22.4%

In recent years the number of students scoring proficient or higher has varied from a high of 67.5% to a low of 53.3%. Remember, according to the new proposal, any student scoring below proficient is likely to be held back and made to repeat 3rd grade.

Again, according to ODE statistics, the median cost per pupil in Ohio per year in 2011 was $9,567.89, with an average of $9,961.57.

Under the new rules, the 51,925 students who failed to reach the minimum proficiency standard would have been at risk of being held back. At a median cost of $9,961 per student, districts could be on the hook for a total of $517,224,925 to fund that many students repeating 3rd grade.

To put that into some perspective, the crisis in Cleveland public schools is caused by a budget shortfall of $65 million. This unfunded manade could pay for that shortfall 8 times over.