HB555 Analysis

The Ohio House of Representatives approved HB 555. The House passed the bill without amendments in a party line vote, 58-27. The bill will now head to the Senate.

The Legislative Services Commision has analyzed the bill and produced the report below. While the devil is in the details, and there are some devils, here's a brief breakdown of the policies HB555 contains

  • Replaces the current academic performance rating system for school districts, individual buildings of districts, community schools, STEM schools, and collegepreparatory boarding schools with a phased-in letter grade system under which districts and schools are assigned grades of "A," "B," "C," "D," or "F" based on 15 measures to reflect the performance profile of each district or school.
  • Creates six component classifications in which each performance measure is categorized and a grade is assigned for each component to be calculated into assigning an overall grade to a school district or building.
  • Requires the State Board of Education to develop an alternative academic performance rating system for community schools serving primarily students enrolled in dropout prevention and recovery programs.
  • Establishes criteria for closing dropout prevention and recovery community schools based on their academic performance.
  • Requires the Department of Education to review additional information included on report cards and submit to the Governor and the General Assembly recommendations for revisions.
  • Establishes a new evaluation process for determining which community school sponsors may sponsor additional schools.
  • Permits the Ohio Office of School Sponsorship to sponsor a community school if the school's sponsor has been prohibited from sponsoring additional schools.
  • Delays implementation of the new sponsor evaluation system until the 2015-2016 school year.
  • Renames the Ohio Accountability Task Force as the Ohio Accountability Advisory Committee and alters its membership and duties.
  • Requires the State Board to submit to the General Assembly recommendations for a comprehensive statewide plan to intervene in and improve the performance of persistently poor performing schools and school districts.
  • Reinstates the permanent requirement for five scoring ranges on the state achievement assessments.
  • Requires a school district to provide immediate services and regular diagnostic assessments for a student found to have a reading deficiency pending development of the student's reading improvement and monitoring plan required under continuing law.
  • Adds college-preparatory boarding schools to the provisions requiring the Department of Education to rank public schools by expenditures.
  • Requires that a designated fiscal officer of a community school be licensed as a school treasurer by the State Board of Education prior to assuming the duties of fiscal officer.
  • Requires the Department of Education to conduct two application periods each year for the Educational Choice Scholarship Program.
  • Establishes measures the Superintendent of Public Instruction must consider before approving new Internet- or computer-based community schools.
  • Restates that the requirements of the standards-based state framework for teacher evaluations and the standards and procedures for nonrenewal of a teacher's contract as a result of the evaluation prevail over any conflicting provisions of a collective bargaining agreement entered into on or after the effective date of the bill.
  • Specifically permits educational service centers to partner in the development of STEM schools
  • Permits an educational service center to sponsor a new start-up community school in any challenged district in the state, instead of just its service territory, so long as it receives approval to do so from the Department of Education.
  • Qualifies for a War Orphans Scholarship, children of military veterans who participated in an operation for which the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal was awarded.
  • Authorizes the administrators of the Ohio National Guard Scholarship Program and the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship Program to apply for and receive grants; to accept gifts, bequests, and contributions from public and private sources; and to deposit all such contributions into the respective National Guard Scholarship Reserve Fund (existing) or the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship Fund (created by the bill).

OFT is asking that the following fixes be made to HB 555

  1. Eliminate graded items for the current school year. It’s not fair to change the rules in the middle of the game, or year. Delay any grades to 2014-2015.
  2. Don’t grade items that are impacted by a lack of resources - participation in AP courses, dual enrollment participation rate, K-3 literacy rate, college admission testing scores, remediation.
  3. Eliminate Accountability Board language
  4. A composite score dilutes the value of the dashboard and should be eliminated.
  5. Eliminate language that raises the standard and the cut score for achievement tests. This causes double jeopardy for school districts. Raising the cut score and standards from 75 to 80 percent will force more school districts to have lower scores making them and buildings subject to possible vouchers for low performance. Only the cut score should be raised.
  6. Safe harbor: For three years the student portion of teacher evaluations should be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent. For three years school districts currently earning a continuous improvement rating or higher should be exempt from sanctions.

HB 555 Analysis

Bad charter sponsors, bad policy

It comes as little surprise to anyone who follows the development of what some call Ohio education policy to learn that Ohio's charter school laws have serious flaws.

The Ohio Department of Education has just released their charter school sponsor rankings. As StateImpact notes

The sponsor role is different from the role of a charter school operator. Charter school operators, which include both for-profit and non-profit groups, manage schools’ day-to-day operations while sponsors are supposed to play more of an oversight role.

These rankings are important because under HB153, sponsors who fall into the bottom 20% cannot authorize any more charter schools until their schools improve. LSC (page 216):

(New R.C. 3314.016)
The act prohibits a community school sponsor from sponsoring any additional schools, if it (1) is not in compliance with statutory requirements to report data or other information to the Department of Education or (2) is ranked in the lowest 20% of all sponsors on an annual ranking of sponsors by their composite performance index scores. The composite performance index score, which must be developed by the Department, is a measure of the academic performance of students enrolled in community schools sponsored by the same entity. Presumably, if a sponsor is subject to the prohibition due only to its ranking, it may sponsor additional schools if it later raises its ranking above the lowest 20%.

We have published the ranking list below. People who posses the ability to think critically will already have concluded 2 things about this prescriptive law.

  1. Marion City with a performance score of 69.2 is barred from authorizing any more charters, while Lorain City with a performance score of just 69.4 can continue to operate as it just misses the 20% cut.
  2. No matter what performance sponsors have there will always be a bottom 20%

Why didn't the law specify an actual performance measure? The legislature saw fit to do exactly this for teachers under SB5, but not for sponsors of charter schools.

To complicate matters further, the Ohio Department of Education which is tasked by law to create these rankings, will also be getting back into the business of being a charter school sponsor. A task it once had taken away from it because of abysmal performance that made Ohio charter schools the laughing stock of the nation.

Now, under HB153, ODE will not only be responsible for sponsoring charters again - but producing the rankings - including their very own. This doesn't strike us at Join the Future as a very wise situation.

Will ODE be able to exert enough independence between its sponsorship role and its evaluation of sponsors, even if its own performance is substandard as it was in the past? That's an obvious question that should not have to be asked if state education policy was properly thought through and developed in a collaborative manner.

In the meantime, we can take solace in the fact (as the Disptach reports) that Mansfield, Marion, Ridgedale, Rittman, Upper Scioto Valley and Van Wert school districts; the Richland Academy; and the educational service centers in Hardin and Portage counties cannot open any more charter schools.

Ohio Charter School Sponsor Rankings

Education Czar ok with expanding charter failure

Currently Ohio has almost 100,000 students attending 339 charter schools, costing tax payers about $720 million a year. The Governors new budget seeks to significantly privatize public education further.

With so much at stake, there's currently a lot of lobbying going on, and lot of that lobbying is around this issue

In Ohio, a charter school must have a contract with one of 77 approved sponsors (also known as authorizers) who are responsible for overseeing academics and finances. Many are school districts or county educational service centers that sponsor only one or two charter schools, but a few are nonprofit organizations that sponsor dozens.

As introduced, Kasich's budget pins more responsibility on sponsors by forbidding them from adding schools if any of their current schools are in academic watch or academic emergency, the state's two lowest rankings.

Seems reasonable that we would want authorizers to only be sponsoring quality school programs. But there's a hitch, and it's a big one

That disqualifies just about everyone who's a sponsor now because almost all have at least one low-performing school, said Terry Ryan, who heads the Ohio offices of the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Its sister foundation sponsors seven charter schools in Ohio, one of which is in academic emergency.

One would think these organizations would want to spend some time fixing their current failing schools, but no, that's not what is being lobbied for in Columbus

Ryan would like to see that changed to allow, say, 20 percent of a sponsor's schools to be low-ranked. But he's quick to add, "We do not want to return to the days when 50, 60, 70 schools were being opened by people who did not have a solid track record. We're still seeing the repercussions from that."

20 percent! That's an awful lot of students being left behind. What does the Governor's education Czar think?

Sommers is amenable to a change.

Well of course he is. This massive expansion of charter schools has nothing to do with improving education quality. It's about the bottom line.