Tuesday, May 19, 2015

UA's Former White Hat Executive's Curious Resume

Last week, I wrote about Todd Rickel -- the University of Akron's newest vice provost who is charged with re-shaping the university. I detailed how during Rickel's time as the head of White Hat Management's academic operation, he oversaw some of the worst performing charter schools in the state and country.

Well, something very interesting just showed up: Rickel has two different resumes posted at the University of Akron (if one disappears, I'll post them for you to see).

No biggie, right? People update their resumes all the time. One is from his application for the job he ended up getting. The second is an updated version.

Except here's a weird thing with Rickel's: He now claims he spoke at two conventions he never mentioned speaking at in his application resume. And he no longer claims to have been a speaker at conventions he mentioned in the application.

In his application, he claimed to have made 2 presentations in 2012 and one in 2013. They were three concurrent panel sessions at 3 different conferences. In 2012, he claimed to have made a presentation at the United States Distance Learning Association's (USDLA) National Conference ("Technology, Retention and Sustainability in Practice") and the annual convention for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) ("Higher Education Partnerships: Mutual benefits across two and four year institutions"). In 2013, he claimed to have presented at the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Academic Resource Conference ("The Sustainable University").

Prior to 2012, he hadn't made an academic presentation since 2003 when he did one at the University of Phoenix where he has worked off and on for several years, and several at Kent State -- his alma mater where he had taught as an adjunct. In other words, he had no experience presenting at a major convention or conference outside of places where he was employed.

Which is what makes his updated resume ("last updated 14 February 2015") so interesting. On his new resume, he claims he spoke at 3 conferences in 2012. Nothing in 2013. The conferences were the WASC Academic Resource Conference in 2012, the USDLA conference and the Community College Baccalaureate Association's 12th Annual International Conference.

The panels he claimed to have led were completely different too. The WASC panel was "Partnering without Tears: Co-Sourcing for Student Success and Mutual Profit". The USDLA panel was "Beyond Facebook: Creating the NextGen Social Media Communities of the 21st Century". The CCBA plenary panel was "Community College Baccalaureate Degree Inflation: Careful What You Wish For."

The only conference he claimed to be at in both resumes was the 2012 USDLA conference, but the sessions were completely different.

Looking at it now, if one were applying to turn around a university with retention and financial challenges like UA, wouldn't having the sessions mentioned on his application resume -- about retention, sustainability, and partnering -- sound a lot better than stuff about community colleges and Facebook and mutual profit?

I looked online to see if I could find the conferences' agendas. They had been wiped from the organizations' sites. I couldn't even find them in the Wayback Machine. I'm sure there are more tech savvy people than I who are out there and can find these things better than I.

I'm just wondering why he didn't mention them all in the application? Wouldn't you want to show that you led 6 rather than 3 sessions at national conventions since 2012? I mean in both resumes, he mentioned he was part of Kent State's sail club. It's not like he's making editorial decisions in other parts of the resume.

Usually when you update a resume it's to add current achievements that happened after the application resume. It's not to change which three convention sessions you gave, or switch up where you gave these completely different panel sessions.

I don't know if there's any funny stuff going on here. But it sure begs a few questions about why these changes were made -- questions Rickel should answer so that the UA community can be assured that the man helping re-shape the university has done what he claims.

Because, as mentioned in my earlier post, his background at White Hat was anything but stellar for kids' academic performance.

Ohio E-Schools: Ohio's Baddest Apples

Four years ago, I helped write an Innovation Ohio analysis of Ohio's E-Schools that was one of the first examinations of the statewide impact of those schools on Ohio's kids and districts. Needless to say, E-School performance was dreadful. The report kind of put IO on the map and was cited by many national outlets and in Diane Ravitch's most recent book.

Fresh off the revelations that the Ohio Virtual Academy -- the state and nation's second-largest for-profit school -- may have been fudging their enrollment data to get paid, I decided to take another look, this time with our partners at KnowYourCharter.com. The results are worse now.

Here are the highlights:

  • More than half of the money going from better performing Ohio school districts to worse performing charters goes to 6 statewide E-Schools
  • 98% of all the children attending charters that performed worse than their feeder districts on all the state’s report card measures went to the same six statewide Ohio E-Schools – at a cost of $72 million
  • Local Ohio taxpayers have had to subsidize $104 million of the cost of Ohio E-Schools because students in E-Schools receive so much more per pupil funding from the state than would their local public school.

What else is remarkable is that the school districts that have the most similar rates of poverty also outperform E-Schools. By a substantial margin. And E-Schools provide a substantial portion of the money and children lost to the worst performing charters in Ohio.

Charters would still be a problem in Ohio, and their performance would remain worse than districts overall. However, the gap would be narrowed.

The money is really what gets me. Charters get paid enough now to provide 15:1 student-teacher ratios, $2,000 laptops to every student and still clear about 35%. Instead, they only spend 17% of their funding on teachers. What else is there in an E-School, which has no buildings, janitors, lunch ladies, buses, etc.?

I commend Sens. Lehner and Sawyer for taking on E-Schools in their Senate Bill 148. It's a modest attempt, but given the fact that both Mssrs. Brennan (who runs OHDELA) and Lager (who runs ECOT) have contributed more to politicians over the last 16 years than any other individuals (while collecting about 1 in 4 charter dollars spent during that period), I admire the willingness to take on this issue.

I am also a realist. And as long as big campaign contributions are made, real reform will be a huge challenge. But here's hoping that this legislature is up to it. Our kids and taxpayers can't afford this anymore.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Should University of Akron Put Faith in Former White Hat Executive?

For those of you who aren't aware, there are major changes happening at the University of Akron. From potential name changes to mission shifts, it appears the same university that produced the CEO of Goodyear (Charles Pilliod), perhaps the most influential rock band of the last 15 years (the Black Keys), the author of New York Times bestsellers (Michael Buckley) and comedian George Wallace needs to change the way it does business.

Amid all this discussion is a forgotten fact: Ohio (like many states) has dramatically divested itself from higher education over the last 20 years, just as its leaders have given lip service to the idea that we need to boost our academic attainment. For example, when I first went off to college in the 1990-1991 school year, Ohio spent $1.2 billion providing state support of instruction for the state's higher education institutions. Adjusted for inflation, that would be the equivalent of $2.2 billion this year. Instead, the amount was $1.8 billion. During the 2000s, the University of Akron saw its per pupil subsidy drop by nearly 25%. So could the drop in state aid be contributing to our state's universities' financial woes?


Anyway, while I'm not opposed to changing things, I deeply question how new University of Akron President Scott Scarborough could put so much faith in Todd Rickel -- the  vice provost and executive dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology. 

It is Rickel, who calls himself an "Education Futurist" on his LinkedIn page, that causes me the greatest deal of pause. Why? Because, according to his resume posted at the UA website (and his LinkedIn page), he was the "Chief Learning Officer" for White Hat Management at the apex of that company's dominance of Ohio's charter school sector in the mid-2000s. He also served as the company's Executive Vice President of Life Skills High Schools and its Vice President of the company's Distance Education Group -- overseeing Ohio's worst online school (it had the lowest Performance Index Score of any online school last year), the Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy (OHDELA).

During his time at White Hat, the company was receiving $110 million a year, on average, from Ohio taxpayers. Meanwhile, the schools' performance -- for which Rickel was directly responsible -- was dreadful.

When Rickel was at White Hat, the state did not have an A-F report card system. It had a very similar scale though: Excellent, Effective, Continuous Improvement, Academic Watch and Academic Emergency. Excellent was like an A, Emergency like an F.

Well, here's how White Hat schools performed under Rickel's leadership:

As you can see, White Hat had a far higher percentage of Academic Emergency ratings than even Ohio's urban school districts. They had exactly 1 Excellent rating and 2 Effective ratings.

And you can see that Ohio's local public school districts smoked Rickel's schools overall.

Looking at different metrics doesn't help Rickel's case much either.

Look at his schools' Performance Index Scores. The PI measures proficiency test success. And as you can see, the average PI score of 50 in White Hat schools is 1/3 lower than urban districts and about 1/2 as good as districts overall. 

To give you an idea of what a score of 50 means, it would require that about 68% of students score in the basic range and 32% score in the below basic range on state proficiency tests. Those two categories are the two below proficiency categories Ohio uses to calculate its Performance Index Score.

 Annual Yearly Progress also demonstrates Rickel's failure at White Hat to close achievement gaps and serve traditionally underserved students.

White Hat was failing to meet AYP at a 90% clip during Rickel's tenure. That is frankly horrendous. Not saying the 70% rate in Ohio's urban districts is great, but it is nearly 25% smaller.

And under his tutelage, Life Skills began earning its well-earned moniker of worst-performing charter school group in the state. Life Skills High Schools -- a dropout recovery chain -- routinely received the worst Performance Index scores in the state. That is until the state stopped using PI to hold dropout recovery schools accountable. Under Rickel, they were no different.

Why do I bring this up? Because it is Rickel who is now telling folks at the University of Akron how to deliver their education experience. That's right. The people who educated some of the best minds in the region and country are being told what to do by a guy who ran several of the worst performing K-12 schools in the state.

And UA is paying Rickel $295,000 a year to do it -- the highest salary of three new administrators brought in by Scarborough in February.

Why would a respectable university turn over these major decisions to a guy with this background of educational failure? 

Simple. Look at who runs White Hat. David Brennan. Brennan has an endowed chair at the University of Akron School of Law (where I graduated in 2005) and has been the state's most prolific campaign contributor over the last three decades to state lawmakers (all but 1 of his donations have gone to Ohio Republicans). 

There is little question that in the Akron area -- where Brennan is from -- he remains a powerful influence, though his power statewide seems to be waning as William Lager, who runs the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, picks up the mantle of Ohio charter school political king maker.

All I'm saying is if you're going to turn over the reins of change to someone, would it be someone with Rickel's history? 

But at least I think I've figured out why he calls himself an "education futurist". Given his past failings, I suppose his interest in future gazing is understandable.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ohio's Charter Schools Just Don't Work, Part V. But Can They?

Today is all about solutions.

Over the last several days, I've taken a look at Ohio's charter schools. How they cost kids in local school districts significant sums of state funding while performing far worse academically. How the excuses explaining Ohio's charter school issues don't hold much water. How even urban buildings perform better in many cases that Ohio's charter schools overall. And finally, yesterday, how even the highest performing charters in the state don't outperform the state's highest performing school districts, nor do they outperform the state's highest performing urban buildings and the state spends barely a fraction of its charter funding on these high performers anyway.

Let me say that I'm not developing the quintessential list of fixes. I'm putting together what I think will help the charter sector improve the quickest and best way. We're going on 20 years of charters in Ohio. We've had little if any true reform of these things over those now three decades. We can't afford any further delays.

There needs to be a three-pronged approach to fixing Ohio's ridiculed charter school sector.

Close down failed charter schools earlier
In the 2013 CREDO study on national charter school performance, the authors determined that "the use of the option to close bad schools represents the strongest available tool to improve overall sector quality ... the impact on quality that accompanies closure is more dramatic and enduring than efforts to improve the current stock of schools."

What does that mean? It means closing failing schools quickly will quickly improve the overall performance of the state's charter school sector. However, in Ohio, a charter can stay open for 6-7 years (depending on grade) before it's closed. And the failure is a very low bar -- getting a report card F grade in certain categories. So a charter can stay open if they get Ds every couple years.

There's a pretty straight forward solution to this issue. The state gives a two-year "honeymoon" period where charters don't receive report card grades for its first two years of existence. In addition, once the school is determined to be failing, it gets to stay open for the year before it closes. Eliminate some or all of these three years and schools would have 3-4 years to prove their worth. That's plenty of time. Given our state's limited resources, we just can't be pumping millions into these schools. As the CREDO authors observed: "we do not see dramatic improvement among existing charter schools over time."

So something closer to 4-ish years should do the trick. And Ohio has a couple loopholes in place already that would simply need closing.

I would also advocate for a tougher closure standard, in accordance with what CREDO found that
"in many places, the standards of performance are set too low, as evidenced by the large number of underperforming charter schools that persist. The point here is that, as with students, setting and holding high expectations is an important feature of school policies and practices. More focus is required of authorizers and charter school governing boards to set high performance and accountability standards and hold charter schools to them."
Develop a charter school funding formula that allows high-performing charters to thrive while not adversely impacting the opportunities for children in local public school districts
This is the (literally) $1 billion question. How to fund these schools that don't get local revenue so they can succeed? Well, some would argue they should get local revenue. However, there are a host of issues with that premise. For example, would their local capacity be deducted from their state aid amounts, as local public school districts' are currently? And what about the charters that take kids from more than one district? Whose local revenue would cover that school's cost?

However, judging from state expenditure data, Ohio's charter schools may have enough to spend about the same in the classroom as districts. Except they don't. Because they spend a ton more per pupil on non-instructional administrative costs. If Ohio charter schools spent the same per pupil amount on administration that districts did, they would have enough to spend the same on instruction as districts, even without local revenue.

The issue then is whether that instructional spend is adequate for kids, and there's real question about that. But be that as it may, Ohio's charters are receiving enough money now that they could be spending the same on instruction as school districts. They just don't.

The key to funding both charters and local public schools is this: an accurate formula that reflects the real cost of providing high-quality educational opportunities to children at the school they are attending. In the charter sector, Ohio's charters get paid based on what the child's home district would have been for that same child, trouble is that that expenses are far less in charters. FOr example, they pay their teachers about 60% less and don't pay for busing. Yet they are paid by the state as if they paid their teachers 40% more and busing.

Ensuring an accurate measure of cost in both sectors will mean that the right amount of funding will flow to the child based on where the child goes to school, not where they live. There should also be substantial bonuses for charters that are doing a good job. So the overall structure works like this: fund low performing charters at the level where you can't make huge profits off failure, while funding high-performers at a level that would ensure their continued success.

Ensure absolute accountability and transparency of Ohio's charter schools
Charter schools have a conundrum. They are funded almost exclusively by public funding. Yet they are run by private entities, either non-profit or for-profit companies. However, this structure leads to concerns that they really aren't public schools at all, simply publicly funded, privately run schools.

If charters want to be considered public schools, then they need to act like it. Have open meetings that everyone can attend. Publish all their financials. Be as open for public inspection as any public school. If it walks like a duck, right? Unfortunately, right now, charters simply don't walk or quack like public school ducks. And they should.

These three principles should drive any reform effort. And the current measures in the Ohio General Assembly meet many of their goals. Yet, we still are largely dodging the closing failures quicker and funding issues. And to achieve true reform for our kids we simply must deal with these issues.

In future posts, I will give my thoughts on each of the measures currently being considered -- the most promising of which is Senate Bill 148.

But for now, let it be known that I believe charters can work in Ohio. They have worked. But spending almost $1 billion is simply an unwarranted extravagence, according to the data. We could have a far more effective school choice program for this state at a significantly lower price tag, freeing up resources for interventions we know work on a large scale.

This is our charge. Make charters work. Those that don't, shut them down. Those that do, let thrive. And let's stop having this sector that educates barely 10% of our students eat up 90% of our education policy discussion. It's time to move on.

The world, as our children will shortly learn, is not this patient.

Ohio Virtual Academy Fudging Attendance to get Paid?

An Associated Press story last night about the Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) -- the nation's second-largest for-profit school -- has been picked up nationally. Apparently a whistleblower at the school has released information showing that OHVA has been paid for nearly 400 students that simply weren't logging on to their computers.

The matter has been referred to state authorities.

This is not a new occurrence in Ohio's E-Schools. Ohio's first E-School, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) --now the country's largest for-profit school -- was fined $1.7 million by State Auditor Jim Petro in 2001 after it couldn't account for all the kids it claimed to be educating.

OHVA is run by the notorious K-12, Inc. -- the nation's largest operator of E-Schools, with schools in 33 states. However, OHVA is K-12's biggest cash cow, accounting for at least 10% of its total revenue, according to the company's SEC filings. The company recently lost its operating contract with its other cash cow -- Pennsylvania's Agora online school. So its dependence upon OHVA's cash has only increased.

As the company noted in its SEC filing last year (emphasis added),
“[I]f our contracts with either of these virtual public schools (OHVA and Agora in Pennsylvania) are terminated, the charters to operate either of these schools are not renewed or are revoked, enrollments decline substantially, funding is reduced, or more restrictive legislation is enacted, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.”

I have a hunch this isn't the last we'll hear about OHVA. The state's E-School sector is a disaster academically and financially. This is a perfect time to start talking about its role and why the state needs to be sending about $250 million a year to these schools.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ohio Charter Schools Just Don't Work, Except When They Do, Part IV

For the first three parts of my series on Ohio charters, I've dealt primarily with the charter sector's overall failings. How about a half billion dollars goes to charters that perform the same or worse on state report card measures. Or how the excuses some charter school proponents posit for these failings don't explain the issues. Or how even looking at how charters perform against big urban school buildings, their performance is lacking.

However, while the sector overall is lacking, there are some high-performing charters in Ohio. Not many considering that we're nearly spending $1 billion on charters. But they are out there. However, what is fascinating is this: About 40% of them take less than 1/2 of their students from the state's urban core. And when looking at the highest performing charters and comparing them with the highest performing urban buildings, the urban buildings hold their own -- doing better than the charters on report card measures and only slightly better on proficiency test scores.

In other words, even though there are high performing charters, their performance isn't quite as good as the highest performing public school buildings in the state -- even those in the state's urban core (which I define as the so-called "Big 8" of Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown). But let's look at the high performers and see what seems to be working for them.

First of all, what I'm calling "high performing" is a school (or district) that scores above the state average Performance Index Score (which measures straight proficiency test results) or grades at an A or B on overall student growth. These criteria are more stringent than the proposed "high performing" language in House Bill 2. Looking at these tougher metrics, already you can see the fundamental story: Far fewer charters than school districts meet them.

In fact, more than double the percentage of school districts meet this "high performing" criteria I've designated. Once again, this points out just how far behind Ohio charters are on the whole.

But since we've already dealt with the performance failures of charters, let's examine how those 111 high-performing charters perform.

While high performing charters do outshine the vast majority of charters overall, high performing charters do not perform better than high performing districts overall.

As I've mentioned in several posts now, it's important to realize that Ohio charter schools get 55% of their kids from Ohio's urban core. The remaining 45% do not come from there. In fact, more kids go to charters in Ohio's Appalachian counties than Dayton and Cincinnati combined.

So it is absolutely fair to examine charter and district performance outside the state's urban core. For if the charter sector takes money and students from every Ohio school district, it is only fair that their performance be compared with every school district.

And, in fact, the state's highest performing charters share this same issue. That's because there are 44 of the 111 high performers that take less than 1/2 of their students from Ohio's urban districts.

While the state's highest performing charters do not outshine the state's highest performing school districts, they do outshine the state's urban districts overall, accumulating far smaller percentages of Fs and far greater percentages of As, Bs and Cs on the state's report card.

One interesting note, though, is that while high performing charter performance is clearly superior to urban districts on the report card, they score 10 points lower on the state's Performance Index Score. So the dominance is not complete.

Another fascinating piece of information is this: charters that take at least 95% of their students from the urban core outperform the urban core overall on both the report card and Performance Index Score. So the dominance is most complete over urban districts from charters that take nearly all their kids from urban districts.

This is really interesting because it suggests that these high-performing charters have figured something out, namely how to increase performance of our state's urban youth. And that could be a very important and key finding.

See why I haven't given up on charters yet? There's potential here.

However, not all is sun and roses. That's because these high-performing charters, while outperforming urban districts overall do not outperform the highest performing urban buildings.

So while it appears a few charters have figured out how to improve the achievement of Ohio's urban kids, so have many of Ohio's urban buildings -- a fact we don't acknowledge enough in my opinion.

As can be seen, the state's highest performing urban buildings (about 1/3 of the state's urban buildings) and the highest performing charters are pretty well aligned. But clearly Ohio's highest performing urban buildings receive a greater share of As and Bs than high-performing charters, who receive higher rates of Cs, Ds and Fs.

In addition, Ohio's high-performing urban buildings have a slightly higher Performance Index Score.

The performance differences aren't enormous, but they're there. And this points out perhaps the most important thing to be gleaned from the few charter school successes in this state: A great school is not exclusive to charters or public schools. It is not either type of school that will determine success; it's who is in the school that matters, both in terms of staffing and students. Students who want to learn, are supported at school and home and have dedicated, smart and creative educators leading them will do well. And it doesn't really matter if this is happening in a charter or public school. All I care is that it happens. And right now, it's happening far more frequently in Ohio's public schools than its charters. That doesn't tell me to kill charters. It tells me we need to re-focus and invest in the charters that do well while pulling back from those that don't.

I'll leave you with one final chart that shows Ohio's huge problem in one pie chart that demonstrates how much of the charter school pie Ohio's highest performing charters receive.

What you see is that about 3/4 of the Ohio charter school spend goes to charters that are not high performing. And less than 10% of the spend goes to high-performing charters that take 95% or more of their students from the state' urban districts.

What's this mean? It means we could double the investment in high-performing charters and still have about a half billion dollars to invest in universal pre-school, all-day kindergarten, wrap around services in our neediest communities, or any one of a number of tried-and-true solutions to education challenges.

We are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on charter schools that aren't doing anyone much good.

Our kids deserve much better. The question then becomes,"How can we make these work?" It is, in many ways, the $1 billion question in Ohio education policy. My fifth and final installment will seek solutions to the issues facing Ohio's charter school sector.

Tomorrow: Okay. Now what?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ohio Charters Just Don't Work, Part III

Now that I've shown how state data indicate that Ohio's charter schools simply aren't up to snuff with Ohio's school districts, costing children in those districts millions of dollars a year, and that the excuses posited by some in the charter school community just don't hold water, I'm going to spend some time today looking at building-level data.

This is the data charter school proponents have argued for years should be the only comparable data when look at charter and public school performance.

Even though the state does not track which kids go from which public school buildings to which charters.

And the funding comes from the district, not the district building the kids leave.

And charters are considered districts in state law for funding and accountability purposes.

And charters are considered Local Education Agencies for federal funding and grant making purposes.

The primary reason I look at district-level data in my comparisons is pretty simple: when a kid leaves a district for a charter, the money that flows to the charter for that kid's education comes out of every child's state funding pot, not just the pot going to the most failing building in the most failing district. So it's not punishing the most failing building in a district --it's punishing every building and child in the district, even the best of both.

But for argument's sake, let's look at charter and public school building performance. What you'll see is even in the light most favorable to charters, public schools outperform charters overall. Period.

Ohio’s charter schools perform worse overall than all local public school buildings, including those in the Big 8 urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) – the areas where charters were supposed to offer better alternatives. Charters register lower percentages of As and Bs while having higher percentages of Ds and Fs than local public schools.

 Remember that 45% of charter school students do not come from Ohio's urban core -- one of the myths dealt with in yesterday's post.

It is exceedingly unfair cherry picking for charter schools to take money and children from every district in the state, yet only have their performance compared with the most historically struggling schools in the state.

Yet even when comparing performance with the state's urban buildings, it's not a great story for charters. Urban buildings get higher percentages of As and Bs and lower percentages of Ds and Fs than charters.

Even when one looks at individual performance breakdowns by report card category, the tale isn't a whole lot better for charters.

 As you can see, charters are particularly poor at graduating students in four years (five-year rates aren't much better).

It's not as if the urban districts are performing swimmingly either. It's just that even with the urban schools' struggles, they pale in comparison with the struggles charter schools have had graduating children in four years.

Student growth is clearly the best category for charters, but even that category isn't that great. Yes, the charters do better than urban districts. But once again, don't forget that 45% of children in charters do not come from there. And when compared with non-urban buildings, charters are woefully underperforming, even in this, their best category.

Probably the next most important report card category is closing achievement gaps. Charters get higher percentages of Fs than even urban schools, while receiving lower percentages of As, Bs and Cs combined.

So overall, charters are clearly doing worse than the 3,000 or so buildings 45% of their students come from, while barely keeping pace with the buildings 55% of their students come from in one category on the 9-category state report card.

As I discussed yesterday, demographics do not explain charter struggles either. And the building-level data demonstrate it, just like district-level data do.

One thing that's remarkable about Ohio's urban buildings is just how many of them have an exceedingly high percentage of poverty.

 More than 1/2 of all urban buildings in Ohio have 95% or more of their children living in poverty. Meanwhile, 40% of charters do.

Yet despite the much higher concentrations of poverty -- a factor that research indicates should lead to significantly worse performance -- Ohio's urban buildings actually outperform charters on the state's Performance Index score, which measures a school's overall proficiency test results, by 6%.

The results are all the more remarkable when you see that an even higher percentage of students are in these high-poverty concentration buildings in Ohio's urban districts. About 55% are. Yet the proficiency results show that students perform better in environments that research indicates should be producing worse results than charters.

In fact, in one peer-reviewed 2010 study, it was discovered that "When lower (socioeconomic) students are grouped in a lower (socioeconomic) school, their lower educational outcomes can be exacerbated.”[i]

Yet in Ohio's urban districts, that exacerbation still results in better performance on state tests than charters, whose buildings don't have nearly the high-poverty concentration.

So what does all this mean? It means much the same as the district-level data -- Ohio's charter schools are not performing as promised overall. And even looking at their performance in the most favorable light possible shows serious shortcomings in the overall performance of the sector.

Does that mean charters should go away? No. There are a few doing exceptional things. And that will be the focus of tomorrow's installment.

Tomorrow: Ohio charter schools don't work, except when they do.

[i] Perry, L. & McConney, A. Does the SES of the School Matter? An Examination of Socioeconomic Status and Student Achievement Using PISA 2003 Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 4, 2010, p. 1137-1162 

Ohio Dept. of Ed. Starts Calling Charter Schools Charter Schools

Ohio, technically, has never had charter schools. That's because Ohio has called charter schools "community schools" in state law since their inception in the late 1990s. The term has confused outside education reformers who love community schools -- the idea of local public schools that serve as community hubs -- and look at charters more askance.

Well, on the Ohio Department of Education website, it's now referring to charter schools as "Community/Charter School." I believe this is the first time that Ohio's charter schools have actually been called charter schools by Ohio's education overseers.

When coupled with the decision to rename its school choice page to "Quality School Choice", it appears that ODE is starting to adopt the language (and hopefully the focus?) of the quality-based charter school advocates.

We'll see if this leads to more charter school oversight and reform, or whether it's just window dressing. But count me among the greatly curious as to why these language changes have been made.

Stay Tuned.