Fordham Ohio’s top five blog posts of 2018

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We here at Fordham are obsessed with data, in case you didn’t know. Never more so than at the end of the year when we look to see which of our many blog posts were most successful at catching the attention of you, our readers.

We have crunched the numbers and consulted the experts, and here are your top five most-read blogs of 2018:

5. Does Ohio need a revolution in school funding? (Aaron Churchill)

Whether the need for a revolution was there or not, readers were interested in the topic of school finance following the publication of this piece in early February. The basis for the analysis was House Bill 102, introduced in the state legislature in 2017. We have long believed that Ohio’s method of school funding is unnecessarily complicated and unfair, particularly to schools of choice. Aaron examined the proposed system under HB 102 and noted its “simplicity, transparency, and predictability,” as a well its focus on “statewide equity.” While the bill has not been enacted, it’s clear that interest in a funding overhaul has not gone away. We are glad you agree.

4. Ohio’s preliminary test results look pretty good (Jessica Poiner)

Gloom, doom, and disaster permeated many a discussion of the academic readiness of Ohio’s students this year—graduation rates, school report cards, NAEP scores. But before the most apocalyptic of predictions came later in the year, we noted some welcome good news in July. Preliminary test results from the recently-ended 2017–18 school year were promising, showing an increase in the percentage of students performing at or above proficient in most tested areas as compared to the previous year—not just in math and ELA, but in American history and U.S. government, too. As well read as this blog post was, its data were speedily forgotten by most when rhetoric over school report cards and graduation requirements heated up soon after.

3. LeBron’s I Promise School isn’t a charter, but it puts kids first—and that’s all that matters (Jessica Poiner)

As the 2018–19 school year began in late August, Akron City Schools made national headlines thanks to the impending debut of the I Promise School. Designed and supported by NBA superstar (and Akron native) LeBron James and his family foundation, the I Promise School aims to change the game for underserved youth with a fully supportive environment that addresses the needs of its students, both at home and in the classroom. The school’s debut was fodder for practically every writer in the education sphere to impose their own filter on the story, especially regarding whether a traditional public school or a charter school was the right model for such an effort. Fordham’s Jessica Poiner, herself a Northeast Ohio native, expressed her views that the school's goals were more important than its governance.

2. The myth of Ohio's "for profit" charter school system (Aaron Churchill)

Myth busting is a favorite pastime here at Fordham. We pay attention to how education issues are portrayed in the media and always seek to provide our analytical input wherever the rhetoric goes off course. With the missteps of ECOT making headlines across the state, along with a gubernatorial election in full swing, the perennial topic of charter school governance was ripe for some myth busting once again. So repeat after us: All charter schools are public schools. All charter schools are non-profits. Non-profit charter schools may engage for-profit contractors (as may districts), though only a small minority of charters actually does. Here’s hoping that the high readership of this blog means that some of those old myths might be laid to rest at last.

1. Moving Ohio towards a more coherent K–16 governance model (Aaron Churchill)

Our most-read blog of 2018 is perhaps a head-scratcher at first blush. Even if readers were jonesing for a hit of education governance talk, that title is a snore. But our readers are smart cookies who realized quickly that the ideas being discussed could be transformative for Ohio students and families. This post analyzed newly-introduced legislation (House Bill 512) that promised to break down the state’s siloed structures of K–12, higher education, and workforce development with an eye to making sure that children had a smooth path from secondary school to college and career. As with the other legislative analysis blog in this list, the governance bill also went nowhere. Hopefully a new year—and a new governor and General Assembly—will bring another opportunity to make positive changes in the way Ohio goes about the business of education.

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Honorable mentions

Though all of the above blog posts were published in 2018, we have a trio of classic pieces that continue to rack up substantial page views month after month.

  • We start with a student’s-eye view of AP US History, in which our guest correspondent Alli Aldis extols the virtue of bringing history to life in a rigorous way in the classroom.
  • Then we take a break for lunch. Jessica Poiner’s 2017 review of a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research called “School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance” also continues to be digested in large numbers.
  • And finally, our anointing of the assessment, paean to the pop quiz, and benediction of the blue book—a blog called “Bless the tests”—is a runaway smash, continuing to rack up hundreds of page views per week more than three-and-half years after publication.

Amen!