Ohio Gadfly Daily

The Carnegie Science Center recently published a multi-faceted look at STEM education in a seventeen-county area encompassing parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The impetus of the study was a perceived "STEM gap"—employers in the region report having difficulty finding individuals with the requisite technical skills to fill vacant positions. Campos Research Strategy conducted in-depth interviews with educators and business leaders, surveyed nearly 1000 parents of school-age children in the region, held “family dialogues,” and conducted an online survey of one hundred middle and high school students. Efforts were made to balance participants among the counties and between rural and urban areas. Despite high hopes for STEM education among business, industry, and education leaders, the study found that parents’ and students’ awareness and understanding of what STEM is and how it might benefit them or their children is low. Awareness of STEM seems highest in urban areas in the region, but parents’ interest in STEM-related fields for their children is lowest in those same places. A majority of parents participating in the study indicated that their underlying attitudes toward education and careers aligned with many STEM fundamentals, but the typical language of STEM education and careers did not...

The facility arrangements of one Ohio charter school recently came under fire in a Columbus Dispatch exposé. An investigation discovered that roughly half of the school’s budget was dedicated to rental payments, potentially shortchanging teaching and learning. But this episode isn’t an isolated case; many Buckeye charters have struggled to secure adequate facilities. How can Ohio policymakers and school leaders better ensure that charters have the facilities they need at a reasonable cost? First, they should consult this new report from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which contains a wealth of information on charter-school facilities funding from both private and public sources. The report includes descriptions of the key nonprofits in charter-facilities financing, including the Charter School Growth Fund, Capital Impact Partners, Low Income Investment Fund, and LISC. These nonprofits—twenty in all—have provided an impressive $2 billion in direct financing for charter facilities (e.g., loans and grants). When it comes to state support for charter facilities, Ohio has been woefully stingy. The state provided, for the first time in 2013, per-pupil funding to support the facility costs of brick-and-mortar charters (up to $100 per-pupil). But other jurisdictions are far less tightfisted. For example,...

  • Cheers to the team at KIPP Columbus, whose brand-new school building hosted an open house on October 26. The incredible school building, beautiful wooded grounds in the heart of the city, and motivated staff combine to create a learning environment unparalleled in Columbus. Check out the pictures at the link above and go visit if you can. Great stuff.
  • Jeers to those in the Monroe Local School district—board members and citizens alike—who have spent years blocking a local church group from buying a mothballed high school. Their boundless ire has now attracted the attention of an outside organization objecting to the latest offer on church-state grounds. The delayed sale has already cost the district money it can’t afford to waste with the potential for much more if a court case ensues. What was already a giant mess threatens to turn into a proper train wreck for no good reason, to the further detriment of students.
  • Cheers to the staff of School Choice Ohio, who recently unveiled a nifty online voucher-eligibility tool to give families some initial information about whether their child can participate in one of Ohio’s programs. Voucher-eligibility rules are fairly opaque for many parents, with
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  1. One year ago, a teacher testified in front of the House Education Committee – at length and near tears – about his opposition to Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee during a Common Core repeal hearing. The committee chair listened politely and then noted to the witness that TGRG had nothing to do with Common Core. The teacher responded, “Well, I kind of lump all those things together.” Fast forward to November 2014 and a new kind of lumping is going on: Common Core and overall “test-mania”. Here is a report on how some teachers and administrators in Columbus’ suburbs feel about overtesting – not just the new PARCC exams, but every bit of testing they are being asked to do. I personally would urge caution in this lumping because the baby is still in the bath. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Back in the real world, editors in Columbus opined in praise of KIPP Columbus over the weekend. New school building means new opportunities for more students. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Speaking of charter schools, Canton College Prep School added three grade levels and doubled its student population in its second year, necessitating a move to a new and larger location,
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  1. The board of education of Monroe Local Schools is set to vote Monday on whether or not to sell their long-mothballed high school to a local church. Ahead of that vote, district lawyers assured the board that they would prevail in any church-state court case that might arise, and two more possible buyers have (sort of) emerged. (Middletown Journal-News)
  2. The long-simmering efforts to merge the Cardinal and Ledgemont school districts in Geauga County will probably take a decisive turn next week. Despite the assistance of the General Assembly and the governor to smooth the process, despite this week’s report from the County Auditor on the fiscal benefits of a merger, despite the urging of both districts’ superintendents, it will come down to next week’s levy votes in Ledgemont. If one or both fail, it’s hard to see how a merger won’t be absolutely necessary. (Willoughby News-Herald)
  3. Two Kent State University professors are leading a project called Making Mathematics Mobile, to develop a website to assist K-12 teachers in locating helpful mobile tools for teaching and learning mathematics, especially those that are properly Common Core-aligned. Call it the Good Mathkeeping Seal of Approval. (Kentwired)
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Not sure if it’s the impending arrival of Halloween or of next week’s election that is curtailing the education news stories (two very different versions of trick or treat there), but for whatever reason, there’s not much to report on today. But let’s make the most out of what we have, shall we?

  1. First up, Sports. LeBron James is interviewed about his foundation and specifically its Wheels for Education program which aims to “rescue” and “save” (I love sports rhetoric) Akron kids “when they need it most”. Some evidence is presented that the two-year-old program is already helping to improve reading scores among participants. And LeBron himself is confident that if the program proves to be sustainable, it can be expanded beyond Akron City Schools. Sounds fantastic. Now, who is this guy again? (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. Next up, Reality Television. Specifically, the “teen mom” genre gets an important twist. We first brought you this story at the end of last school year: Katie Nethers went to West Virginia to get her GED when she learned that Ohio law required a superintendent sign off on GEDs for people under the age of 19 and her district’s supe wouldn’t
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  1. Apologies if I’ve clipped this before, but Fordham-sponsored KIPP Columbus is getting some national attention for winning a $3 million grant to build a science center on their new campus and to provide STEM training for area teachers. (THE Journal)
  2. As we noted yesterday, there was a student protest held ahead of a school board vote in West Geauga on the future of open enrollment in the district. None of the options the board was considering really showed much interest in the students currently attending the district on open enrollment, and the final vote – to allow those currently open enrolled to stay through graduation but to close grades K-5 to any future open enrollment – was really no exception. Earlier iterations of this tussle focused on money (e.g. district “guilt” over “stealing” money from its neighbors), but do note that the one public reason given this time was a parent’s concern over no longer getting “good kids” through open enrollment. Hope this vote shows those bad Kindergartners where they belong! Sad. (Willoughby News-Herald)
  3. We noted that Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in Columbus earlier this week. The Washington express continued as HUD Secretary Julian
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  1. Arne Duncan was in Columbus yesterday. Before the main event, he answered a couple of quick questions on Common Core from Cleveland public media. (IdeaStream)
  2. The main purpose of Secretary Duncan’s visit was addressing the second Rural Education National Forum. Seems that the concerns of the group haven’t changed much since last year (lack of resources, high teacher turnover, insufficient access to technology, etc.) but through the work of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative and the Straight-A Fund, some strides have been made. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Newark is not exactly rural, but neither is it suburban. It is a small city with big-city issues, and it is one of many in Ohio. One out-of-the-box effort in Newark City Schools to serve students at risk of dropping out is the district-sponsored charter e-school Newark Digital Academy. NDA was one of four Charter School of the Year winners from the Oho Alliance of Public Charter Schools, based on some very good report card numbers last year. Nice. (Newark Advocate)
  4. We first told you this strange tale a few weeks ago: the School District who Wouldn’t Sell. Despite a solid offer, Monroe Schools’ board would not sell their mothballed
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  1. Our friends at School Choice Ohio have created a nifty voucher-eligibility tool that went live on their website last week. It’s a tough business because there are a lot of variables (income, assigned school, school attending, future year assignments, etc.) but it seems like a great way to give families some initial information about one of the least-understood and least-clear options potentially available. There are several items in the linked piece. The SCO story is toward the bottom. Worth a look. (Gongwer Ohio)
  2. I was a bit premature in calling the PD’s “test mania” story finished last week. The final piece – talking to a couple of parents who’ve opted their children out of as much testing as possible – was published later in the day on Friday. Both of these folks have, I believe, testified against Common Core as well, mostly on testing concerns. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  3. Speaking of continuing series, the Beacon Journal continued its look at disciplinary transfers in Akron schools, which we first noted on Friday. This time, a historical perspective. A contract change made in the wake of a teachers strike in 1989 allowed Akron teachers to sit in on
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  1. Patrick O’Donnell concludes (?) his “test mania?” series with the national level view. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. Teacher value-add data was released by ODE yesterday, and promptly taken down because of a data glitch. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  3. Doug Livingston takes a look at the numbers – and the processes – involved in transferring students for disciplinary reasons in Akron City Schools. Numbers were up last school year. There are some further questions that need to be asked here. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  4. What got the ABJ thinking about disciplinary transfers? Kenmore High School did. It seems that disciplinary transfers concentrated in Kenmore the last couple of years, leading to several high-profile incidents that tarnished the school’s reputation. Things are quieter this year so far, it seems, but the issue of “transfer students” still seems to be on everyone’s minds. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  5. Here’s one for my colleague Robert Pondiscio: The Cleveland Play House – in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School district – received a $2 million federal grant for the CARE Program. It is intended to improve social emotional learning skills while increasing literacy learning among otherwise underserved students. The story notes
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