After two years of racking up an excellent rating on its state report card, Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School appears headed for a lower grade.
Preliminary school report cards released Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Education show an “effective” rating for Taft, a technology-magnet school for grades 9-12 in Cincinnati’s West End. Taft had won accolades nationally for its steady climb from academic futility during the past seven years. In that span, Taft went from “academic emergency” in the 2004-05 school year to excellent in 2009-10 and 2010-11, mainly on the strength of Ohio Graduation Test pass rates that were the highest of all public high schools in Southwest Ohio. The U.S. Department of Education gave it a coveted National Blue Ribbon Award.
[Download the Ohio Preliminary Report Cards spreadsheet here.]
CityBeat called those achievements into question in a February article ("Miracle or Mirage," issue of Feb. 22). CityBeat found that the same graduating classes (2009-10 and 2010-11) that were posting regionally high OGT pass rates had average composite ACT test scores of 15, or the 10th percentile in Ohio. CityBeat also took the first hard look at an independent audit showing that, of 1,707 erasures on Taft OGT exams in 2006, 88 percent resulted in correct answers, an outcome one nationally prominent testing expert called “not logical.” Cincinnati Public Schools, then led by former superintendent Rosa Blackwell, refused to investigate the matter, and ODE let the district get away with it.
2011-12 school year, Taft still posted high pass rates on the OGT, but
its graduation rate of 82.1 percent (down from 91.4 percent in 2010-11)
and attendance rate of 91 percent (down from 96.7 percent) were below
state benchmarks, leading to the effective rating on its interim report
While Taft fell from excellence among the city’s public schools, another school, James N. Gamble Montessori High School in Spring Grove Village, received its first-ever excellent rating. And Walnut Hills extended its long-running streak of excellent ratings. Winners of effective ratings were Clark Montessori and Withrow University high schools.
As for the district, Cincinnati Public Schools itself fell one notch on its state report card. Last year, CPS was rated effective, making it the highest-rated urban school district in Ohio. For 2011-12, it dropped to “continuous improvement.” Said CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh: “We really would have loved to have gotten effective again, but the fact remains that overall performance, as rated by the state performance index, did reach 88.5, which is our highest score ever, and we continue to improve.”
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The second presidential debate between President Barack
Obama and Mitt Romney took place last night. The general consensus from the
media is Obama won. Although the victory will likely inspire an Obama
comeback narrative for some political pundits, keep in mind political
scientists say debates typically have little electoral impact. But
debates can reveal substance, and The Washington Post has an
article “footnoting” the policy specifics from the debate. As of today,
aggregate polling shows Obama up in Ohio by 2.2 points and Romney up
nationally by 0.4 points. Ohio is widely considered a must-win for
Romney. Obama and Romney will have their final debate next Monday. CityBeat will be hosting an event at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine during the debate. More info can be found on the event’s Facebook page.
The Ohio Department of Education released its remaining
school report card data today. The data is meant to give Ohioans a clear
picture as to whether schools are improving. The data was delayed due
to an ongoing investigation into attendance rigging at Ohio schools. In
the new report card data, Cincinnati Public Schools was downgraded from
“Effective” in the 2010-2011 school year to “Continuous Improvement” in
the 2011-2012 school year. The new mark is still positive, but it is a
Down goes Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s early voting appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court refusing to take up Husted’s appeal, Ohio must allow all voters to vote on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Husted also sent out a directive enforcing uniform voting hours for the three days. On Saturday, booths will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Monday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
It seems City Council action was not enough to get Duke
Energy to budge on the streetcar. The local energy company says it wants
an operating agreement before it starts construction work. On Sept. 24,
City Council passed a funding deal that shifted $15 million from the
Blue Ash airport deal to the streetcar and established $14 million
through a new financing plan. The city says it will get the $15
million back if it wins in the dispute with Duke. The city claims it’s
Duke’s responsibility to pay for moving utility pipes and lines to
accommodate for the streetcar, but Duke insists it’s the city’s
The University Board of Trustees is expected to approve Santa Ono as UC’s new president. Ono has been serving as interim president ever since Greg Williams abruptly resigned, citing personal reasons.
The Horseshoe Casino is really coming along. Casino owners are already booking meetings and events for spring 2013.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital announced a big breakthrough in combating muscular dystrophy. The hospital claims it successfully installed a device in a patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy that allows the patient’s heart to pump blood to the body in the long term.
With Gov. John Kasich's recommendation, Ohio universities will have cheaper, quicker options for students. A new provision will require 10 percent of bachelor’s degrees from public universities to be completable in three years instead of four.
Ohio’s attorney general wants help in solving an unsolved
double homicide in Cincinnati. Attorney General Mike DeWine has recently
fixated on cold cases — previously unsolved cases that could be solved
with new information and tools.
Scientists found an earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest to our solar system.
The report, which was put together by Agenda 360 and Vision 2015, compares Cincinnati to other cities in a series of economic indicators. The cities compared were Cincinnati; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Cleveland; Columbus; Denver; Indianapolis, Ind.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, N.C.; and St. Louis.
First, the good news: Cincinnati has an unemployment rate
lower than the national average, at 7.2 percent. As far as job growth,
total jobs, per-person income and average annual wage goes, Cincinnati
ranked No. 6. Cincinnati was also No. 5 in poverty ranks — meaning the
city had the fifth least people below 200 percent of the federal poverty
level among the 12 cities measured. For the most part, Cincinnati moved up in these ranks since 2010.
When it comes
to housing opportunities, Cincinnati claimed the No. 2 spot, only losing to
Indianapolis. That was a bump up from the No. 3 spot in 2010.
The bad news: Cincinnati didn’t do well in almost
every other category. In terms of educational attainment — meaning the
percent of the population 25 years or older who have a bachelor’s
degree or higher — Cincinnati was No. 9, with 29.3 percent having a bachelor's degree or higher in 2010. That was a slight improvement from the No. 10 rank in the previous report, which found 28.5 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2009.
Cincinnati did poorly in net migration as well. The city was No. 10 in that category, only beating out St. Louis and Cleveland. The silver lining is the city actually gained 1,861 people in 2009 — an improvement from losing 1,526 people in 2008.
Cincinnati also seems to have an age problem. The city
tied with Pittsburgh for the No. 10 spot with only 60.2 percent of the 2011 population made up of people between the ages of 20 and 64. The report also says the
city has too many old people, an age group that tends to work less, provide less tax revenue and use more government and health services. Cincinnati ranked No. 8 in terms of “Old Age
Dependency,” with 20.4 percent of the city made up of people aged 65 and
older in 2011.
However, the report does have a positive note through all the numbers: “In fact, our current pace of growth, especially in the people indicators, exceeds many of our competitors and if this pace continues, our rank could be much improved by our next report.”
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The vice presidential debate between Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan took place last night. The general consensus among pundits is the debate was a draw, with perhaps Biden edging out ahead. Regardless of who won, political scientists say debates have little-to-no electoral impact in the long term, especially vice presidential debates.
Mitt Romney made a bit of a flub yesterday. He told The Columbus Dispatch, “We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack.’” However, that’s not completely accurate. Research shows the uninsured are a lot more likely to die from a heart attack, mostly because they get substantially less preventive health care.
PolitiFact Ohio says Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is wrong about Issue 2. Specifically, Husted said if a member of the independent commission was bribed, the member could not be kicked out of office. PolitiFact says the claim is false because methods for removing unelected officials from office exist outside of the redistricting amendment. If Issue 2 passed, redistricting would be handled by an independent citizens commission. Currently, elected officials redraw district boundaries, but they often use the process for political advantage. The Republican majority redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, to include Warren County, giving Republicans an advantage by giving them more rural voters that are more likely to vote for them.
But Husted did have some good news yesterday. A federal appeals court judge upheld a decision requiring election officials to count provisional ballots that were brought about due to poll worker mistakes. Husted didn’t much care for that part of the ruling. However, the judge also said a legal signature must be required on every provisional ballot, overturning that part of the previous decision. A very small win, but Husted seemed happy in a statement: “I am extremely pleased that the Court of Appeals agreed with me that we must have a valid, legal signature on all provisional ballots.”
The mayor and Cincinnati Public Schools announced a new joint effort that won a $40,000 grant yesterday. The effort will go to 50 tutors, who will help 100 students meet the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
However, a loophole in the Third Grade Reading Guarantee may allow third-graders to skip tests to move onto the fourth grade.
Out of 12 similar regions, Cincinnati ranks No. 10 on 15 indicators including jobs, cost of living and population. Cincinnati did fairly well in terms of just jobs, though; the city was No. 6 in that category. The ranks come from Vision 2015 and Agenda 360.
With the support of Gov. John Kasich, Ohio is trying to do more with university research. The theme of the push is to build stronger links between universities and the private sector to boost stronger, entrepreneurial research.
Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Ohio’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, is in trouble again for not answering questions. A testy exchange on live radio started when Ron Ponder, the host, asked Mandel about potential cronyism in the treasurer’s office, and Mandel replied by implying Ponder is with the Brown campaign. Ponder got so fed up he eventually ended the exchange by saying, “Hang up on this dude, man.”
Does eating more chocolate earn a nation more Nobel prizes? Science says no. I say yes.
The mayor, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and The Strive Partnership announced today a new joint initiative that won a $40,000 grant. The grant, which is funded by Target through the Cities of Service and Service Nation, will help tutors teach kids how to read by the third grade.
Mayor Mark Mallory made the announcement in a joint press statement with CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan and The Strive Partnership Executive Director Greg Landsman.
With the money, 50 tutors will help 100 students in first, second and third grade in five schools to meet the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires third-grade students to be proficient in reading in state tests before advancing to the fourth grade.
“It all starts with reading,” Mallory said in a statement. “And there is no better way to help our kids learn to read than with one-on-one tutors who they can get to know and trust. A committed adult can make learning to read fun. This grant is going to have a huge impact on the lives of a lot of kids.”
The tutors will focus on five CPS schools: Roberts Paideia Academy in East Price Hill, Rockdale Academy in Avondale, Mt. Airy School, Pleasant Hill Academy in College Hill and Pleasant Ridge Montessori School.
Cincinnati was one of eight cities to win the grant. The other winners are Atlanta, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Charleston, S.C.; Chula Vista, Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; Orlando, Fla.; and Vicksburg, Miss.
The new state reading requirement, which was pushed by Republican Gov. John Kasich, has received criticism from some Democrats and education experts. Research shows holding kids back hurts more
than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National Association of
School Psychologists found grade retention has “deleterious long-term
effects,” both academically and socially.
A new analysis suggests that tax revenue from Ohio’s new casinos will not be enough to make up for state spending cuts to cities and counties. The findings of the Oct. 1 analysis, by left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, apply even to casinos and big cities that get extra casino tax revenue. They still lose twice in state aid what they get in new taxes, according to the report.
Overall, the analysis found that new casino revenue will provide $227 million a year to counties and cities. In total, state aid to counties and cities has been cut by about $1 billion. That means the tax revenue isn’t even one quarter of what cities and counties will need to make up for cuts.
The cuts also won’t be enough to make up for state cuts to schools. When casino plans propped up around the state, governments promised that revenue from casinos would be used to build up schools. However, state aid to K-12 education has been cut by $1.8 billion, and new tax revenue will only make up 0.5 to 1.5 percent of those cuts in most school districts, according to the Policy Matters report.
In 2013, Cincinnati will become the fourth Ohio city with a casino. Cleveland and Toledo have casinos, and a new casino opened in Columbus Oct. 8.
Currently, the system is set up so each casino is taxed at 33 percent of gross revenues. That revenue is split into many pieces with approximately 34 percent going to the school fund. Each city with a casino also gets an exclusive 5 percent of its casino’s revenue.
For Cincinnati, that means about $12.1 million in new annual tax revenue. But even with that revenue, Cincinnati will still be losing about $17.7 million in state funding, according to calculations from Policy Matters.
In past interviews, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Gov. John Kasich, has repeatedly cited the constitutional requirement to balance Ohio’s budget to defend any state budget cuts: “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. We had to fix that.”
Cuts Hurt Ohio, a website showing cuts to state aid, was launched by Policy Matters earlier this year. That website found $2.88 billion in cuts to state aid with $1.8 billion in cuts to education and $1.08 billion in cuts to local governments. In Hamilton County, that translated to a $136 million cut to education and a $105 million cut to local government.
The report does caution that its findings are “necessarily tentative”: “Projected revenues have come down significantly since the 2009 campaign for the casino proposal, and the expected opening of numerous gambling facilities makes it hard to be sure what revenues will be. We estimate casino tax revenue based on several sources, including state agencies, casino operators, and former taxation department analyst Mike Sobul. Our numbers reflect a comparatively optimistic assessment.”
Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed an early voting ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling by the appeals court said all Ohioans must be allowed to vote on the three days before Election Day. Previously, only military personnel and their families were allowed. The appeals court ruling also passed the final decision on whether voting should be allowed during those three days to the county boards of elections and Husted.
Husted also sent out a directive Thursday telling board of elections employees that they can only notify absentee voters about mistakes on their ballots through first-class mail. Previously, email and phone notifications were allowed.
Rev. Jesse Jackson was in Cincinnati yesterday in part to criticize Husted and other Republicans. Jackson accused Ohio’s state government of engaging in voter suppression. The reverend’s claims have some merit. In moments of perhaps too much honesty, Republican aides have cited racial politics as a reason for opposing the expansion of in-person early voting. In an email to The Columbus Dispatch published on Aug. 19, Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, said, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
In a new video, Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, dodged answering a question about whether he would support the auto bailout for five straight minutes.
More preliminary data for Ohio’s schools and school districts will be released next week. The data gives insight into how Ohio’s education system is holding up.
The Ohio Board of Education also promised to pursue the state auditor’s recommendation of making the student information database in-house, which Auditor Dave Yost says could save $430,000 a year.
“We are holding our own feet to the fire,” promised Bob McDonald, CEO of Procter & Gamble, at P&G’s annual meeting. The Cincinnati-based company had a rocky year, and the harsh questions at the meeting reflected the troubles. McDonald promises he has a plan for growth.
President Barack Obama and opponent Mitt Romney were in
Ohio yesterday. Obama drew significant crowds at Ohio State University,
while Romney drew a new chant of “four more weeks.” Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, but Obama is currently up by 0.8 points in the state.
A new report from the left-leaning Urban Institute says Obamacare will lower health care costs for small businesses and have minimal impact on large businesses. But another report says Obamacare will raise costs for mid-size businesses.
A new ad shows that the presidential election has probably jumped the shark:
Today is the last day to register to vote, and in-person early voting is underway. Register to vote and vote at your nearest board of election, which can be located here.
Hamilton County commissioners agree on not raising the sales tax. That effectively rules out two of three plans laid out by the county administrator. The one plan left would not cut public safety, but it would make cuts to the courts, criminal justice system, administrative departments, commissioner departments and the board of elections.It seems other news outlets are now scrutinizing online schools. A Reuters report pointed out state officials — including some in Ohio — are not happy with results from e-schools. Even Barbara Dreyer, CEO of the e-school company Connections Academy, told Reuters she’s disappointed with performance at e-schools. A CityBeat look into e-schools in August found similarly disappointing results.
Ohio Democrats are asking federal and state officials for
an investigation into Murray Energy, the Ohio-based coal company that
has been accused of coercing employees into contributing to Republican
political campaigns. In the statement calling for action, Ohio
Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Thanks to this report,
now we know why coal workers and miners have lent themselves to the
rallies, ads, and political contributions. They’ve been afraid.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach is following up on information obtained during public safety meetings. The most consistent concerns Seelbach heard were worries about loitering and young people breaking curfew.
The state auditor says the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) could save $430,000 a year if it moved its student information database in-house. Current law prohibits ODE from having access to the data for privacy reasons, but State Auditor Dave Yost says it’s unnecessary and “wastes time and money.”
It seems Duke Energy is quickly integrating into its recent merger with Progress Energy. The company's information technology, nuclear and energy-supply departments are fully staffed and functional.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is renovating and restoring the Art Academy on the building’s west side.
It might not feel like it sometimes, but parking in Cincinnati is still pretty cheap.
Scientific research is increasingly pointing to lead as an explanation for people’s crazy grandparents. Research indicates even small programs cleaning up lead contamination can have massive economic and education returns.
Kings Island is selling off pieces of the Son of Beast. The troubled roller coaster was torn down after years of being shut down.
The “Jeopardy!” Ohio Online Test is today. If you’re ever on the show, give a shout-out to CityBeat.
The state auditor today criticized both the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and a handful of school districts in an interim report. The report, which will be finalized in the coming months as the investigation is completed, gave some early findings for the ongoing investigation into attendance scrubbing, the practice of “removing students from enrollment without lawful reason.”
Dave Yost, Ohio’s state auditor, has been investigating claims that schools are scrubbing attendance data for better results in Ohio’s school report card, which grades schools and school districts around the state. The grading process helps establish policies for different schools, such as funding needs and whether they require local or state intervention.
The early results of the investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in Hamilton County was caught reporting fraudulent data, found a fundamental conflict of interest in a system in which schools are “on the honor system” to report their own data.
“The current system relies upon local schools and school districts — but these are the very entities that are interested in the outcome of the accountability measures,” the report said, before labeling the setup “a classic conflict of interest.”
The report advised the state government to reform ODE to introduce “independent oversight.” Specifically, Yost asked for oversight to be transferred to “an independent agency or commission appointed by the General Assembly” instead of relying on schools to be honest. This oversight should be conducted throughout the year, not just at the end of the school year like it's done today, according to the report.
The state auditor’s report also asked ODE to develop better methods for tracking students. In particular, the report suggested using SSIDs — ID numbers that are given to students in the Ohio’s school database — to track all withdrawals and transfers for students.
But those were only a few of the many suggestions. The report laid out other proposals: Set clear attendance rules for school boards, provide due process to students being kicked out for poor attendance, require stricter attendance records at each school, stop providing school report card data early, create a centralized source or manual for accountability resources and establish a statewide student information system with clearer uniform rules and standards.
John Charlton, spokesperson for ODE, says the state will look into enforcing “additional safeguards.” He says ODE already “upgraded” EMIS, which is the system used by schools to report data, this year, but more is coming.
“We’ve been cooperative with the auditor’s office, and we’ve established a productive working relationship about his inquiry,” he says. “We’ll take the input that’s provided from the auditor’s office into consideration when we make upgrades for next year’s (EMIS) manual.”
But the report did not just blame ODE and the state government for failures. It also singled out a few school districts with evidence of school scrubbing. Columbus City School District, Toledo City School District, Cleveland Municipal School District, Marion City School District and Campbell City School District were the main offenders. Other school districts were found to have errors but no scrubbing.
“We’re actually encouraged but not surprised that this interim report shows that most Ohio schools and districts that have been visited to date have been following the rules for reporting data to the state,” Charlton says.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) was partially investigated as part of the auditor's interim report, but results for CPS were found to be “indeterminate” as the school district finishes gathering all its data.
The full report can be read here.
In-person early voting begins in Ohio today. Find your nearest polling booth here.
Cincinnati could change how it gathers trash in the future. City officials, under the request of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., are looking for a way to make trash collection more automated and reduce the amount of manual labor required to pick up trash. Michael Robinson, director of public services, described the possible changes to WVXU: “Implement a new cart system using semi-automated trucks as well as automated units to reduce our workers compensation claims.” The changes would save the city money.
For the second year in a row, statewide college enrollment declined. The two-year drop is the first time college enrollment has dropped since the 1990s.
Casinos are popping up around Ohio — including the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati — but Ohioans do not have a gambling problem. A new survey, which seeks to establish a baseline to find out the impact of new casinos around the state, found problematic gambling is fairly uncommon in Ohio with about 250,000 Ohio adults, or nearly 3 percent of Ohioans, reporting problems.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s will be hiring 80,000 new employees for the holidays.
Several Ohio testing centers will be partnering up with the GED Testing Service to allow taking GED tests online. The GED test, which is accepted by most U.S. employers and colleges, gives a second chance to adults who did not get a high school diploma.
JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich’s privatized economic development program, suffered a serious setback Friday when an Ohio Supreme Court ruling dismissed efforts to clarify the program’s legal status. Critics of JobsOhio say the program is unconstitutional and illegal, and their complaints have often been legitimized by lower courts. State officials hoped the Ohio Supreme Court would put the issue to rest, but the court said a decision would have to be given by lower courts first.
Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Republican U.S.
senatorial candidate, doesn’t seem to be handling the stress of the
campaign very well. In a newly released video, Mandel is seen on an
elevator in an awkward confrontation that gets a little physical with a
campaign tracker. The tracker’s story was confirmed by a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch, who was also on the elevator and can be seen and heard in the video.
The amount of abortions in Ohio is down 12 percent, according to a new report by the Ohio Department of Health.
A Xavier study found trust in government and business is on the rise. The increase is typical in a growing economy.
U.S. home prices rose the most they have in six years. The year-over-year increase of 4.6 percent is a potential sign of a recovering economy.
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