Gadfly Bites 12/7/18 – “Adults in the education system will rejoice”

  1. In case you missed it this week, the long-threatened extension of lowball, non-academic graduation requirements moved forward in the General Assembly. Ohio’s War on Knowing Stuff will continue for at least another two graduating classes. You can check out coverage in the following articles, all of which include fiery quotes from our own Chad Aldis. You know – the person who’s been publicly pointing out the folly of this effort for the last two years. Gongwer was first out of the gate, of course. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/5/18) Coverage of the grad requirements issue in the Dispatch also mentions some shenanigan-like business regarding the EdChoice Scholarship. Hadn’t even heard about that one in all the other hubbub, but it sounds like it turned out OK. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/5/18) Chad provides today’s title quote for the Bites in this coverage from public radio in Columbus. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 12/6/18) And DDN coverage is here. (Dayton Daily News, 12/6/18) Never too late to make an important point, our own Aaron Churchill published a letter to the editor in the Blade just this morning in which he explains—for the umpteenth time in this long, sad process—that the putative graduation rate “apocalypse” being touted by the War on Knowing Stuff’s foremost champions is wrong, wrong, wrong. And provides receipts. (Toledo Blade, 12/7/18).
     
  2. With his usual thoroughness, DDN’s Jeremy Kelley followed up when the bill containing the lowered grad requirements passed out of the legislature and headed to the governor’s desk. There was only one vote against the bill at any point along the way. Those aforementioned adults, no doubt, did rejoice as predicted. (Dayton Daily News, 12/6/18)
     
  3. Here is a little more detail on those putative changes to the EdChoice Scholarship program which almost happened in the Senate Education Committee this week. Sounds like the opposite of the “serious, in-depth discussion of the EdChoice program” which the Chair would like to have. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/5/18)
     
  4. An interesting take here on the recent report released by the House Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty. In it, some general recommendations are provided to help address the obvious (thanks to test scores and other data of course) academic achievement gap between students living in poverty and their higher-income peers. From those recommendations, school funding gadfly Howard Fleeter—an employee of the Ohio Education Policy Institute and not part of the task force (I don’t think)—extrapolates a need for immediate replication of Akron’s I Promise School everywhere that the poverty-based achievement gap exists. There really is very little evidence for this leap from what I can see, but I was definitely struck by Fleeter’s rhetorical coup de grâce on the topic: If that school isn’t successful, he says, then it’s really time to worry. Is there any way we can we hold you and the State of Ohio to this, sir? Please? (Columbus Dispatch, 12/5/18)
     
  5. Why do I humbly ask this of Mr. Fleeter and our leaders? Call me a pessimist if you must, but I have no confidence that the entrenched education establishment in our state (and you know who I’m talking about) has much will, let alone ability even with ironclad data and a crap ton of additional resources, to close any sort of achievement gap of the kind the House Speaker is pointing out. I am bolstered in this personal opinion this week by an unlikely source: Columbus City Schools board member Mary Jo Hudson. Hudson, former cabinet director in the Strickland administration and former member of Columbus City Council (you know what I mean), submitted her letter of resignation from the board this week and offered a scathing indictment of…well, everything the education establishment is currently doing. “Our completely inadequate model of governance is broken,” she wrote. “Until it is fixed, our schools will continue to fail, students will be housed in sub-standard facilities, our board will be unresponsive and our families will be kept in poverty rather than given pathways out.” Harsh but true, and an insight that the establishment should not ignore. You can see coverage of the resignation here… (Columbus Dispatch, 12/6/18) …but I would encourage the curious and the justly horrified to read the letter in full first, without her colleagues’ commentary around it. (Columbus Underground, 12/6/18). It is to be hoped, of course, that once Hudson is clear of her commitment to the Columbus school board, she will provide receipts for her charges—examples of all of the ills of which she speaks in her letter. Until that time, I give you the ongoing saga of Trotwood-Madison Local Schools as Exhibit A (or should that be Exhibit ZZZ900?) for “brokenness” and “inadequacy”. As my long-standing (and long-suffering) Gadfly Bites subscribers will recall, Trotwood avoided a declaration of Academic Distress this year by the narrowest of D-minus-minus margins. And now that the clock is effectively reset, the pressure to return to status quo is beginning. To wit, the contract extension for Interim Superintendent Tyrone Olverson was strongly opposed by the Trotwood teachers union for reasons that seem to be at odds with his efforts to turn the district around. The board did not listen, extending the interim contract for three years (!) this week, but I’m sure the opposition won’t end. (Dayton Daily News, 12/6/18)

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