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The intriguing new book This Idea Must Die argues that we’re beset by beliefs that have outlived their usefulness. Some of them pollute our everyday lives (think old wives’ tales). But academic disciplines like physics and medicine are susceptible as well (like the false left/right brain dichotomy).

The book (podcast via Freakonomics) says that a major culprit is the lack of routines for cleaning out our attics. Fields develop by accumulating knowledge. We acquire an accretion of ideas from our predecessors but seldom go back to pressure-test them. The result can be faulty conventional wisdom. In fact, a classic on the history of science (and one of my favorite books), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, explains how orthodoxies sustain via this “development by accumulation.”

Both books demonstrate convincingly how the normal course of learning can perpetuate flawed ideas. But I think both are too charitable in explaining the forces at play and too optimistic about our ability to fix things. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, for example, argues that a revolutionary idea causes the necessary “paradigm shift” (e.g., Copernicus overturning Ptolemy).

In my experience, there’s often a darker reason behind the preservation of bad ideas: fear. Current experts are afraid to fall out of favor...

Many would argue that the media doesn’t give education the ink or airtime it deserves. But surprisingly, a new publication suggests that—at least at the local, state, and regional levels—K–12 issues receive a fair amount of attention.

In this study, policy strategist Andrew Campanella used the NewsBank database to search for key education terms in headlines and ledes. In total, he compiled stories from more than five thousand news sources and filtered out results about higher education. He found that education coverage was up 7.7 percent in 2014 relative to the twenty-five year trend, and also discovered that local, state, and regional outlets featured K–12 education in about 6.8 percent of stories. That’s a decent proportion of stories when considering the various topics covered by media outlets. In contrast, national media was about three times less likely than local media to feature education.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it isn’t education policy driving the news coverage in local outlets. Sports were by far the most covered “education” topic, appearing in 13.6 percent of state, local, and regional education stories. Special events like pep rallies and field trips were a distant second at 5.1 percent. When policy was covered, the study found...

  1. Chad is quoted in a story on the stall in charter law reform in Ohio. The bill that was oh-so-close to passage earlier this week now appears to be delayed until at least September. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/1/15)
  2. With a stroke of his pen last night – well, actually a stroke not taken – Governor Kasich outlawed PARCC tests in Ohio. The full piece from the PD also includes other testing-related details included in the new state budget. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/30/15)
  3. More opining on the so-called “Youngstown Plan” this week, which is really a strengthening of Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission protocols, still awaiting Governor Kasich’s aforementioned pen stroke. Here’s what editors in Akron had to say. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/30/15) And here’s what editors in Canton had to say. (Canton Repository, 6/29/15)
  4. Speaking of Canton, here is an update on a charter school whose sponsor – the Ohio Department of Education – intends to suspend its operations due to, among other things, poor academic performance. What’s the update? The school’s operator sued to put a hold on the suspension and to try and get the closure process stopped. They lost the first
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It wasn’t that long ago when you could go from one end of your K–12 education to the other without even laying eyes on a student with a disability. “In the early 1970s, these youths were marginalized both in school and in life, with only one-fifth of children with disabilities even enrolled in public schools,” notes Education Week, whose tenth annual “Diplomas Count” report focuses this year on students with disabilities. Today, nearly six million such students are enrolled in U.S. public schools, with the vast majority studying alongside non-disabled peers. They are “coming of age at a time when they, like all high school students, are increasingly expected to perform to high academic standards and to prepare for further education or training and a productive role in the workplace,” the authors observe.

How are they doing? Eighty-one percent of our public high schools students can now expect to march across stage and be handed a diploma within four years; that’s both a historic high and the headline finding of “Diplomas Count 2015.” However, the graduation rate among students with disabilities is 62 percent—a figure that masks wild (and somewhat suspicious) variations from state to state: from a low of...

  1. Editorializing on the so-called “Youngstown Plan” – that is, a proposal to strengthen Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission protocols that is likely to be signed into law by the governor – began in earnest this weekend. You can find quick-hit blog posts both in Ohio and nationally. But honestly, why don’t we just let the editors at the Youngstown Vindicator have the floor. After all, they’ve been begging for someone to step in and save their schools for months now, as readers of Gadfly Bites will know very well. “The new legislative plan, with the creation of the chief executive officer position,” they opined, “is exactly what we have wanted.” (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/28/15).
  2. On the other hand, there’s a group of Youngstown-area legislators who are less-than-thrilled by this plan, especially the CEO aspect. “It’s going to be up to us to solve this problem,” they say. “It’s a community problem it will take a community solution to fix it." Oddly enough, one legislator says that they want a system in place like that being piloted in Cincinnati – one that “helps engage parents and students in the school system by making the school an integral part of their
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  1. Most media discussion of legislative activity in Ohio is currently about the state budget, which faces a looming deadline by which it must be finished. But last night, House Bill 2 passed the Ohio Senate by a vote of 30-0. That is, significant and vitally needed reform of Ohio’s charter school laws. Big stuff. Here’s a play-by-play of yesterday’s legislative action with reaction from our own Chad Aldis. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/26/15)
  2. Here is additional coverage of the same event – describing charter law reform efforts, with lots of lovely insider detail –but this one contains 100 percent less Fordham references. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/25/15)
  3. In other legislative news, House Bill 70 passed the Senate and changes to it concurred by the House earlier this week. This is bill is primarily about statewide expansion of Community Learning Center models (like those being piloted in Cincinnati City Schools), but it is a set of amendments added in the Senate which are generating all the news coverage. Those amendments create what is being called the “Youngstown Plan”, a sharpening of the teeth of Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission protocols which would replace Youngstown’s supe (and potentially others as well) with a
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  1. The new editor of the Columbus Dispatch opined today in support of continuing PARCC testing in Ohio, using some pretty strong language. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/24/15)
  2. The defunding of PARCC in Ohio is one of many items being discussed by a small group of legislators as the new state budget grinds its way through House/Senate Conference committee. Another issue is the K-12 education funding formula. Two editorial boards have opined on this topic in the last few days. Editors in Akron opined against the Senate’s plan in favor of the House’s, likely a difficult position for them to be in, akin to choosing the lesser of two evils. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/22/15). Meanwhile, editors in Toledo opine in against both legislative plans, opting instead to tout the governor’s original school funding changes, which I KNOW can’t have been easy for anyone there to write. (Toledo Blade, 6/24/15)
  3. Speaking of legislators, the Youngstown School Board president spoke to the media yesterday, saying she thought something was afoot in the legislature with regard to her district. She called for a meeting with state officials – and all their lawyers. (Youngstown Vindicator, 6/23/15) Today, it seems there
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  1. The Cleveland Transformation Alliance has released its school chooser guide – a best and worst listing of local schools for parents – in both print and online versions. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/20/15) There is also a companion piece showing how the rankings were calculated. For the skeptics, probably. What’s new? A single rating that combines Performance Index, Value-added, and graduation rate info. Simple, yes, but maybe too simple. Worth a look. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/20/15)
  2. This is twisty, so stay with me. Given the amount of vitriol that school district officials and their known associates routinely level at charter schools, it may surprise you to know that a number of school districts sponsor their own charters. These are often “dropout-recovery” schools for students at risk of failing and are often partially or wholly online models. As we have seen, online schools in Ohio have had some troubles accounting for student attendance and work time, resulting in audit findings for recovery of funds. But what happens when the same trouble occurs in a district-sponsored school? An audit finding for recovery that results in the sponsor (London City Schools in this case) perhaps being asked to give back
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  1. In case you missed it, our own Chad Aldis had an op ed published in the Enquirer late on Wednesday. In it, he talked about the findings of our recent report on education deregulation in Ohio and urged the Buckeye State to “go big” on deregulation to spur innovation, excellence. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/17/15)
  2. Some folks were caught a bit flat-footed by the PD piece earlier in the week which asked some tough questions about the state’s new-ish charter sponsor rating system. Here is round 2. Chad is quoted extensively here, but his bottom line is clear and concise: "Making sure we have it right is pretty important." Very true. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/17/15)
  3. But the PD is not done yet. In Cleveland, charter schools can partner with the district and get some perks – including access to local funding – but only if those schools are “high quality”. The PD asserts that the district’s criteria for high quality are more rigorous than the state’s. Probably a different way of looking at it (school vs. sponsor), but interesting nonetheless. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/18/15)
  4. Pretty big bombshell late yesterday – state Board of Ed member
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Yesterday, Donald Trump announced that he’s running for president. The business magnate joins eleven others in the crowded race for the republican primary. (On the other side of the aisle, only four democrats have declared.) He’s also the subject of the sixteenth installment of the Eduwatch 2016 series chronicling presidential candidates’ stances on education issues.

This is Trump’s first official political campaign, though he’s floated the idea many times. “In 2000, Trump declared he might run for president as an independent. He did it again for the 2004, 2008 and 2012 races. In 2006, he said he was thinking about running for governor [of New York]. In 2014, he said it again,” reports the New York Post. He’s also dabbled in higher ed, having started an online institution formerly known as Trump University—but that’s currently shuttered because of this lawsuit (there’s also this one). Here are some of his views on education:

1. Common Core: “End Common Core. Common Core is a disaster.” June 2015.

2. School choice: “Our public schools are capable of providing a more competitive product than they do...