Ohio Gadfly Daily

For the last four months, Fordham Ohio has been publishing a daily news and commentary blog. In it, we take a quick look at education news and opinion pieces from media outlets around the state, dig into the content, add our own analysis and commentary, and offer readers a sense of what these stories mean.

It is sometimes irreverent, sometimes serious, hopefully amusing, and always thoughtful. Starting Monday, August 18, you can have the blog delivered directly to your inbox with our new Gadfly Bites email service. Click here  to sign up now.

Here’s a sample of recent clips and commentary:

  • There’s a lot to unpack in this Q&A with the five current members of the Stark County ESC governing board. Why now? Why those three specific questions? Why not ask about career tech, Internet connectivity, or inner city vs. suburban vs. rural education? Why not ask about the powerful effect of demographic changes in Stark County since these long-timers first took office? Two of these folks have been on the governing board since the George H.W. Bush administration. I’m all for “institutional memory,” but are the voters of Stark County really sure that this group is truly representative of their interests? Even a quick read reveals an antiquated mindset mired in the status quo of the late twentieth century, unsuited to the real-world needs of today’s families and students. But that’s just me. (Canton Repository, July 28, 2014)
  • We have featured the SPARK program in these clips
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NOTE: Gadfly Bites is going on vacation from Wednesday, August 6 through Tuesday, August 12.
  1. Guest commentary from Cleveland leads the clips from the weekend. To wit: two opposing viewpoints on charter schools. On the pro side is the new president of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. A blogger and former advocate for public education justice for the United Church of Christ takes the con side of the argument. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Sticking with the public common schools for a moment, here’s an update on the “confusion” surrounding the hiring of Norwalk schools’ interim superintendent, as we first told you last week. Sounds a bit less like “the wrong person was hired” and more like a swing vote gone wrong. Or, perhaps, counting one’s chickens before they’re hatched. (Norwalk Reflector)
     
  3. The editorial page editor of the Beacon Journal opines strongly in favor of the Common Core. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  4. District superintendents in the New Philadelphia area have their own opinions on the new legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio, as this report illustrates. A representative quote: “…I’d hate to think that a few legislators can completely erase everything we’ve worked for these past few years, with no solid plan of what or how the standards would be replaced.” (New Philadelphia Times Reporter)
     
  5. Some school lunch cooks from districts in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky were at
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Some days, Gadfly Bites just writes itself.

  1. Editors at the Dispatch namecheck Fordham (“which sponsors high-quality charter schools in Ohio”) in their blunt op-ed on the new legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. All Sides with Ann Fisher had an hour long discussion about the new legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio yesterday. All but one person speaking seemed very committed to Ohio’s New Learning Standards. Worth a listen all the way through. (WOSU-FM)
     
  3. Public radio in Cleveland wanted to talk about the new legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio. They found Rep. Stebelton, Chair of the House Education Committee, to talk on the record. And he’s got the most reason to be irritated over the current legislative efforts. Audio is here. (Ideastream)
     
  4. In a slightly different take on the new legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio, a Libertarian candidate for state rep calls the new effort “cynical” but falls back on the previous Common Core repeal bill as the right move, even though that bill’s sponsor now supports his own new bill. Politics is weird. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  5. As you all know, I’m sick of writing about the Columbus schools’ data scrubbing scandal, but this is one interesting twist. The EdChoice Scholarship’s second application period deadline has been extended for a month (into the start of the school year) due to the revised report cards issued for some schools, making some students eligible who had
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  1. Some details are lacking here (like how performance is going to be measured and what raises – if any – teachers who are in the lower tiers of performance will get) but this story about the successful negotiation of a performance-based pay scheme for teachers in the Hudson school district could prove instructive for others. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  2. All opportunities to take and pass one of the third grade reading assessments have come and gone. The time has now officially arrived for “what next?”. South-Western City schools seems ready, willing, and able to help the 119 third graders not officially moving on to get to full fourth grade status. (ThisWeek News/Grove City Record)
     
  3. In the much-smaller Lorain City Schools, the number of children to be retained due to reading scores is smaller, as may be expected. But perhaps the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is a bigger deal there because the district is – chaffingly, if yesterday’s story is any indication – under the auspices of an Academic Distress Commission. And it is a member of that commission who talks in this piece about the way forward: “The question is, ‘If that didn’t work, what will?’. We don’t want to do what we already did.” Nicely said. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
     
  4. Newspaper people are a tenacious lot with a deep love for the traditions of the newsroom and selling papers. Actual printed papers. How else to explain this intriguing story from Northern Ohio about
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An epic set of news clips and commentary inaugurates the new Gadfly Bites - education news and opinion pieces from around Ohio with analysis and commentary to keep you in the loop:

  1. Bet you thought I’d start with Mike’s quote on Common Core. But no! Today, editors at the Dispatch opined in praise of Columbus Collegiate Academy – its past and present success, its future plans, and its recent award of over $375,000 from the Columbus Foundation. Oh, and its sponsor is namechecked as well. Note that three successful Columbus City Schools were lauded in just the same way last week. Just the way it ought to be. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. As you probably have already seen, Fordham’s Mike Petrilli is quoted along with other Common Core supporters in today’s piece from the Big D defending Ohio’s New Learning Standards in light of the planned new legislative assault. Can’t wait for Mike’s next testimony appearance in Ohio. I just hope it’s not past my bedtime again. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. The Common Core piece, above, references Governor Kasich’s reaction to the new legislative assault on Ohio’s New Learning Standards. Here is a more detailed report on that reaction, given in response to a question asked by a citizen during a campaign stop in Steubenville. Why yes, there IS a gubernatorial election going on in Ohio. Probably explains the abrupt and disturbing segue
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  1. A frankly brilliant summary of the saga of VLT Academy in Cincinnati – a charter school who had no sponsor until a judge forced ODE to take it on – comes from the pen of Patrick O’Donnell today. Fordham’s Kathryn Mullen Upton is quoted throughout, spelling out the vital issues on the line for sponsor oversight in Ohio resulting from whatever is the final outcome of the pending legal case. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. In a companion piece to the above, O’Donnell interviews Alex Medler of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to talk about the “wild west” situation among charter school authorizing in Ohio. Excellent work and important insight. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. You might have heard there was a press conference late yesterday to announce the impending arrival of another bill to repeal Common Core in Ohio. If you’re brave, you can watch the whole “creepy” press conference here. If not, here is a sampling of coverage from around the state: Gongwer is here, Columbus Dispatch is here, Toledo Blade is here, and Cincinnati Enquirer is here.
     
  4. In case you despair after reading that collection, take heart that some small pieces of education reform are working in Ohio. The originally-maligned Straight-A Fund has apparently become a source of pride for some communities, both in the winning and in the innovations themselves. Round 2 appropriations cleared the controlling board yesterday, releasing $144.7 million in grants to districts, ESCs, charter schools, consortia,
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Daniel Navin

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post was first published on the United States Chamber of Commerce’s website on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

Ohio has had statewide learning standards in mathematics and English Language Arts in the past, but these standards were not rigorous and not aligned with the demands of college and the workplace. The outcome was low academic expectations which resulted in too many students not being college ready, and a short supply of graduates with the basic abilities needed for success in the workplace, including critical thinking and problem solving skills.

The dismal statistics below underscore to a significant extent the reality of the “quality of education” in Ohio:

  • Just 27% of Ohio fourth graders were proficient in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, compared to 83% who were deemed proficient on the state’s reading exam;
  • 31% of Ohio’s 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT exam met none of the college-ready benchmarks;
  • 41% of Ohio public high school students entering college must take at least one remedial course in English or math; and,
  • Nationally, more than 1 in 5 high school graduates do not meet the meet the minimum academic standards required for Army enlistment, as measured by the Armed Forces Qualification Test.

With the intent of reversing those trends of mediocrity (or worse), Ohio passed House Bill 1, which directed the State Board...

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  1. There’s a lot to unpack here in this Q&A with the five current members of the Stark County ESC governing board. Why now? Why those 3 specific questions? Why not ask about career tech or internet connectivity or inner-city vs. suburban vs. rural? Why not ask about the powerful effect of demographic changes in Stark County since these long-timers first took office? Two of these folks have been on the governing board since the George H.W. Bush administration. I’m all for “institutional memory” but are the voters of Stark County really sure that this group is truly representative of their interests? I think even a quick read reveals an antiquated mindset mired in the status quo of the late 20th Century unsuited to the real-world needs of today’s families and students. But that’s just me. (Canton Repository)
     
  2. There’s not much new here, but at least the Dayton Daily News investigation of the allegations against Horizon/Concept schools 1) sticks to facts and 2) keeps in mind the hometown connection to the Dayton-area schools specifically in question in most of the allegations. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. We have featured the SPARK program in these clips before, but this is a really nice feature on how it actually works – in-home pre-K prep for kids in Columbus, funded mainly by philanthropy. This story is especially interesting and timely given the high-profile bipartisan state/city push for more institutional-type pre-K seats in the city. This mom tried but couldn’t get her
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  1. It was announced yesterday that term-limited state Representative Bob Hagan filed to run for the state board of education this fall. Today, he explains why: he intends “to make some waves”. I am sad to admit I was wrong in expecting him to have it in for Common Core, but blanket destruction of all charter schools seems a pretty sizeable goal for the guy as well. Good luck, Bob.  (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Appointed state board member Ron Rudduck filed to run to retain his seat. I am not sure at all why this news was in a California newspaper, but I’d be happy to travel out there to talk to them about Ohio education issues any time.  (Ventura County Star)
     
  3. How highly-charged is the media reporting around charter schools in Ohio these days? So much so that a story that is ostensibly about a properly-functioning charter marketplace (low performance and availability of preferable choices lead to student exodus; student exodus leads to money woes; and money woes lead to belt-tightening, layoffs, and retrenching) runs with a headline that implies it’s a shame that the school didn’t just roll over and die. The same process is happening in Akron City Schools and elsewhere every year and no reporter would suggest that perhaps a low-rated and half-capacity elementary school should simply not “reopen” next year. In fact, district building closures for these same reasons are strongly resisted with calls to neighborhood and nostalgia, or simply with calls for
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Peet’s Coffee and Tea: We hardly knew you. According to the Columbus DispatchPeet’s coffee shop in downtown Columbus will close after less than a year of operation. (The shop is near where I work.) To quote the company’s spokesperson, the reason for closing the store is “to focus on our top-performing locations.”

If only Ohio’s policymakers, district leaders, and charter-school authorizers just as aggressively closed persistently underperforming schools, and instead directed resources to grow top-performing ones or those demonstrating promise, or to start new schools from scratch. (Of course, there has to be an orderly and responsible process to closing schools.) Rather, too many low-rated public schools, both district and charter, limp along year-after-year, depriving students of a great education on the taxpayers’ dime.

In the business realm, unprofitable entities are shuttered, sold off, or merged to allow the larger organization to thrive. Yet in public education it seems like bad schools are immortal—and that’s not good policy.

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