Charter school performance crisis

The Ohio Department of education finally released their complete set of school ratings data, so we can once again take a look at the performance of traditional public schools and Ohio's charter schools. Keep in mind as you look at these results that charter schools in Ohio cost $54 more per pupil than traditional public schools, and that 90% of the money going to charter schools that are rated in Ohio go from better performing school districts to poorer performing charter schools on the Performance Index.

So, with that in mind, how do these schools stack up against each other?

The answer is, that charters do not stack up well against traditional public schools at all. Less than 10% of Ohio's charter schools rate excellent or better, compared to 54% of Ohio's traditional public schools. Worse still, at the bottom end, almost 40% of Ohio's charter schools are in academic emergency or academic watch, compared with just over 11% of Ohio's traditional public schools.

These results make it very difficult to justify diverting over $820 million from traditional schools delivering a quality education to charter schools delivering failure.

Standards are now so low in some Ohio charter schools that an investigative report by State Impact has found

Can’t pass the Ohio Graduation Tests? No problem, some charter schools say. You can still graduate.

At some Ohio charter schools, if a student can’t pass Ohio’s five graduation exams — in reading, writing, math, science and social studies — the schools enroll them in a series of correspondence courses through an Illinois-based school. The student then earns a high school diploma from the state of Illinois. Illinois does not require students to pass a state test to graduate.

If there's an education crisis in Ohio, it's with Ohio's charter schools first, and most.

Education News for 11-28-2012

State Education News

  • Black grad rate lags in Ohio (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • Ohio is the sixth worst state in the nation at graduating black students from high school on time, a new federal study says…Read more...

  • Ohio’s grad rates show racial disparity (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Ohio has one of the nation’s lowest graduation rates for black students but one of the better rates for white students. The gap between black and white students’ success is so wide — white students’ rate is 26 percentage points higher…Read more...

  • House tweaking schools legislation (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Majority Republicans in the House say legislation to ramp up the school accountability system and create new report cards for schools and districts could be voted on as early as Thursday…Read more...

  • Ohio ties for 8th in U.S. for high school graduation rates (Dayton Daily News)
  • Twenty two states have better high school graduation rates than Ohio under a new, more uniform method of calculation, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education…Read more...

  • Local HS Introduces Unique Texting Program (WJW)
  • A Lake County high school is now using a unique text messaging program which allows students to anonymously send tips about any potential dangers at their school…Read more...

Local Education News

  • New Albany levy passes; district will build a school (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Voters approved a New Albany schools tax that will pay for a new school building, according to final, official results the Board of Elections certified yesterday…Read more...

  • Vanlue, Kenton agree to share school treasurer (Findlay Courier)
  • Vanlue and Kenton school districts have agreed to share a treasurer, school administrators announced this week…Read more...

  • Mansfield school district rethinking budget situation (Mansfield News Journal)
  • A gamble by the Mansfield City Schools Board of Education backfired at the polls this month, and the district will operate with $4 million less next year…Read more...

  • No comments for proposed 'double dip' (Newark Advocate)
  • No one spoke up at a public hearing Tuesday concerning the proposed retirement and rehiring of the superintendent of the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County…Read more...

  • Austintown teens learn work skills (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Hartford Orchard has hosted many families and events throughout the season, but on Tuesday, those visiting the orchard were put to work…Read more...


  • Plenty of big questions facing Ohio's schools (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • When it comes to the state government in Columbus and big issues involving Ohio’s public schools, there are more big unknowns than knowns at the moment…Read more...

  • Ohio ready to reform tests, data (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • At long last, Ohio seems on the brink of simple, common-sense school reforms. One would compare the performance of students to those in other states. Another would eliminate the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo…Read more...

Education News for 11-21-2012

State Education News

  • Graduation test to be subbed out (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Ohio will dump its high-school graduation test and replace it with a tougher college-readiness exam and a series of end-of-course tests…Read more…

  • State Educators To Replace Ohio Graduation Test With Course-Specific Exams (WBNS)
  • The Ohio Board of Regents, the State Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education have agreed on a plan to replace the Ohio Graduation Test with college and career readiness tests.…Read more…

  • Ohio high school testing standards to be raised (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Education leaders in Ohio have reached an agreement that will transform the current high-school testing system from minimal standards to a system of higher expectations that will clearly define college and career readiness for graduates.…Read more…

Local Education News

  • Cleveland schools set goal of topping other big-city districts by 2017 (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland school district aims to have state test scores by 2017 that would top those that all other big-city districts in Ohio have now.…Read more…

  • Community leaders launch effort to prepare students for high-skilled jobs (Dayton Daily News)
  • Hundreds of community leaders gathered Tuesday for Learn to Earn Dayton’s formal launch of a cradle-to-career educational initiative that aims to better prepare students for high-skilled jobs.…Read more…

  • Chardon School District to begin search for new superintendent (Willoughby News Herald)
  • The Chardon School District is moving ahead with its search for a new superintendent to take over for the 2013-14 school year.…Read more…

Assessing Ourselves To Death

I have two points to make. The first is something that I think everyone knows: Educational outcomes, such as graduation and test scores, are signals of or proxies for the traits that lead to success in life, not the cause of that success.

For example, it is well-documented that high school graduates earn more, on average, than non-graduates. Thus, one often hears arguments that increasing graduation rates will drastically improve students’ future prospects, and the performance of the economy overall. Well, not exactly.

The piece of paper, of course, only goes so far. Rather, the benefits of graduation arise because graduates are more likely to possess the skills – including the critical non-cognitive sort – that make people good employees (and, on a highly related note, because employers know that, and use credentials to screen applicants).

We could very easily increase the graduation rate by easing requirements, but this wouldn’t do much to help kids advance in the labor market. They might get a few more calls for interviews, but over the long haul, they’d still be at a tremendous disadvantage if they lacked the required skills and work habits.

Moreover, employers would quickly catch on, and adjust course accordingly. They’d stop relying as much on high school graduation to screen potential workers. This would not only deflate the economic value of a diploma, but high school completion would also become a less useful measure for policymakers and researchers.

This is, of course, one of the well-known risks of a high-stakes focus on metrics such as test scores. Test-based accountability presumes that tests can account for ability. We all know about what is sometimes called “Campbell’s Law,” and we’ve all heard the warnings and complaints about so-called “teaching to the test.” Some people take these arguments too far, while others are too casually dismissive. In general, though, the public (if not all policymakers) have a sense that test-based accountability can be a good thing so long as it is done correctly and doesn’t go too far.

Now, here’s my second point: I’m afraid we’ve gone too far.

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Education News for 04-18-2012

Statewide Education News

  • Ohio takes aim at reducing achievement gap (EdWeek)
  • Estimates in Ohio suggest that at the current rate of progress, black fifth-graders will be reading on par with white fifth-graders in the year 2315. Third-graders they will start to pass reading exams at the same rate in 2102. Read More…

  • Schools, teachers seek delay in grading (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Leaders of teachers unions and education groups urged lawmakers yesterday to delay rolling out a tougher school grading system proposed by Gov. John Kasich, but the administration is not backing down. “We want them (the new rankings) in yesterday,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said. “No one is backing away and saying we need additional time. We are not seeking a delay. We want to see this go into effect this year.” The new system for grading schools and school districts will begin with report cards issued by the Ohio Department of Education this summer. Simulations show that most schools will drop a full letter grade, maybe two.Read More…

  • CPS to lose fewer students to private schools (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • Cincinnati Public schools will lose fewer students than expected next year to private schools and state-funded vouchers, a school official said Tuesday. Only 899 new students applied for new Educational Choice scholarships for the upcoming school year, said Janet Walsh, a Cincinnati Public spokeswoman. That’s down from 1,078 EdChoice applicants from CPS last year and it’s far below the 1,377 students district officials had projected to lose this spring, she said. Read More…

  • School-voucher programs prove popular (Columbus Dispatch)
  • More than 17,400 applications for students to attend private schools using taxpayer-funded vouchers were filed for next school year, a slight increase over last year. An additional 1,544 requests for a new special-needs voucher program were made by Sunday’s deadline. Among the 17,438 applications for an Educational Choice Scholarship were 3,814 new applicants. That deadline was Friday. About 17,000 applications were filed last year to use vouchers this school year. Read More…

  • Fewer Lima families seeking vouchers (Lima News)
  • LIMA — For the first time since the state began its voucher program, the Lima City School District is seeing fewer families wanting to leave the district. Twenty-eighty fewer pupils have applied for EdChoice scholarships. The last day to apply for a scholarship for next school year was Friday. Not all of those applying will necessarily get a scholarship. Read More…

  • Bill would hold school, government fiscal officers accountable (Columbus Dispatch)
  • School and government treasurers could be suspended or removed if they don’t keep proper records and spend taxpayer money appropriately, a bill introduced yesterday in the General Assembly says.

    The bill was prompted by several high-profile cases of misspending and theft, state Auditor Dave Yost said in introducing the Fiscal Integrity Act. Read More…

  • Your guide to how Ohio writes inoffensive test questions (State Impact Ohio)
  • Tenth graders across the state spent much of their time last month taking tests — the Ohio Graduation Tests to be specific. The OGT’s are given in five subject areas, and some students found one question on the Social Studies portion of the exam objectionable. The question asked: “After the Holocaust, many Jews felt that they needed a state of their own in order to provide security for the Jewish people. In 1948, the state of Israel was formed. Many Arabs disagreed with this action. Identify two perspectives of many Arabs that explain their objection to the establishment of Israel.”

    The Ohio Jewish Communities, a registered lobbying group, petitioned the Ohio Department of Education to remove that question, alleging bias that offended some Jewish students. After review, state officials concluded the phrasing was inappropriate and won’t be used again. Read More…

  • One big difference between Ohio and Florida Standardized Tests (State Impact Florida)
  • Our friends at StateImpact Ohio have an interesting look at how Ohio comes up with the wording on its standardized tests. By committee, of course. A controversy over a question about the Arab perception of the creation of Israel prompted concerns that the questions might not be without bias. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Teen who cared for mom wins bid to take part in graduation (Canton Repository)
  • CARROLLTON —Teri Fisher had a goal in mind as she battled Stage IV cancer last fall. She wanted to survive long enough to see her son, Austin, graduate from Carrollton High School. Her cancer went into remission in early March, and her goal will be realized thanks to the power of the Internet and a loyal community. Austin, 17, had been told by school principals that he would not be participating in the commencement ceremony in May because he had 16 unexcused absences in the first semester — two more than the amount allowed by the district.Read More…

  • Silent support for “Fish” at Carrollton BOE meeting (New Philadelphia Times- Reporter)
  • CARROLLTON — Many supporters of Austin Fisher came to the meeting of the Carrollton Board of Education on Tuesday night. But they only spoke with their signs. Supporters had been organizing all day Tuesday with hopes that school administrators would change their mind and that Austin Fisher would be able to attend not only his graduation, but also the senior prom, and go on the senior class trip to Cedar Point. Read More…

  • Cleveland board votes to trim teaching staff next year (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland school board voted Tuesday to trim an eighth of its teaching staff in the upcoming school year because of budget troubles and a falling number of students. The district will also shorten its school day through eighth grade by 50 minutes next school year and cut the number of music, art, library and gym classes for those students as part of the shuffling of staff to handle the layoffs. The elimination of more than 500 teachers -- all in kindergarten through eighth grade -- through layoffs and a retirement incentive is a major part of district Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon's plan to resolve a $65 million budget deficit for next school year. The layoffs are expected to cover about $40 million of the $65 million. Read More…

Editorial & Opinion

  • Apply common sense with the rules (Lima News)
  • It's likely no one was upset when the Carrollton, Ohio, school district said students who miss more than a certain number of days wouldn't walk in the graduation ceremony. But such rules should come with flexibility for extremely unusual circumstances. A student missing school to care for his dying mother would strike most people as an extremely usual circumstance.Read More…

New criteria for dropout schools proposed

Charter operators have long used a loophole in Ohio's lax charter laws to skirt and avoid accountability. Some of those loopholes are getting smaller. Gongwer

Dropout recovery charter schools have long been shielded from Ohio's closure laws for poor performance but the Department of Education revealed details Monday on how it might fairly grade those schools.

Advocates for the schools that serve students age 17 to 22 who either dropped out of school or who are at risk of doing so have said their institutions should be graded differently from traditional schools because they work with challenging student populations.
ODE staff laid out eight criteria by which they said the state could score the dropout recovery schools in an equitable manner.

The eight criteria are as follows:

  • Academic growth, If this standard were adopted, however, it would only apply to students who are engaged and participating a certain number of days out of the year.
  • The schools' graduation test passage rate as a cumulative rate. It would not be the same indicator as for traditional schools, which is first-time passage of the test in 10th grade.
  • The schools' extended graduation rate. Designed to give schools credit for graduating students in four years, five years, six years, seven years."
  • Credits earned as an indication of progress toward a diploma.
  • College and career readiness with the former including apprenticeships and two-year and four-year degrees.
  • Community collaboration. A measure of working on an individualized education plan for these students and measuring whether those (plans) exist for students.
  • Sustained enrollment and attendance, which addresses that challenge of getting students to participate.
  • Sponsor rating, which would attempt to address the uniqueness of dropout recovery schools in their mission and population.

Only time will tell if these criteria are meaningful enough and vigorously pursued to have any meaningful impact on students academic achievements.