Ohio Gadfly Daily

Small-town Ohio and its “good old days” is the subject of a New York Times article by Robert Putnam, published this week. In it, he describes the Shangri-La of the late 1950s in Northwestern Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. Quite how he makes it from this to his usual conclusion that the collective “we” is a key missing element of today’s society – in terms of economic attainment, educational outcomes and the weave of the entire social fabric – is beyond my powers to understand.

The “American Dream” that Putnam describes leaves out women (unmarried ones for sure and by insinuation any married woman who harbored any ambition outside of homemaking), most black students (except perhaps the two from Port Clinton who “encountered racial prejudice in town” yet still managed to get into graduate school through education and effort) and all of the unmentionables from the era (homosexuals, mixed-race families, Italians, Poles, the disabled and the mentally ill) for whom the 1950s did no favors at all.

Any sense of a collective “we” from that era is largely male, wholly straight, mostly white, and solidly middle- and upper- class although those last two terms have definitely acquired a variety of definitions over time. As someone without any recollections of how great it was in the 1950s (as it would have been for me and my family once the WOP had been bred out of us), and for someone who experienced the "changes of the 70s" as a...

This spring, we promised to talk to some educators about the implementation for the Common Core Curriculum and PARCC assessments. What we asked was how they and their schools have prepared and what could potentially hinder a smooth transition.

Dr. Judy Hennessey is the superintendent of Deca Prep, a K-6 elementary school in its second year. Judy is also the superintendent of Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), Ohio’s first early college high school, serving grades 7-12. Judy is a Dayton native and alum of Dayton Public Schools.

Through her work at DECA, she saw the need to have better preparation for her students and the mission of Deca Prep is to ready first generation college students in a rigorous curriculum including academics and character education. The focus of Deca Prep and DECA is sending students to college.

Below are the questions and excerpts from our conversation.

Q: What's your biggest worry? 

A: Will the assessments be aligned in time. We’ve been working on preparing the instructional side for a few years.

Q: What do you need to put in place before this all starts?

A: Making sure new staff coming in are ready and on the same page. They need to understand and practice techniques that are needed to teach close reading.  In practice this means they (teachers) will be going deeper into a content-rich curriculum.

Q: Do you have all the technology needed for testing?

A: We are close. We will have it.

Q: What skills do your teachers...

During my travels on Interstate 70, I have discovered Union Local School District. The district is located near the Ohio-West Virginia border, right at exit 208. Its high school isn’t hard to spot—a boxy two-story building that sits atop a knoll overlooking truck-stop fast food joints and gas stations.

I’ve learned a bit about Union Local and have come to think of it as a quintessential rural district. It enrolls 1,500 or so students, 99 percent of whom are white. A modest portion of its students are impoverished (42 percent). They play football on Fridays, and last I heard on the radio, a local car dealership donates $20 to the football team, if you test-drive their cars. The school district has a nature trail and an American flag etched into its high school lawn, as a reminder of 9/11.

Union Local is one of Ohio’s 231 rural districts that together serve 280,000 or so K-12 students—roughly equal the student population of Nebraska. But besides serving truck-stop communities and partnering with mom-and-pop car dealerships, what is known about rural schools? Specifically, what about the academics of Union Local and Ohio’s rural schools? Do they effectively prepare their kids to attend college? Can their graduates compete academically with their brethren from Ohio’s (often, high-powered) suburban districts? Is it likely that their graduates will eventually attain jobs in an increasingly competitive labor market?

If we start and finish with the state’s academic rating system, we find that nearly all rural districts perform quite...

As states and schools get ready for Common Core implementation, they had better prepare for higher quality education for both students and teachers. The Center for American Progress recently released a report by Jenny DeMonte that reviews teachers’ attitudes toward their professional learning experiences and Common Core State Standards preparation. The report cites a study that found the majority of teachers welcomed the Common Core and believed it would improve their teaching, but worried that they needed additional standards-related professional development. With many states introducing new teacher evaluation systems, the report recognizes the connection between effective teacher evaluations and personalized professional development. Schools should be utilizing these systems to provide teachers with the feedback and support necessary to improve instruction, especially as teachers begin to fully align Common Core standards with curriculum. With Common Core in mind, DeMonte observes, “The nascent changes to education all require educators to learn new and better ways to do their jobs.”  The Common Core State Standards will only be effective if teachers are prepared for these changes, making the standards adoption truly “a classroom-level school reform.” As such, teachers must be experts on these standards, ready to provide students with the rigorous and relevant education called for by the Common Core. This will only be feasible through meaningful professional development. DeMonte recommends administrators and education policymakers advocate for the following as they prepare teachers for Common Core: (1) provide needed support for professional development activities, (2) share resources with educators throughout the United...

State representative Andy Thompson today introduced House Bill 237, which seeks to void the State Board of Education’s June 2010 decision to adopt the Common Core academic standards in English language arts and math. The bill would effectively prevent any Ohio public school from implementing the Common Core, standards that offer a clear description of the skills and knowledge that students should acquire at each grade level to stay on course toward college or gainful employment. The bill has 13 co-sponsors—all Republican—whom it appears have caved into the political charms of tea-party-like interest groups who have vociferously criticized the Common Core standards in the recent months, not on the basis of the standards’ content but on the basis of politics and ideology.

As House Bill 237 is debated in the legislature, members of both parties ought to cut to the chase and judge the Common Core by its merits. And, here are but a few of the Common Core’s merits: In Fordham’s 2010 comparison of the Common Core against Ohio’s outgoing standards, the Common Core was rated superior in both English and math. In another study of the math content of Common Core, William Schmidt of Michigan State University found that the Common Core was closely aligned with the math standards of the highest-performing countries in grades K-8. And, if the members of the legislature want to listen to their own local educational professionals, they should know that two out of three Ohio district superintendents believe that the Common...

More than 100,000 students in Ohio attended a public charter school during the past school year. Most of these students come from urban areas, as state law requires that a start-up charter school locate within the boundaries of either a “Big 8” urban district or a low-performing district. The charts below show the decade-long growth of charter schools, as well as the current percentage of students attending charters within Ohio’s urban areas.

Chart 1 shows the charter school growth in Ohio’s Big 8 urban areas over the past 10 years. None of the 8 cities’ charter sector has declined in enrollment (by way of contrast, all of these cities’ traditional districts have declined). The growth rates, however, vary across the cities. Columbus’ charter school sector has exploded, nearly quadrupling in student enrollment size. Cleveland and Toledo’s charter sectors have also expanded at a brisk pace, both more than doubling their enrollment. Meanwhile, Youngstown and Dayton’s charter schools grew at a considerably slower pace than their counterparts.

Chart 1: City’s charter schools grew at a varying pace in past decade – Percent change in charter school enrollment, 2003-04 to 2012-13.

SOURCE: Ohio Department of Education - Enrollment Data, and District & Community School Payment Reports NOTE: Charter school enrollment includes students whose home district is the city’s main traditional district (e.g., Columbus City Schools).

Chart 2 shows the share of each city’s public-school student population that charter schools serve, as of 2012-13. Three Ohio...

This summer in Ohio has been oppressively hot and (for some reason) rainy. So for those who want to stay cool in the AC, or are looking for beach reading, here are several timely and insightful pieces that relate to education. Read on for our review of these reports and articles, and click on the links to access the entire article! -Angel Gonzalez

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Are Recent College Graduates Finding Good Jobs?

Aaron Churchill

We’ve seen the reports: the 22-year old, newly-minted college graduate—steeped in debt—who’s working at the corner coffee shop. But are these anecdotal reports worst case scenarios or are do they illustrate an emerging trend for college grads?  In a few charts, Richard Deitz from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York looks at what the U.S. Census Bureau and Labor Statistics data say about recent graduates and their employment. Deitz shows that while unemployment rates for recent grads are at a 25-year high, the unemployment rate of recent graduates (roughly 6 percent) remains lower than that of the general working-age population (8 percent).  Now, when it comes to underemployment, recent graduates are in dire straits, depending on their major. Nearly half (46 percent) of recent graduates are presently underemployed, a considerable increase compared to 2000 when roughly one in three recent grads were underemployed. Deitz also disaggregates un- and underemployment by college major. Those with leisure & hospitality and agricultural degrees were the most likely to be either unemployed or underemployed. And, yes,...

After twelve productive and happy years of working for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Ohio, I am moving with my family to Boise, Idaho to lead that state’s charter school network. I have loved working for Fordham in Ohio and am confident that the Institute is well positioned to thrive in the months and years ahead, both nationally and in the Buckeye State. I have also enjoyed the many friendships that I’ve developed in Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland and elsewhere around the state. Ohio is blessed with some fantastic educators and committed school reformers. These people do what they do for the sake of their communities and their kids, not for personal gain. It has been a privilege to live and work with so many dedicated leaders from across the political spectrum.  Education reform in Ohio is too important—and too challenging— to be just a Republican or Democrat thing, and it has worked best when it has enjoyed bipartisan support. This is just one of the things I have learned during my dozen years in Ohio.

Here are twelve more personal lessons and conclusions, offered in no particular order that others might want to consider:

1) Ideas matter over the long haul, but campaign cash and raw interests carry the day in the near term. I’ve participated in policy debates around education in Ohio under three governors, four House Speakers and five state superintendents. These leaders have all struggled to balance ideas with realpolitik. Ohio has pushed some important initiatives...

Passions are high around the Common Core, but Ze’ev Wurman zoomed past the point of the ridiculous when he commented on a recent blog post by my colleague Jeff Murray “where did you learn this style of ‘reporting’- from the Soviet politruks.” The post that offended Wurman can be seen here, but it was a pretty straight forward report on a debate at the Pickerington Ohio Chamber of Commerce on the Common Core. I was one of the participants and can attest that there were plenty of anti-Common Core voices in the crowd and they were given every opportunity to make their arguments.

But, the purpose of this blog is to challenge Wurman’s reference to the Soviets because it is so over-the-top and frankly offensive to me, as it would be to anyone who knows anything about the Soviet Union and its oppression of people across Eastern Europe. My wife is Polish, and we regularly visit her family with our children in Poland. I lived and taught in Poland in the early 1990s, and I worked with former Solidarity leaders on efforts to help Polish schools and educators transition from communism to Western-style democracy.

One of my best friends in Poland is a man named Wiktor Kulerski. Wiktor’s family experienced the horrors of oppression under both the Nazis and the Soviets. Wiktor’s family was remarkable. His grandfather and father ran the largest newspaper in Poland, Gazeta Grudziadzka, between the World Wars. Three generations of Kulerski’s served in the three...

State Representative Gerald Stebelton and the Pickerington Chamber of Commerce convened an education summit this morning at Ohio University’s Pickerington Center. Nearly 100 people gathered to discuss education in Ohio and in their own communities, and Representative Stebelton—the House education committee chair—began with an overview of the education provisions in the just-enacted state budget.

Rep. Stebelton addresses the education summit meeting.

Fordham’s Terry Ryan gave a presentation (which can be downloaded here) on the history and development of the Common Core State Standards, the process of their adoption in 2010, and some insight into the early stages of its implementation across the state. His presentation was eagerly awaited by many in the gathering as questions began early and persisted throughout. Terry’s review of academic standards in Ohio going back to the mid-1990s proved enlightening to many. Terry urged the attendees to read the standards carefully, compare them properly to Ohio’s previous academic standards in English and math, and to “speak out loudly” if there is anything within the Common Core that they do not want their children or grandchildren to learn.

Terry Ryan describes the history of the Common Core State Standards.

But the true highlight of the event was a panel discussion in which three stellar superintendents explained how the Common Core has been implemented in their quite different districts, and what they see as the benefits for the students...

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