Ohio Gadfly Daily

The Ohio Gadfly is extremely excited to announce an addition to our Columbus office. Jessica Poiner, a former teacher, has joined our team as an education policy analyst. For an introduction, here’s Jessica in her own words:

My name is Jessica Poiner. I’m the middle child in a family of three daughters, born and raised in Akron, Ohio. Most of my growing up took place in the suburb of Stow, where I spent a lot of time (probably too much time, if my three knee surgeries are any indication) playing soccer and reading anything I could get my hands on.

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher explained a fun new class activity that functioned something like a board game. Every student had a game piece, and we earned chances to roll the dice on Fridays based on our behavior and quiz scores. I have no idea what my peers thought of the game, but I do remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to be a teacher so that I could design cool games for my students.

Fast-forward to May of 2011. I’ve just graduated from Baldwin-Wallace University with a degree in English. I’ve loaded my...

  1. As expected, the Plain Dealer waited a day before reporting on the education MBR. Their focus is on the changes to testing and graduation requirements, something with which we are all grappling. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. There was an anti-Common Core rally at the Statehouse yesterday. Perhaps you felt the thunderous presence of the mighty crowd. No? Me neither. Didn’t get much press coverage either, although a couple papers picked up a brief story via AP. The jist: a Common Core repeal bill is sitting in the House Education Committee; the sponsor and the ralliers want to get enough representatives to sign a petition to force it out and onto the House floor. For the second day in a row, I’m forced to type the words “there’s no way this will ever be a Schoolhouse Rock song”.  (Ravenna Record-Courier)
  3. The headline writer at the Enquirer has taken a chill-pill and returned to Jack Webb Mode (just the facts) for this story about a new charter school which will be operated by Norwood Schools starting next fall. It is a very small blended-learning model housed in a district classroom with flexible hours and pacing. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  4. It’s
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  1. The K-12 education MBR bill emerged from a conference committee yesterday, reconciling some thorny issues between House and Senate versions. Coverage varied around the state. In what reads more like a foaming-at-the-mouth editorial than impartial journalism, the Akron Beacon Journal focuses on a funding boost for dropout-recovery charter schools (or, as the ABJ puts it, “dropout producers”). The Columbus Dispatch focuses more dispassionately on the tweaks to teacher evaluations. Fascinating legislative process it seems, and clearly impervious to having a Schoolhouse Rock song made about it.
  2. Another item making statewide news today was NCTQ’s report on teacher absences, noting that Cleveland’s numbers are the worst of all 40 metro areas surveyed, and Columbus is second. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, as usual, digs deep to try and understand the numbers and to relate it to steps already being taken to address the situation, which has actually been on the union’s and CMSD’s radars since October. The Columbus Dispatch also talks to the local union boss about her members' attendance numbers – and she is interested to understand those numbers of course – without noting that said union boss has about 25 days left in the
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The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released an alarming new report today on teacher absenteeism in America’s urban public schools. While teacher absences were unacceptably high across most of the school districts that NCTQ analyzed, Cleveland and Columbus public schools earned the unhappy distinction of having the most teacher absences of them all. NCTQ’s analysts used district-level data from 2012-13 to calculate the number of teacher absences in forty of the nation’s largest urban school systems. The results were, on the whole, woeful: teachers across these districts were absent, on average, eleven days during the school year. (The length of a school year is roughly 180 days.) NCTQ’s analysis excludes days missed due to major illness or maternity leave, and did include days missed for professional development.

Teacher absenteeism borders on a crisis in Cleveland and Columbus. Cleveland’s teachers missed an average of sixteen days while in Columbus, teachers missed fifteen days—good for the highest and second-highest absentee rates in this study. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati—the only other Ohio district that NCTQ analyzed for this study—teachers missed an average of twelve days of school. (In a separate study, NCTQ found that Dayton’s teachers were absent nearly fifteen days.)...

  1. The Cincinnati Enquirer has finally relented and covered School Choice Ohio's legal action against Cincinnati Public Schools in regard to student directory information. Sadly, the piece is a mess of misstated/omitted facts about EdChoice and includes some flawed conclusions because of it. Especially egregious is the omission of EdChoice eligibility for students in chronically underperforming schools regardless of income. The piece states, “A win by School Choice Ohio could lead to drastic enrollment drops at some schools.” Yes, indeed, if parents in perennially low-rated schools actually knew they had a private school option available to them and had someone to help them get more information, a number of them would likely leave. And that's a problem because why? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  2. Teachers in Worthington City Schools have approved a new contract that contains some novel tweaks. The union’s leader trumpets a revised pay-for-experience schedule for veteran teachers entering the district, but as a Fordhamite I’ll highlight the clause which would deny a step increase to any teacher who receives a designation of “ineffective” on an evaluation. Which also begs a couple of questions in itself. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Summer school in Dayton Public Schools
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Cleveland’s teachers union is in a fit over the district’s increased utilization of Teach For America (TFA) to fill teaching positions. Instead of griping, the labor union should think instead of the larger human-resource crisis the district faces. The district has a myriad of human-resource struggles and, as we’ll see, one of them is its aging workforce.

The backstory, in brief, is the following. For Fall 2014, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) has approved the hiring of forty new TFA teachers. This more than doubles the nineteen TFA corps members that the district hired for the 2013-14 school year. TFA is a highly regarded organization that recruits and trains talented young people to teach in high-need schools across the nation.

But, as the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported recently, the teachers union doesn’t seem to be on board—and that’s too bad. In light of its opposition, here’s a fact the union should chew on.

In 2012-13, CMSD had the highest percentage of teachers with more than ten years of experience of all districts in Ohio. Indeed, 89 percent of its teaching force had more than ten years of experience.[1] As a reference point, the...

  1. So the education news was pretty thin on the ground around Ohio this weekend…unless you count graduation coverage. Here’s one of those graduation stories that caught my eye: remember the kerfuffle we reported back in January about one district high school wanting to hold its graduation ceremony in a church…as they had done for the previous two years? Due to parental concerns, it was back to the cramped, less-accessible civic center this year but the kerfuffle was pretty well forgotten amid the tears and joy. (Canton Repository)
  2. Another case in point: the Big D was so busy doing other things that they ran a reprint of an editorial from the Chicago Tribune this morning. It was opining strongly in favor of Common Core. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. The Beacon Journal editors also opined this weekend, about how charter schools are failing dropouts and potential dropouts, following on from a similiar-sounding series of articles from last week. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  4. One journalist who was working hard this weekend was Casey Elliott of the Urbana Citizen. Casey went in-depth to look at PARCC pilot
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  1. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Lorain City Schools was undergoing its first review since coming under the auspices of an academic distress commission. That review is now nearly complete and in the fine tradition of good news/bad news, the district gets the good news first.  Among those pieces of good news: cooperating with the distress commission and “working to build the culture of high expectations” as determined by fully aligning its ELA and math curricula with the Common Core. It’ll be another couple of weeks before the bad news is made public. I’ll stay on the lookout. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal)
  2. The dean of Ohio’s distress commission work is Paul Marshall, who has been doing the fiscal distress side of the work around the state for many years. I look forward to his eventual book on the work because it will be fascinating. Case in point: Mansfield City Schools, where the current oversight commission had to suspend work on a fiscal plan earlier this week due to tussles with staff over custodians. On an unrelated note, I declare the “Keep Calm and…” t-shirt trend to have jumped the shark as
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  1. In case you hadn’t yet heard, Fordham’s Aaron Churchill has a fantastic op-ed in the Dispatch today, who graciously allowed him to rebut the paper's recent report on charter schools and segregation by running the numbers and continuing the important conversation. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. We have long championed Reynoldsburg City Schools as a district where reform and innovation are welcomed in the name of helping students succeed. Today, we are learning about a proposal to change teacher compensation to what looks like a full merit pay system – along with a cash payment in lieu of district-provided health insurance. The Big D got the info on this proposal via a public records request (yeah!) and no one in the district is quoted on the record, but the teachers union and BASA are. Could get interesting folks. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Ohio's new report cards got a big thumbs up from both parent reviewers and wonky researchers in a new study from the Education Commission of the States. Reviews cited breadth of measures, ease of interpretation, and easy accessibility among other things. Best of the best, baby! (Dayton Daily News)
  4. StateImpact's Bill Rice was paying attention to the
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I joined the Twittersphere yesterday for a forum on blended learning moderated by Matt Miller, superintendent of Mentor School District in Northeast Ohio. (Find the tweets at #ohblendchat.) The conversation engaged, by my estimation, fifty or so educators who in 140 characters or less discussed what “blended learning” is, how they’re implementing it, what benefits they’re seeing, and what some of the barriers and misconceptions are.

The forum was a great opportunity to learn how blended learning is playing out in the field. From the chat, I came away with three takeaways:

1.)    There is increasing definition around what blended learning is and is not. First, what it is not: putting students in front of a computer and expecting them to learn. Nor does blended learning slavishly conform to a single method of instruction (e.g., lecture, online, project-based). What is blended learning, then? A few of the key phrases used to define blended learning included personalized learning, a combination of instructional deliveries, collaborative learning, and even controlled chaos.

2.)    Teachers say their feedback on students’ work is swifter and their engagement with all students increases in a blended-learning environment compared to conventional ones. Several educators...