Do you believe that well-written and timely stories can change minds? Do you have the ability and the drive to research and write those stories? Would you like to work at the forefront of Ohio education policy? If so, you might be perfect as Education Writer and Policy Associate for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Ohio office.

To see more details or to apply, please click here.

  • The Cincinnati Enquirer has created the nifty quiz “How much do you know about the Common Core” to educate readers, while shooting down Common Core misconceptions.
  • With the increase of technology such as iPads and mobile devices, some school leaders and parents are encouraging students to limit technology use and spend more time reading or playing outdoors. 
  • Students in some Ohio schools could soon report bullies via text message as part of a new initiative by Blackboard.
  • A few school districts across the country, including two middle schools in Hamilton City School District (Butler County), have started separating boys and girls during lunch periods and recess in an effort to improve behavior.

According to the authors of The SEA of the Future: Leveraging Performance Management to Support School Improvement, the federal government and state legislatures have asked State Education Agencies (SEAs) to be take a bigger role in improving schools. In the Buckeye State, the SEA is the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). To meet these increasing demands, the authors suggest SEAs transition into a performance management system, a system defined by high standards and goals, the systematic assessment of the organization’s progress, and a willingness to continuously improve and adopt new strategies.

In three interconnected essays, the authors, who are mostly affiliated with the University of Washington's Center for Reinventing Public Education, share what they believe to be the necessary steps to build a successful performance management system: (1) changing the system of support that an SEA offers to improve the organizational capacity of local districts and schools, (2) funneling resources to support the policies necessary to enact district-level change, and (3) engaging stakeholders such as governors, legislators, and advocates to help sustain the decisions made by SEA leaders. The key takeaway is that a successful SEA must be willing to change and respond to the needs of its districts and schools, while being unburdened by the status quo.

As cities in Ohio become leaders in education reform, it is becoming increasingly necessary for ODE to help support and sustain these policy reforms. Fortunately, state superintendent Dick Ross has a track record of innovating at the district level...


Teach For America (TFA), the demonstrably effective teacher placement and preparation program, is wrapping up its first year in the Buckeye State. In 2012-13, TFA placed 34 teachers in schools and pre-K centers in the Cincinnati-Dayton-Northern Kentucky area and another 50 in Cleveland-area schools. (Six TFA teachers taught at Dayton Liberty Academies, Fordham-sponsored charter schools, and Fordham has supported TFA’s start-up efforts in Southwest Ohio financially.)

A series of articles (accessible here, here, here, here) by reporter Jessica Brown of the Cincinnati Enquirer kept tabs on three of Ohio’s inaugural class of TFA teachers: Sarah Theobald, Paige Fryer, and Tierra McGee. Theobald taught preschool at Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Fryer taught first grade at Impact Academy, a charter school, and McGee taught seventh grade at Holmes Middle School in the Covington (KY) School District.

What do the Enquirer articles tell us about TFA teachers? Three characteristics are apparent:

1.)    They’re resilient – Theobald, the pre-K teacher, reported the challenge of having three Spanish-speaking students in her class. With the help of her peers, she’s managed to integrate them into her classroom—and she’s also made learning Spanish a priority.  

2.)    They learn fast – Fryer, who teaches at Impact Academy, reported how she quickly learned on-the-job teaching tricks. One was as simple as giving students clear instructions. McGee, who teaches at Covington, found that role-playing engaged her students, so she adapted her lessons accordingly.

3.)    They achieve results –Fryer, for example, achieved 1.5...


By July 1st, Ohio law will require public school districts (charter and district) to establish a teacher evaluation policy. The evaluation policy must conform to a framework that depends half on student growth on test scores and half on classroom observations.[1] Based on these measures, teachers will earn an overall rating: accomplished, proficient, developing, or ineffective.

In our recent survey of superintendents, Ohio’s teacher evaluation policy received mixed reviews. Nearly three out of four (73 percent) said that teacher evaluations would become accepted practice five years hence. And, 42 percent said that teacher evaluations would lead to “fundamental improvement” in the state’s K-12 school system. So, there’s modest optimism toward teacher evaluation.

But there’s undeniable angst about the policy details. Nearly all superintendents (93 percent) think that they’ll be lawsuits when personnel decisions are based on Ohio’s evaluation framework. And nearly all (86 percent) think that the classroom observation mandate will “put too much pressure on principals.” One superintendent said

“It will over-tax the principals and render them useless. They will need to spend so much time on evaluations, they will not have time for anything else.”

When one looks at the Ohio Department of Education’s website, one can see from whence this sentiment emerges. For example, the “teacher evaluation resource packet,” which operationalizes the classroom observation portion of the policy, clocks in at 22 pages. By simple extrapolation, this suggests a small mountain of paperwork for a principal who supervises 20 teachers.

Is there a...


In both our role as researchers and as a charter school authorizer we have come to appreciate over-and-over again the critical importance of school leaders in making schools great. Yet, there is no harder job than running a successful school building for high-poverty students; nor a more important job. We are fortunate that some of these leaders work in schools that Fordham sponsors and it is our privilege to tell a little bit of their stories and the impact they are having on students in Ohio.

Today’s Q&A is with Rick Bowman, the superintendent of Sciotoville Community School, located in rural Southern Ohio. Tragically, we recently learned that Quintin Howard, a 17-year-old senior at Sciotoville passed away in a single vehicle accident on May 25th. At a candlelight vigil for Mr. Howard, Bowman led a prayer and encouraged the community saying “This is a family. They’re not going to be alone. They’re going to have all of us, and we’re going to have each other to work together to get through this very difficult time.” This is a reminder that school leaders are not only a school’s chief executive and chief academic officer. Sometimes, they’re a community’s consoler-in-chief.

For additional context on Sciotoville, see our documentary The Tartans, which can be viewed here. This is the seventh of our seven-part series on school leadership. (Please see our past Q&As with Dr. Glenda Brown, Andy Boy, Dr. Judy Hennessey, Hannah Powell Tuney, Chad Webb, and T.J. Wallace.)...


This week I am joining members of CEE-Trust for a conversation on some of the nation’s most promising city-based school reform efforts. CEE-Trust is a coalition of 33 reform organizations like MindTrust in Indianapolis, Mayor Karl Dean in Nashville, Charter School Partners in Minneapolis, New Schools for New Orleans, and the Rogers Family Foundation in Oakland. Fordham is a founding member, and this is one of my absolutely favorite groups to spend time with because the people involved are leading implementers and practitioners of school reform. They are all doers.

In years past I always left the CEE-Trust meetings wishing more were happening in Ohio’s cities. But, this year is different. Ohio’s big cities are rapidly becoming leaders in school reform. In fact, I’d argue there is no state with three major cities doing more than what is happening in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Consider the following.


In early 2012 Mayor Frank Jackson (who appoints the school board) unveiled his “Plan for Transforming Schools.” The Jackson Plan required changes to state law and in July 2012 Governor Kasich signed House Bill 525, which gave the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and its superintendent Eric Gordon new flexibilities to deal with the city’s long-suffering schools. Key elements of the plan included:

  • Keeping high-performing and specialized teachers during layoffs by making tenure and seniority only secondary factors in those personnel decisions.
  • Paying teachers on a “differentiated” salary schedule based on performance, special skills and duties, as opposed to years of
  • ...

In 1958, over 18,000 U.K. infants (including nearly 1,000 immigrants) joined the National Child Development Study—a longitudinal, population-representative survey. For this study, researchers tracked these youngsters through to age forty-two to determine whether childhood reading and math skills (at age seven) predicted adult socioeconomic success. The initial finding is a nothingburger: “Mathematics and reading ability both had substantial positive associations with adult [socioeconomic status].” But look a little closer! The correlations between adult SES and childhood reading and math know-how were greater than those between adult SES and one’s economic status at birth or one’s intelligence (as measured at age eleven). The methods are weedy but the message is clear and hopeful—socioeconomic status in childhood plays a role in students’ future level of success. But school-based knowledge matters more.

SOURCE: Stuart J. Ritchie and Timothy C. Bates, “Enduring Links From Childhood Mathematics and Reading Achievement to Adult Socioeconomic Status,” Psychological Science 24(5): (May 2013).


With renewed attention being paid to college and career readiness, many wonder whether career and technical (CTE) courses—formerly known as vocational ed—enhance academic achievement. Using the Educational Longitudinal Study (or ELS) for students attending high school from the 2000–01 to 2003–04 school years (prior to the passage of the latest Perkins reauthorization, the federal program that funds career tech), this new report from RAND and RTI examines the relationship between CTE courses and math achievement. After controlling for selection bias as well as possible, the authors look at both the effect on math achievement for each additional CTE course taken in high school and whether having a higher balance of CTE courses relative to academic courses increases math achievement. The top three findings: First, exposure to CTE is common, with 64 percent of students earning at least two CTE credits and 43 percent earning three or more. Second, the total number of CTE courses taken is unrelated to the number of questions answered correctly on the math assessment, but the more CTE courses one takes, the lower one’s gains at the most advanced levels. And third, all else equal, those who take a mix of CTE and academic courses, those who take mostly CTE courses, and those who take mostly academic courses all have similar predicted scores. In other words, learning gains in math are not compromised when CTE courses are taken at the expense of academic courses. Of course, we must bear in mind that students who take mostly...


Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation last week that places a one-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools outside Chicago and directs a state commission to study the effects and costs of virtual charters. These actions were clearly responses to suburban districts’ angst over the growing presence of K12 Inc. Relatedly, we’re sure that local bookstores favor blocking Amazon.com so that we might “better evaluate and understand” its impact. Is that next up?

Now in its fifth year, Menlo Park Academy in Cleveland—Ohio’s only charter school exclusively serving gifted children—is a haven for over 300 students, drawing K–8 youngsters from forty school districts in and beyond the Cleveland metro area. It's also the subject of a profile by award-winning journalist Ellen Belcher. To read more, visit the Ohio Gadfly Daily.

And now, from Nevada, a riddle about poor school-funding policy: What do you get when you add the third-largest fraction of English-language learner (ELL) students in the nation (a full fifth of Nevada’s 2010–11 student population) to a school-funding formula that doesn’t allot districts any extra state cash to educate said youngsters? Answer: Only 29 percent of the state’s ELL students in the graduating class of 2010–11 made it across the stage with their cohort. Brian Sandoval, the Republican governor of Nevada, has proposed $50 million over two years to go towards ELL programs; the state’s Senate majority leader has countered with $140 million. While money alone won’t solve Nevada’s achievement woes, extra...