Wednesday, September 25, 2019

New IO Report: More Money for Vouchers, Less Oversight of Charters

I have to admit, I was shocked at how quickly the Ohio Legislature and Governor forgot about the ECOT scandal -- the largest taxpayer ripoff in state history. Because the most recent budget that passed actually loosened regulations on charter schools.

More amazing still is the state's going whole hog in on Vouchers for families making as much as $100,000 a year. Just an unrelenting pursuit of the public funding of privately run schools. We've put out a new report at Innovation Ohio that details many of these provisions. But here's the most striking chart in the whole thing, as far as I'm concerned:

That's right. The average per pupil funding of private school students -- many of whom never really attended Ohio's public schools -- is now almost $2,000 more per pupil than the what the 1.7 million students in Oho's public school system receive.

Remember that in the landmark Zelman U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled Ohio's Cleveland voucher program constitutional, then-Chief Justice William Rhenquist said it was not a violation of the constitution's Establishment Clause because in large part the program was deisgned to help students in failing schools and the per pupil amount was a pittance compared with what public school students received from the state.

Now that 95 percent of Ohio school districts lose at least some funding to private school vouchers and the average per pupil funding for these programs far outstrips the average funding for public school students, it's right to wonder whether the current Ohio voucher program would meet muster under the Zelman decision.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Charter Schools' Overrepresentation of Failure, Underrepresentation of Success

Every time I write about the state report card, I do so with some trepidation because I don't think they're a true barometer of success, as I've said on many occasions. However, I do believe they can show us general trends about 50,000 foot views on students success.

In this vein, I'd like to point out one extraordinary thing from yesterday's release of the state's new report card: Ohio's charter schools, which represent about 10 percent of Ohio's school buildings, make up about 40 percent of Ohio's school buildinsg that received overall F grades.

Factoring out charter schools shows that among the 3,029 non-charter school buildings made up the remaining 208 F buildings, or not even 7 percent of Ohio's public school buildings. Ohio's charter schools? A full 36 percent of them received overall F grades.

But even the degree of F grades are striking. Of the 45 Performance Index percentages that are below the 33rd percentile, 35 are charter schools, which means about 10 pecrent of all charters are below the 33rd percentile on Performance Index scores -- the state's index of proficiency.

Of the 71 school buildings that received zero gap closing points, 45 were charter schools, which means that nearly 13 percent of all charters received zero points for closing achievement gaps.

The opposite trend continues on the positive end -- few charters occupy top performance positions.

Of the 281 buildings that received A grades for Performance Index, only 9 were charter schools. Again, charters are about 10 percent of all buildings, but only are 3 percent of the top scoring buildings on proficiency.

Meanwhile, of the 1,144 school buildings that received an A on Gap Closing, only 40 (3.5 percent) were charter schools, which means only about 11 percent of Ohio charter schools rank among the state's best schools for closing achievement gaps.

Shall I continue?

Needless to say, it should concern many that Ohio charter schools dominate the bottom rankings among Ohio's school buildings and appear only 1/3 as frequently as their numbers suggest they should on the top end of the performance scale.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

New Report Cards tell Similar Story

The new state report cards are out and they tell a lot of the same story they always have, namely Ohio's public school districts outperform Ohio's charter schools in nearly every way. Again, nearly all Ohio school districts lose funding and students to Ohio charter schools. So this isn't just an urban question.

Overall, two-thirds of Ohio school district grades are A, B or C. Two-thirds of Ohio charter school grades are D or F.

Meanwhile, Ohio’s local public school districts receive As in Gap Closing between disadvantaged students and those without disadvantages at three times the rate of Ohio's charter schools, had a 20 percent better rate of As in student growth and even outperformed charter schools in charter schools’ best-performing measure – student growth among the lowest-performing students.

Ohio charter schools had a stunning 93% rate of F grades in meeting performance benchmarks and nearly half of all Ohio charter schools received F grades in closing achievement gaps between the most at-risk students and those who are more advantaged. Perhaps the greatest difference can be seen in Performance Index performance (the one number that encapsulates overall proficiency) where 43% of charter schools received an F grade and only 6 of Ohio’s 608 school districts received an F.

As for school districts, they improved their percentage of As in 8 of 14 graded categories and lowered their rate of Fs in 11 of 14 categories. The biggest area of improvement came in graduation rates and closing achievment gaps. However, their biggest drop off was in student growth where last year nearly 1/2 of all districts received As. This year, only 13 percent did. We'll have to look at that more closely to discover why.

Only 4 districts received overall grades of F this year -- at 0.7%, a far better rate than Ohio charter schools' 28%. However, one of those 4 is Youngstown, which is under the Academic Distress Commission. This means that the district will now have to transition to a mayor-appointed academic distress commission Jan. 1 through a complicated process. So that's another issue that could perhaps be fixed through the apparently fast-moving distress commission reform now being discussed in the Ohio Senate.

But overall, Ohio's districts are improving in far more measures than they are slipping, and the continued strong showing in closing achievement gaps is encouraging.

However, this is where I reiterate again that these report cards are almost singularly reliant on scores earned on standardized, high-stakes tests that are notoriously tied to poverty. So while we're seeing improvements, the fact remains that the poorer your students, the less successful you will appear on this report card. That has always been true and will likley be true as long as tests that are taken for a few days during the year and are great at measuring poverty continue to be used to judge the 180-day educational experiences of children.