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What would happen if both sides of today’s education reform debate—the “public common school” crowd and the education reformers—got everything they wanted all at once? The newly released Student Success 2025 plan aims to envision just that for the state of Delaware.

The plan was crafted by the Vision Coalition of Delaware, led by a Who’s Who of education, business, philanthropy, and state government heavyweights. The Student Success 2025 project included dozens of additional committee members from all stakeholder areas. The project was informed by the public input of more than four thousand Delawareans, including over 1,300 K–12 students. The intent was to create a broad plan for the future of public education in the state in order to “cut through the noise” and to think big on “issues on which most people can agree.” By keeping the two sides in regular communication for a decade, the coalition has accomplished a minor miracle. The plan they have produced is reflective of that effort.

Student Success 2025 reads like a laundry list that includes universal, free, high-quality pre-K; comprehensive wraparound services for kids and families at every school; mastery-based learning with limitless remediation and acceleration as...

  1. I know that almost no one gets tired of hearing from State Auditor Dave Yost (!) – especially not me. What does the state auditor think of the recent $71 million grant award Ohio won from the U.S. Department of Education to help beef up its charter school sector? He is “shocked” to learn that we were ever in contention for federal funds, let alone able to win. But that boat has already left the dock and more important is what he and his office plan to do once the money hits Ohio’s coffers: “My concern is that it is well-spent with proper monitoring. We’re going to haul out the microscope on this. We’re going to have active observation.” Yep. Classic Yost. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/3/15)
  2. What do editors in Akron think of the recent $71 million grant award Ohio won from the U.S. Department of Education to help beef up its charter school sector? “The grant award clashes with what Ohioans know about the sorry state of charter schools here.” Yep. Classic ABJ. (Akron Beacon Journal, 10/2/15)
  3. Here is an interesting story about a potential new charter school in Cincinnati – a second location for
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  1. In case you missed it, HB 2 – the charter law reform bill everyone’s been begging for – was sent to conference committee by the Ohio House on Wednesday. As Peggy Lehner, the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill says: “I’m not sensing any great desire by House or Senate leadership to take a step backwards,” and she expects “just clarifying and strengthening amendments.” Sounds good to me. How about you, Ohio media outlets? (Columbus Dispatch, 10/1/15)
  2. Like young Joey in the movie Shane, editors in Youngstown today call wistfully for Governor Kasich to come back and visit them again. They seem to have some questions to put to him about the Youngstown Plan which he promised them a year ago and subsequently delivered on. But “Shane” Kasich just rode on out past the graveyard and into the sunset somewhere near Dubuque. (Youngstown Vindicator, 10/2/15)
  3. Back in the real world, here’s a nice look at some ongoing team teaching efforts in some Dayton area schools. (Dayton Daily News, 9/29/15)

Researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research recently examined whether financial incentives can increase parental involvement in children’s education and subsequently raise cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. The analysts conduct a randomized field experiment during the 2011–12 school year in Chicago Heights, a low-performing urban school district where 90 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch. The 257 parent participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a treatment group in which parents were paid immediately, a second treatment group in which parents were paid via deposits into a trust fund that could only be accessed when their children enrolled in college, and a control group which received no payment. Parents in both treatment groups could earn up to $7,000 per year for their attendance at parent academy sessions (eighteen sessions, each lasting ninety minutes, that taught parents how to help children build cognitive and non-cognitive skills), proof of parental homework completion, and the performance of their child on benchmark assessments.   

To measure cognitive outcomes, the analysts averaged results along the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and the Woodcock Johnson III Test of Achievement; to measure non-cognitive outcomes, they averaged results from the Blair and Willoughby Measures...

  1. Part 2 of the Plain Dealer’s dig into the Ohio Department of Education’s email trove goes further into the issue of highly-mobile students. The story is mainly about e-schools, whose percentage of highly-mobile students is predictably high, but our own Aaron Churchill is quoted here with the proper sentiment: "To say these kids shouldn't count is not good policy." A link to Aaron’s recent blog post on the subject is also included. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/28/15)
  2. In between parts 1 and 2 of the PD’s series, editors there opined – as if on repeat – in favor of the passage of HB 2 now. There was also a bit about fracking, something else upon which Aaron has recently blogged. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/28/15) Editors in Akron also opined on charter schools this week, although I think reform is the last thing they really want. Interesting political history lesson, though, something upon which Aaron has yet to blog. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/28/15)
  3. Speaking of charter law reform, the Ohio House of Representatives is back in session today after summer break and one of the first pieces of legislation they will take up is
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In Eastern Ohio and elsewhere across the nation, fracking has had a profound effect on economic activity and labor markets. But has it had an impact on education? According to a new study by Dartmouth economists, the answer is yes: The proliferation of fracking has increased high-school dropout rates—and not surprisingly, among adolescent males specifically. They estimate that each percentage point increase in local oil and gas employment—an indicator of fracking intensity—increased the dropout rates of teenage males by 1.5–2.5 percentage points.

The analysts identify 553 local labor markets—“commuter zones,” or CZs—in states with fracking activity, including Ohio. For each CZ, they overlay Census data spanning from 2000 to 2013 on employment and high school dropouts (i.e., 15–18 year olds not enrolled and without a diploma). The study then exploits the “shock” of fracking—it picked up significantly in 2006—while also analyzing the trend in dropouts. Prior to 2006, dropout rates were falling for both males and females; post-2006, dropout rates for males shot up in CZs with greater fracking activity. (Female dropout rates continued to decline.) Using statistical analyses, the researchers tie the increase in male dropout rates directly to the fracking boom.

This study raises important issues about...

  1. There is confusion and concern in Lorain City Schools at the moment, the only other district currently under the aegis of an old-style Academic Distress Commission. The confusion is whether their unique ADC status will lead to Lorain being exempted from new “safe harbor” provisions based on PARCC test scores. The concern is one of possible unfairness: it could turn out that Lorain is the only district in the state to which PARCC “safe harbor” does not apply. It’s complicated and even the Ohio Department of Education boffins quoted in this piece are unsure. Could be moot if the lawsuit from Youngstown succeeds, but fascinating to see the nuances of district turnaround in action. Or perhaps inaction could be more accurate. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 9/25/15)
  2. Former Toledo school teacher, current ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, and longtime charter school critic Teresa Fedor opined in a guest commentary this weekend in favor of a far-reaching investigation of the Ohio Department of Education in regard to the rescinded sponsor evaluations done earlier this year. (Toledo Blade, 9/27/15) Perhaps not coincidentally at all, editors in Toledo opined – as if on repeat – in favor of
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  1. An interesting discussion of Ohio’s teacher evaluation system includes comments from Innovation Ohio’s Steve Dyer ("It's a very subjective thing, teaching."), Fordham’s Aaron Churchill ("It's a move toward results-oriented, performance-based education, and that's a huge step forward.”), and the late Albert Einstein (“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted."). I’m with Aaron. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 9/24/15)
  2. Loyal readers know that I love me some Yost (I know!). But I do hope that the Auditor of State never decides to buy me a present, because he’s got a different definition of “surprise” than I do. Case in point: the big announcement of impending “surprise” visits to both charter and district schools for a new round of attendance spot-checks, among other things. This is important stuff for the auditor to stay on top of – attendance is, sadly, an inexact science most everywhere – but secret visits should be secret. Shouldn’t they? Just sayin’. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/25/15)
  3. As you no doubt recall, the first batch of charter sponsor ratings were rescinded earlier this year over the exclusion of some low grades for Ohio’s e-schools from a portion of the ratings process. A
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  1. Fordham’s Aaron Churchill is one of the critics referenced in the headline of this piece, reporting on the state board of education’s recent setting of PARCC cut scores for Ohio. Too low, say the critics, including Aaron. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/23/15)
  2. Meanwhile, Chad Aldis is quoted in this Dispatch piece speculating on whether HB 2 – the currently-stalled charter law reform bill – would already or could with some tweaks address any of the issues raised in last week’s Ohio Supreme Court decision. You remember the one: is it charter governance or contract law? Important discussion here, especially since lawmakers are due to return to Columbus in a week, and a lot has happened in the charter school realm over the summer. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/23/15)
  3. They are arguing on process, but are using that argument to attempt to on reverse the actual decision. What am I talking about? No, not the creation of the Youngstown Plan but the scrapping of those magnet school campouts in Cincinnati in favor of a lottery. It’s a small but vocal group and they are fighting to the end for the return of the campouts. Guess those tents must be non-returnable.
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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is pleased to welcome Jamie Davies O’Leary back into the fold as our senior Ohio policy analyst. Jamie joined Fordham in 2009 after working as a public school teacher and Teach For America corps member. She was both an Education Pioneers fellow (2008) and a Truman Scholarship fellow (2004), and she holds a master’s degree in public administration from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

During her first sojourn at Fordham, Jamie focused on the teaching profession and on policies impacting teachers, such as teacher evaluations, merit pay, and the Teach For America program (for which she testified before the Ohio Senate Education Committee).

Jamie left Fordham to work in communications and advocacy for the Ohio Council of Community Schools, one of Ohio’s longest-running and largest charter school authorizers. In her most recent role as the council’s chief communications and advocacy officer, she oversaw the delivery of communications to schools, governing boards, and the media. She also managed the organization’s policy and legislative strategies.

The Ohio Education Gadfly welcomes Jamie back to the team, and we look forward to many more incisive blog posts and publications...