Gadfly Bites 10/26/18 – Hopefully it’s not just 278 copies of the same book

  1. My old high school recently got a grant from the State Library of Ohio to purchase a total of 278 non-fiction literature books for its library. No word on which books might have made the list, but the aim is to “better align the library’s resources and materials with the new Ohio Learning Standards for English Language Arts and the ELA Literacy Criteria”. While hardly the most interesting education news of the week, it seems like s a good thing, and it allows me to say something nice about my high school. A rare and pleasant happenstance. (Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, 10/24/18)
     
  2. So what is the most interesting education news of the week? Heck if I know. Some elected board members in Youngstown and Lorain seem Supreme-ly happy about this news. Even Coach Tressel finds “beauty” in it. So maybe that’s it. (Youngstown Vindicator, 10/25/18)
     
  3. Speaking of happiness, though, members and guests of the elected board of Akron City Schools actually broke out in cheers when their treasurer announced that nearly 500 fewer students living in district boundaries were attending charter schools compared to the year before. It is likely that these students are not attending Akron City Schools, though, given the flat student population count this year in the district, so it seems like a Pyrrhic victory at best. Or perhaps it’s just schadenfreude. Whatever it takes to get by up there, I guess. (Akron West Side Leader, 10/25/18)
     
  4. Staying in Akron for a moment, I get an uneasy sense of glibness from this piece in which district eighth graders are purportedly attempting to “decide what to do for the rest of their lives”. What is really happening, as we have discussed previously in these Bites, is that Akron is converting all of their high schools to themed college and career academies starting next year. And rising ninth graders get to choose which one they want to attend based on their interests. It takes an interesting mindset—one very different from my own—to transform the act of choosing from a variety of potentially interesting and beneficial options into locking in a trajectory for life at age 14. Let’s hope that mindset is in the journalist’s head and not in the heads of Akron City Schools leaders. (Akron Beacon Journal, 10/24/18) The conversion of those high schools apparently can’t happen soon enough, because the district says that nearly 100 students in the Class of 2019 in each of the current high schools is not on track to graduate on schedule. The problem? Lack of “alternative pathways” available to this class as they were to the Class of 2018. You know the ones I mean. Following this revelation, members of the Akron City Council for some reason approved a resolution this week expressing support for extending those 2018 requirements to the Class of 2019 and beyond. I don’t know who you’re trying to convince, Your Honors, but I say don’t hold your breath. (Akron West Side Leader, 10/25/18)
     
  5. Speaking of schools with “graduation problems” on the horizon, here is an op-ed from the new-ish superintendent of Marion City Schools. His numbers seem to be even worse than Akron’s: nearly 50 percent of Marion seniors are not on track to graduate this year, he says. What is good here is that supe is not complaining or making excuses or trying to lower the requirements for the whole state, let alone for himself. This piece lays out all the work the district is doing to get kids across the finish line via all the pathways available. Sounds like the right approach to me. Best wishes on this important effort…by which I mean your job. (Marion Star, 10/20/18)
     
  6. In a similar vein, here is a story about what is deemed a successful after school program in Bucyrus City Schools. It offers homework help, one-on-one time with teachers, and test prep along with skill building, character education, and some “fun stuff” like guest speakers and field trips. It even includes a hot meal in the evening and an hour of additional academic support in the mornings. Sounds great. So how is that “success” measured? The article tells us, “Many students have seen improvements in subject areas with the extra help and time to complete assignments. High school students who were credit deficient have earned credits that have allowed them to be eligible for graduation. Students often share that they like the individual attention they receive and like being able to get their homework done before they go home. Some of the students have even shared that they are getting fewer detentions because they are working to be eligible for the various incentives.” Also sounds great, right? Almost like they are doing their job. So why is the district official in charge of the program so quick to downplay the clear and measurable academic benefits of her program and tell us she doesn’t want it “to feel like more school”. Sounds like your school might benefit by being more like your program if you ask me. Because your kids sure are. (Richland Source, 10/24/18)

Did you know you can have every edition of Gadfly Bites sent directly to your Inbox (in case you crave Pyrrhic victories and want to sign up for such a thing)? Subscribe by clicking here.

 
 
Jeff Murray
Jeff Murray is the Ohio Operations Manager of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,