Additional Topics

  1. What is the definition of “teacher”? According to a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court magistrate, it is nothing less than a person currently teaching in a K-12 classroom. And that means that the Youngstown school board president’s appointee to the new Academic Distress Commission (currently a substitute principal with a teacher’s license) is barred from the gig. The pres can either appoint someone else who fits the court definition (which must be done within 48 hours of the ruling, i.e. today) or appeal the decision. Sigh. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/17/15)
  2. Editors in Columbus opined this week on a raft of charter school related issues, and especially the currently-stalled federal Charter School Program grant. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/17/15)
  3. $10 million in state grants were awarded this week to a number of colleges around Ohio, to help them train K-12 teachers to be ready for rigorous College Credit Plus courses. The same story is in a number of outlets, depending on where winning colleges are located. Here’s the one from the Blade, talking of their local winners – the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. (Toledo Blade, 12/18/15)
  4. Loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers will recall that your
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The effort to improve educational outcomes for African American students can fairly be described as the animating impulse behind the education reform movement broadly. Hence, it’s downright depressing to repeat some of the figures in this report: “On the 2015 NAEP, only 18 percent of African American fourth graders were found to be proficient in reading, and only 19 percent scored proficient in math,” the authors note. “The eighth-grade numbers were even worse, with only 16 percent of African American students rated proficient in reading and only 13 percent rated proficient in math.” College and career readiness? Not so much. Quick: In how many states did more than 5 percent of African American students graduate having passed at least one AP exam in a STEM subject? (Three: Colorado, Massachusetts, and Hawaii.) How many states with five hundred or more African American ACT test-takers had 17 percent or more score as college-ready on all four tested subjects? Not one.

Depressed yet?

Still there are some examples of significant progress: Twenty-five years ago, only 1 percent of Washington, D.C.’s eighth-grade African American students were proficient in math; today it’s 13 percent. High school graduation rates for black students are on the rise—as...

  1. The state board of education discussed the state’s proposed new charter sponsor rating system – you know, the one that needs to replace the one that was scrapped following scandal? The clock is ticking as well, with a December 31 deadline looking. Chad’s testimony before the board is quoted by the PD in their piece. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/15/15) It is also quoted by the Dayton Daily News in their piece, along with some commentary on Chad’s testimony by hometown Sen. Peggy Lehner. (Dayton Daily News, 12/15/15) To read Chad’s written testimony in full, click here. For an in-depth look at the board’s discussion of this thorny issue – but not including Chad’s testimony, Gongwer’s got you coverage. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/15/15)
  2. The board also this week named an interim state supe. As predicted, the job went to Dr. Lonny Rivera, an accomplished district administrator from Northwest Ohio and current assistant state supe. Also, the only person put forward for the job. You can read a brief piece on the appointment in Dr. Rivera’s hometown paper, the Blade. (Toledo Blade, 12/15/15) Or you can check out a more interesting piece from the formerly-Big D wherein
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Here at Fordham, you can usually find us gleefully dinging New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on his education policies. When he was first pushing his universal pre-K initiative a few years back, we argued that he should have tailored the program more narrowly to the kids who needed it most. And please don’t get us started on hizzoner’s ill-advised tussle with Eva Moskowitz and high-performing charters. But that’s the duty of a gadfly: to have fun critiquing powerful figures when they veer off course.

Now I’m doing the opposite by unhappily conceding that de Blasio is absolutely correct, at least on one issue. It doesn’t particularly grieve me to find myself in agreement with the mayor personally; I’m just deflated about the issue of our concurrence—namely school safety. The mayor is obviously and tragically right that private and religious schools should be afforded public funds to pay for security personnel. The city council made the right decision in passing a bill that would make $20 million available for that purpose, and de Blasio deserves credit for lending it his support.

In an ideal world, education commentators—to say nothing of the students whose interests we try to promote—would be able to...

  1. Discussion of ESSA provisions comes down to the local level, with Cincy’s WCPO doing a pretty good analysis of possible changes ahead. Our own Chad Aldis shares thoughts on the topic. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 12/14/15)
  2. Former Fordhamite Terry Ryan has been talking up Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy – and especially its innovative food science program – as a possible model for replication in his current home state, Idaho. A delegation of Idahoans was in Springfield last week to check it out. (Springfield News Sun, 12/11/15)
  3. Speaking of innovation, the new round of Straight A Fund grant proposals have been received by the Ohio Department of Education. Requests once again outpace available funds. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/11/15)
  4. The superintendent of Shaker Heights Schools opines today on the topic of standardized testing. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/14/15)
  5. Editors in Cleveland opined in frustration over the weekend over their reporter’s unfulfilled request for the state supe’s emails. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/12/15)
  6. In its efforts to shake loose the federal CSP grant it won from the US Department of Education, Ohio has provided detailed information on charter school audits over the years. The Dispatch takes
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It’s difficult to get your arms around the idea of suspending a three- or four-year-old from preschool. For most of us (if we’re even able to remember back that far), pre-K discipline basically meant quiet time in the corner, miserably sulking while our friends laughed and colored. Sending a child away from class, whether for a few hours or a few days, just seems disproportionate to the level of mischief we’d expect from one so young. That cognitive dissonance perhaps accounts the tone of disbelief in Melinda Anderson’s recent Atlantic article on the subject. Tallying a spate of seemingly frivolous dismissals for offenses like potty accidents and inconsolable crying—fairly common occurrences among the juicebox set, we can probably agree—she warns that “toddlers are racking up punishments that leave many parents and child experts bewildered.”

She’s not wrong. More and more commentators are wondering what transgression could possibly warrant suspension for pupils still sporting pull-ups. The key evidence in Anderson’s own piece is the story of Tunette Powell, a mother of two sons who were suspended from their preschool a combined eight times. Powell originally wrote about her experiences in a widely discussed Washington Post piece  touching on some of the same issues that have colored the discipline...

  1. The PD is going out on a limb to announce the name of Ohio’s interim state superintendent a smidge early. It’s a pretty sturdy limb, though, since only the one name was actually put forward by state board members for consideration. A vote will be held on Tuesday of next week. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/10/15)
  2. Comparing their proposal to the parental “broccoli rule”, legislative sponsors discuss the merits of a new bill introduced earlier this week to overhaul truancy policies in Ohio. (WBNS-TV, Columbus, 12/9/15) I kid our elected officials, of course, because there are some really good things in this legislation. Including one of my favorites: trying to get at why kids are absent from school, compiling this data, and actually addressing what is found. Should be more coverage of this when hearings begin. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/9/15)
  3. When city and school district boundaries don’t align – which happens often in more-developed parts of Ohio – things can get weird. For example, an effort by the city of Lorain to build a swanky new housing development within its municipal borders is causing alarm in the neighboring Amherst Local Schools, where most new residents’ children
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  1. Our own Aaron Churchill is briefly quoted in this piece tap-dancing on the grave of NCLB. In cleats. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/9/15)
  2. Speaking of children being left behind, the first meeting of the new Youngstown Academic Distress Commission has been blocked from occurring by another judicial ruling. The commission cannot meet until the issue of the district’s appointee has been resolved. You’ll recall that said appointee has been barred from being impaneled (by the same judge and due to the same plaintiff) because of some disconnect over the definition of “teacher”. There are too many ironies in this situation to note. But practically-speaking, the 60-day clock for the selection of a district CEO has been paused until the appointee and meeting issues are resolved. No sooner than Monday of next week. We can all smell the smoke – all that’s missing now is the fiddle. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/9/15)
  3. Speaking of job openings, the head of the state teachers union opined this week on what she’s looking for in the next state supe. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 12/8/15)
  4. Ohio’s school report cards have been a work in progress since 2013. Thanks to wide-ranging “safe harbor” provisions for schools,
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We are inundated with news every day, and parsing what’s worth a look and what’s plain worthless takes time and energy. Quite honestly, you probably have better things to do. Fortunately for you, Fordham offers a thrice-weekly news service that is personally researched, curated, and annotated with Ohio’s education reform interests in mind. You might not think you want—let alone need—another news clip email appearing in your inbox, but Gadfly Bites is different, providing two parts news and one part snark.

For example: A story in the Akron Beacon Journal may discuss local transportation issues with a busload of unacknowledged slant. At the same time, a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer may discuss an unexpected but welcome rise in an urban school district’s student population without realizing an even more important positive outcome in it. Gadfly Bites not only highlighted those two stories as part of the day’s news but also told you what they’re about and found a vital connection that might not occur when reading the pieces individually. And those were just two of the stories featured in a recent Gadfly Bites edition that highlighted other stories from Cincinnati and Columbus as well.


  1. The good folks at The 74 Million blog referenced Fordham’s blockbuster school closure and student achievement report while discussing the same topic in terms of New York City school closures earlier this week. What; you don’t know about this particular bit of Fordham awesomeness? Shame on you. Go check it out right now. Partially because it’s the end of the year and we’re trying to max out on our stats, but mainly because it is – as I mentioned before – awesome. (The 74 Million, 12/2/15)
  2. Thanks for checking out our school closure and student achievement report. Glad to have you back with us here at Gadfly Bites. Last week in this very spot, we noted that Columbus City Schools had five days or so of tech hell when several systems melted down at once and moving to backups was found to be more difficult and time consuming than expected. I can sympathize and am happy to report that a previously-planned full-blown tech audit for the district has been moved up in the schedule as a result. Once again, CCS, I know a great tech consultant if you’re looking bidders. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/4/15)
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