Additional Topics

  1. The US Department of Education has put a hold on use of the $71 million grant Ohio won from the Charter Schools Program. More conditions were put on the grant due to ongoing concerns about oversight of charter schools by the Ohio Department of Education. You can check out coverage from the Enquirer (which also notes the recent op-ed on the CSP grant written by our own Jamie Davies O’Leary and published in the Enquirer) in Cincinnati (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/15). Also covered in Gongwer in their usual just-the-facts manner. (Gongwer Ohio, 11/5/15). And here’s the DDN version, with one of those headlines. (Dayton Daily News, 11/5/15)
  2. The other big new: Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Richard Ross announced that he is retiring at the end of this year. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/6/15)
  3. Meanwhile, the president and CEO of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools penned an opinion piece in the Plain Dealer, looking forward to the implementation of the many charter school reforms contained in the recently-enacted House Bill 2. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/6/15)
  4. The mayor of Youngstown has been advised by his legal staff that he cannot appoint himself
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  1. Our own Jamie Davies O’Leary is front and center in the Enquirer with an opinion piece explaining why Ohio should not consider returning $71 million in recently-awarded federal Charter School Program (CSP) funds. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/3/15)
  2. Our own Chad Aldis is heavily quoted in an ABJ piece discussing reaction to the recent CREDO report on e-school performance in more than a dozen states, including Ohio. The piece is mainly about those who are arguing against the report’s dismal findings. Chad is not one of those voices. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/2/15)
  3. The same day, editors in Akron opined to vilify e-school performance in Ohio based on the report. Snappy headline, by the way. (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/3/15) Editors in Cleveland opined on the new e-school ratings as well, but took a moment to tie them in to the ongoing do-over of charter sponsor reviews in Ohio. Hold that thought. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/3/15)
  4. Another requested injunction to halt the so-called Youngstown Plan (really just a sharpening of Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission protocols currently tightly focused on Youngstown) in its tracks has been denied in court this week. Foes of the plan vow to
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Schools have long been championed as places where we can level the playing field for low-income children. Unfortunately, that leveling doesn’t happen very often. Instead, schools have become the epicenter of not only the achievement gap, but also the opportunity gap— the inequitable distribution of resources and quality opportunities that contribute to the achievement gap.   

The authors of a recent Manhattan Institute (MI) policy brief discuss how income stagnation and inequality can limit opportunities for kids. Specifically, the brief references “the vastly different pathways available to students from different backgrounds.” To be fair, these gaps don’t exist just because of schools. But as Robert Putnam argues in his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, “Even if schools didn’t cause the growing opportunity gap—and there’s little evidence that they have—they might well be a prime place to fix it.”

So how do we get schools to take on the opportunity gap? What can we do? My colleague, Mike Petrilli, has tackled this question before and emphasizes the importance of social capital. Putnam, on the other hand, emphasizes monetary capital; he advocates allocating money to schools for the exclusive goal of ending the opportunity...

The folks at ReSchool Colorado have big changes in mind for education in the Centennial State. In the works since 2013, this project of the Donnell-Kay Foundation aims to imagine a new education system that “pushes the boundaries of current thought and practice, and better prepares learners to be happy, productive, and healthy people and professionals.” The group has spent the last two years searching for breakthrough innovations through small, discreet projects they call prototypes. The outcomes of these prototypes are meant to inform a redesign of the larger education system in 2016.

A detailed new article gives us a nuts-and-bolts look at one of these prototypes. In this case, the scale was very small: nineteen low-income immigrant families with young children living in Boulder public housing. The objective was to provide everything that these families might need to access high-quality educational enrichment experiences: trips to zoos and museums, swimming lessons, and the like. In short, the kinds of out-of-school activities that rich suburban parents tend to take for granted. The ReSchool team provided, among other things, funding via debit cards (mini-vouchers) to pay for the activities; detailed information guides geared to the knowledge level of the families (meeting...

  1. House Bill 2 – historic charter law reform in Ohio – was signed into law by Governor Kasich yesterday. Upon the signing, the governor said, “Making sure that our kids aren’t stuck in failing schools has been a priority, and this bill will profoundly benefit our children.” Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/2/15) I don’t usually clip letters to the editor, but this one – from NACSA President/CEO Greg Richmond – praising the now-enacted charter reform bill, seemed worthy. (Toledo Blade, 11/1/15)
  2. The state board of education is in the process of updating the standards for gifted education in Ohio. Gifted advocates have some concerns about the process up to this point and some firm ideas about what they’d like to see in the final version of the standards, which are still some months of meetings, public comment, and debate away. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/2/15)
  3. In other news, here’s an in-depth look at funding for special needs students in school districts in Clark and Champaign Counties. District and ESC officials say numbers of special needs students are increasing, along with the associated costs. State and federal funds for services, they say, are flat or shrinking. Kudos for
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  1. The CREDO report on e-school performance release earlier this week continues to ripple through Ohio media outlets. Chad is quoted in Gongwer’s report from yesterday. "Ohio shouldn't back away from its disappointing NAEP results," he said. "This is a benchmark the state should use to gauge its long-term progress." (Gongwer Ohio, 10/29/15). The formerly-Big D recycled Chad’s previous-published quote in this story on reaction to the report by ECOT, Ohio’s largest virtual school… (Columbus Dispatch, 10/29/15) …as well as in today’s op-ed in which editors opine in agreement. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/30/15)
  2. Speaking of Dispatch editorials, here’s an interesting one from yesterday in which editors express happiness that Ohio’s post-PARCC tests have been well-received by educators thus far and urge folks to give the new tests a chance. Sounds sensible. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/29/15)
  3. Leaving the realm of sensible far behind now, loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers may recall the “Leap Frog” reading tutoring program in Akron. It was started by a group of former politicians/candidates with materials and in spaces that were begged and borrowed in a zealous attempt to help city third graders pass the state’s reading test and be promoted to fourth grade. As
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  1. CREDO released a report yesterday looking at performance of e-school students in 17 states and the District of Columbia. I can’t speak to the level of surprise with which individual readers greeted the generally-awful findings. Ohio was one of the states under the microscope and the dismal results are particularly piquant here in the wake of a landmark charter law reform bill (which, coincidentally, went to Governor Kasich for signature yesterday). Chad is quoted on that very issue in all of these pieces. To wit: "While Ohio has a jumpstart on improving its online charter schools (because of HB2), these findings should serve as a clarion call for policymakers, pundits, taxpayers, and school choice advocates that more work remains." Check out coverage of the CREDO results in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/27/15), the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 10/27/15), and Gongwer (Gongwer Ohio, 10/27/15).
  2. Speaking of report releases, Patrick O’Donnell got an early look at NAEP data set for full release this week and has already published his first story. Why the rush? There appear to be some small but significant NAEP gains for students in the CLE. These are specifically newsworthy in light of
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  1. The editor of the Blade published a lengthy commentary on Ohio’s new charter reform law this weekend, urging the state not to allow “abuse and cronyism” to derail it promising reforms. (Toledo Blade, 10/25/15)
  2. Here a piece published late in the day on Friday, previewing CREDO’s upcoming report on E-school performance across the country. Ohio’s results are not expected to be stellar. s in the crosshairs. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/23/15)
  3. The PD stayed on the national education beat this weekend, taking a look at the new study on student testing from the Council of the Great City Schools. The current amount of testing they found is “beyond reason”. CMSD CEO Eric Gordon participated in the council's national news conference and said exams used to be about helping instruction but "have strayed to measure so many different things… Cleveland schools need to spend more time making sure district tests are not redundant and are both useable and used to inform instruction." (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/24/15) Today, in central Ohio, educators are weighing in on the post-PARCC testing regimen in the Buckeye State. Says the formerly-Big D: “Local educators expect that this school year’s statewide testing
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  1. Chad’s testimony earlier this week in front of the state board of education was covered, a bit belatedly, by Gongwer. Some nice details in here of the wide variety of business covered by the board this month, including the fact that discussions are to begin shortly between the Ohio and U.S. departments of education regarding the $71 million Charter School Program grant awarded to the Buckeye State. (Gongwer Ohio, 10/21/15)
  2. A new Chair of the Ohio House of Representatives’ Education Committee was announced this week – Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), who has served as Vice Chair for the last 10 months. Fresh off the passage of HB 2, let’s hope good will, good work, and good luck continue for the committee. But that’s my wish, not necessarily the wish of the folks writing, reading, or commenting on this particular news item. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/23/15)
  3. Ohio charter schools were given access to $25 million in facilities funding via the most recent state budget. This past week, the framework for schools to access this funding started to come together during a meeting of the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Applications for the grants will be scored on quality
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Nearly everyone agrees that high-quality pre-kindergarten is a worthy investment. Calls to expand it at public expense stem from a handful of well-known (and very costly) intensive models that appeared to deliver long-term positive effects for poor children: improved school readiness, increased graduation rates, and even the mitigation of risk factors like teen pregnancy and incarceration. These oft-cited outcomes are compelling. So is the urge to level the playing field for children who arrive at school with a thirty million word gap. But an actionable definition of “high quality” remains elusive, and studies of large, scaled-up pre-K programs have shown mixed results.

This study from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute adds valuable evidence to the discussion of whether, when, and how pre-kindergarten is a worthy investment. In 2009, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Education, the institute launched a rigorous study of the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program (TN-VPK). It’s a full-day program that targets exceptionally at-risk four-year-olds; researchers tracked two cohorts of children through the end of their third-grade years. Oversubscribed programs enabled a random design whereby children enrolled in TN-VPK were the treatment group and those waitlisted (and ultimately not admitted) became the control...