Education is About More Than Test Scores

A recent op-ed in the Washington Examiner from Jason Bedrick, "School choice fans need to remember: Education is about far more than test scores" reminds us that test scores don't tell you everything about a school nor the quality of the education that your child is receiving. There is so much more to education than testing results as this piece reminds us:

The latest voucher studies should be encouraging to advocates of educational choice, but we should be careful not to take the wrong lessons from them. Test scores can be useful in helping parents make informed choices, but their ability to choose should not be predicated on test scores."

We've seen this before. Remember the poll conducted by our national partner PublicSchoolOptions.org showing that only 14% consider state standardized test scores the critical factor in assessing a student’s overall success in school. The most important factor is student behavior and attitude toward learning (45%) followed by teacher feedback and assessment (21%) and student grades (20%).

This is a good reminder for us to look at more than test scores. Take a moment to email your legislators to remind them of this too. 

It's a budget!

Ohio has an operating budget for the next two years! Thrilling stuff we know – but there are some very real provisions that will affect our eSchools.
 
First is a change to the way grades will be reported for eSchools. The report cards will now list individual grades for sub-schools (elementary, middle & high, if the school has those grades and distinctions). Previously eSchools were given only one overall grade no matter the size of the school (measured by student enrollment). While eSchools will still receive one overall grade, we’ll now also see individual grades for the sub-schools laid out on an eSchool’s report card.
 
We’re very pleased to see this change as it will make our schools even more accountable to parents and give us more data to make informed decisions about our children’s education. Grades for all traditional public school districts are done in this manner, now public eSchools will be too.
 
Second, there was no reduction to the amount of funding provided to online schools to help cover some of the costs of testing that are unique to eSchools such as securing testing facilities. There is always concern that legislators won’t understand that eSchools may not have buildings but do still have need for what is often called facilities funding because we do have other costs that traditional brick & mortar public schools don’t.
 
Finally, the budget increased school funding (for every type of public school) by $154 million in Fiscal Year ’18 and $120 million in Fiscal Year ’19.
 
Overall the budget was good for public eSchools and we’re grateful that our leaders continue to treat eSchools fairly especially when it comes to funding.  
 
The budget may be over for the next two years, but we do expect to see some legislation directly about online schools so stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter for regular updates and to be sure you’re doing what you can to speak up for your school!

Grading Our Schools

We recently shared this article on our social media and it’s worth taking the time to read.

Public School Options.org has polling data that shows that most voters nationwide prefer a dashboard-like system versus a single A-F letter grade.

According to a summary of their findings, “65% believe an ongoing summary of each school’s status using a dashboard of multiple measurements would be more helpful to parents and policy makers evaluating public schools than a system that provides a single letter grade for each school.”

One of our top concerns about how our schools are evaluated is that we rely (as the article points out), “mostly on standardized-test scores and graduation rates to generate letter-grade report cards” We don’t think that either of those things are the most critical factors to consider when looking at a student’s overall progress. And the polling done by PublicSchoolOptions.org shows that most respondents would agree with us, “Only 14% consider state standardized test scores the critical factor in assessing a student’s overall success in school. The most important factor is student behavior and attitude toward learning (45%) followed by teacher feedback and assessment (21%) and student grades (20%).”

Our leaders should listen to what the voters are telling them and trust parents especially when considering education policy.

Your Voices

Below are more personal stories & drawings from eSchool families collected at Online Learning Day. These are celebrated here on our blog, on our social media, AND they've been distributed to our legislators to remind them of how important our eSchools are. These students all wanted to convey the same basic message -- MY ESCHOOL WORKS FOR ME!

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National Poll Shows that Parents Don't Think School Performance Should be Based on Test Scores

There was a lot of fuss from opponents of public online charter schools last year. Sadly, it was more about politics than ensuring that our children received the education they needed. Here’s what the opponents of school choice need to know and what our legislators must never forget: trusting parents to make the right choices for their children is good education policy. In fact, it’s the best education policy. 

Absolutely no one is in a better position to know if a school is performing well for their child, or should I say if their child is performing well in a school. No bureaucrat is going to know better than a parent about what is best for any given child in any given school, charter or traditional.

Parents understand that there's more to knowing if a school is successful then simply looking at test scores. And it’s actually not just parents. Results from a national poll recently commissioned by PublicSchoolOptions.org, shows that voters don’t consider standardized test scores to be a good measure of school performance or student achievement. 78% of all registered voters oppose closing public schools based primarily on standardized test scores (80% among those with children and 75% without children). These poll numbers don’t lie. Voters and parents want our leaders to trust them - not unreliable, impersonal data.

We are thankful for any legislator who trusts us, the parents, to know what is best for our children.

Sara Donlon

President, Ohio eSchool Families & Friends Coalition

Your Voices

National School Choice Week gives us opportunity to share our stories about our amazing public charter schools - especially our eSchools. NSCW may be over but it's never too late to share your stories.  Below are some hand written and drawn testimonials from one Ohio eSchool family briefly explaining why they chose an eSchool and what they love about their school. 

Letter: Nominee DeVos will support parents

Another coalition parent's letter was published in The Columbus Dispatch!  You can read her letter supporting Betsy DeVos below.  

Letter: Nominee DeVos will support parents

I was grateful when reading your coverage of Betsy DeVos' nomination hearing to see that a lot of the questioning focused on issues that really mattered, like how her strong support of school choice would affect her actions as education secretary. As I expected, DeVos promised to address the needs of all parents and students. 

She also expressed an understanding of the importance of alternatives within public education to make it stronger. DeVos is often accused of having no experience within public education. But what those people fail to understand is that schools of choice like charter schools are part of the public-education system. They are public schools. So when DeVos stands up for parents' right to choose a charter school she is standing up for public schools. 

Empowering parents to be able to make the best choice for their own child's education is one of the things that DeVos has devoted her career to. It's one of the main reasons why our senators should approve the nomination of DeVos for education secretary. Having an education secretary on the side of parents will make a huge difference and our public education in this country. 

Annie Harbert

Rushville

Published online at: http://www.dispatch.com/opinion/20170128/letter-nominee-devos-will-support-parents 

Betsy DeVos Nomination - Letter of Support

One of our own eSchool parents and advocate had her letter to the editor supporting Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos published by the Columbus Dispatch.  Read it below:

Secretary of Education nominee

I know that as soon as I say the words "Trump" and "nomination" half of you are going to be tempted to stop reading. But I ask you to keep reading and consider what I have to say. This is really more about education and trusting parents than it is about anything political with Trump or his Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos.

My starting point for supporting this nomination is not political, it's parental. I'm the mother of a thriving eSchool graduate. We chose to enroll our daughter in an online school because it was the right learning environment for her. She excelled in this school. It was our choice as her parents, and I know it helped my daughter be the success she is today.

Betsy DeVos is dedicated to empowering parents to make the best choice for their own children. She is not about bringing down public education, she is about making sure that we have the best options available so that each child can get the best public education possible. And she understands that the only people that can make the choice of what is best for their children are the parents. Not bureaucrats, not teachers unions, not the government, its parents who know best.

I, for one, am looking forward to having an education secretary that understands this concept and trusts parents.

Julene Knudson

Minerva Park

Published online at: http://www.dispatch.com/opinion/20170120/web-only-letters-to-editor-jan-20

Thank You, Ohio Legislators!

The Ohio eSchool Coalition wants to extend a huge THANK YOU to all the legislators and aides that were able to attend the 2016 Online Learning Day on November 16th at the Ohio Statehouse.  We are grateful you took time out of your busy schedules to listen to families who are thankful for school choice - an option you have helped keep available to Ohioans.  Our families continue to express their excitement and appreciation from the event and from meeting you.  

We look forward to working with you to continue to keep school choice, eSchools in particular, an option for all families.  Happy holidays!

Champion of Choice - Tillie Elvrum

Tillie Elvrum, president of Public School Options, was the featured speaker at Online Learning Day 2016.  Mrs. Elvrum is a true champion for school choice and has experienced the positive effects of it with her own children.

In her latest blog post, Mrs. Elvrum gives a shout-out to her time speaking and helping at Online Learning Day and introduces us to an Ohio family with a great story.  Check out Grand Return on the Public School Options site to read more!

Online Learning Day 2016 - Huge Success!

THANK YOU Online Learning Day attendees and supporters for making yesterday's Online Learning Day a HUGE success!!! We had well over 200 guests come to hear Tillie Elvrum, president of Public School Options and other fantastic speakers. Our guests visited with legislators and were able to interact with teachers from Ohio eSchools. Thank you to the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools for providing helpful volunteers and for co-sponsoring this event. It was an AWESOME day at the beautiful Ohio Statehouse. We are grateful to all who were able to be a part of it. #ITRUSTPARENTS

Coalition Honors Sen. John Eklund for Trusting Parents

Last Friday, the Ohio eSchool Families & Friends Coalition awarded our annual Golden Apple Award to Senator John Eklund. In a small ceremony held in Middlefield, a very appreciative public eSchool family presented Sen. Eklund with his award.

The Mangan family has a high school-aged son enrolled in an Ohio eSchool.  “Our son was born with a myriad of health problems that have affected his behavior and social skills,” said Mrs. Mangan of Geauga County. “Although he excelled in his schoolwork, he would often get in trouble and bullied in the traditional public school he was enrolled in. We have seven children in our family - our son being the youngest - all of our other children were successful in our local school district, but we knew our son NEEDED an alternative option. We are so grateful for the opportunity to choose his educational path. Our eSchool has changed his life and we are so thankful to Senator Eklund for his consistent support of public eSchools and charter schools.”

“Each year our Coalition is proud to recognize legislators who have stood up for a parent’s right to choose the best learning environment for their child.  All public schools will benefit when we trust parents,” said Sara Donlon, Ohio eSchool Families & Friends Coalition President. 

Congratulations, Senator Eklund on this award.  Thank you for being a champion to eSchools and for trusting parents.

2016 Online Learning Day - Weds, Nov 16

Online Learning Day is back!  

The Ohio eSchool Coalition and Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools are co-hosting the 2016 Online Learning Day in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium, Wednesday, November 16, from 10am-3pm.  

Gas cards will be given to participating families and lunch will be provided.  The day will include a talk from well-known national charter school advocate and former Ohio resident Tillie Elvrum, presentations by eSchools from around the state, and meetings with Ohio legislators.  Register soon!  Space is limited! 

REGISTER HERE FOR THE 2016 ONLINE LEARNING DAY

Tell Your Story - Lawmakers Want to Hear From You

As school choice supporters and advocates, we know what it feels like to be on the forefront of something exciting and innovative.  We are among a group who support and take advantage of putting our children in the type of school environment we want them to be in.  With this choice, we are able to nurture our children to the best of our ability and make sure they are being placed on the path that will lead them to success in the future.

Our lawmakers want to represent our choices and our needs.  They have been elected by us to speak for us.  Keeping them in the loop on what’s important to our families is necessary for them to serve us well. 

EdChoice recently released an article about the state legislators who serve us and told of a recent survey they had conducted on legislators across the U.S.  One of the findings was, “Contact with the people they represent is critically important in the legislative decision-making process.  Lawmakers take what their constituents say seriously, and those discussions affect how they vote.” 

The EdChoice article also gave some great ideas for contacting legislators that may be a good fit for you.

We love that we have the choice to educate our children in the environment we think is best for their needs.  We know that even though it’s new and unknown, it may be what’s right for our kids.  Letting our legislators know how important this is to us is a necessary step in keeping this a choice for generations to come. 

To contact your legislator here in Ohio, you must know the four-digit extention of your zip code.  Find that by inputting your address on the USPS website.  Then, input your zip code and four-digit extension in the Find My Legislators section of the Ohio Legislature webpage.

You have a story to tell.  Now take the time to let them hear it.

Favorite App: Newsela

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We love a good app - and when it's good and educational we get really excited.  

Meet Newsela.  Newsela is a standout news resource with age-appropriate articles for elementary through high school aged children.  News is given through nine different categories, as well as specialty sections - like the 2016 Elections.  Newsela also provides a vast library of articles neatly arranged into appropriate categories and the option to search for what you are needing.  

Oh, but there's more - and this is why we really got excited about this literary news option.  Each article can be switched to Spanish mode with a simple click of the button.  Text within each article can be adapted to different reading/grade levels, so a second grader doesn't have to read the same verbiage as a high school student.  Quizzes are offered for each article and some articles even offer writing prompts.

Newsela is geared more toward a brick and mortar classroom type set-up, but can be adapted to meet the needs of an online student learning from home.  

We hope you enjoy learning about and using Newsela as much as we have.  Let us know your stories of using Newsela or any of your favorite educational apps or websites over on our Facebook page.  We'd love to feature them!

Online Learning Day 2016 - Save the Date!

Save the Date for the second annual Online Learning Day -- November 16th. Click on the image below to download a printable, shareable copy -- let everybody know about this great family event to stand up for our eSchools!

Check out what happened at Online Learning Day last year where everyone had a great time hanging out with other eSchool families, learning from fun activities provided by real eSchool teachers, exploring science with COSI and celebrating our eSchools! Don't miss it this year!

Music and the Brain

We’ve all heard that playing a musical instrument or actively participating in music classes can have a positive impact on brain development.  Turns out – it’s true and there is sound science to back it up.

Time featured an online article a while back about how “actively learning to play an instrument can help a child’s academic achievement.”  The key word here is “actively.”  In studies, it’s been found that kids have to be “actively engaged in the music and participate in the class.”  Sitting in the class and staring at the walls just listening to the music doesn’t have the same affect.    

To learn more about studies between music and the affect it has on the brain, check out the Time article.  Then go sign your kiddos up for a music class they'll enjoy.

2016 Voter Guide - My School My Choice

My School My Choice (an organization advocating for school choice) has released its 2016 General Election Ohio Voter Guide to help you better understand where legislative candidates in Ohio stand on school choice issues.  The guide was compiled through a legislative candidate survey that was sent to every Ohio candidate for State Senator and State Representative. 

Answers were compiled from all completed surveys into an easy to read guide. The chart includes the answers broken down by question for each respondent; House and Senate candidates are listed by District number.  Those who are not included in the results did not respond.

The results can be viewed here

We hope the 2016 General Voter Guide helps you make an informed decision when it comes time to cast your vote.