Gadfly Bites 2/11/19 – The other shoe

  1. The Path Forward series returns to the pages of Dayton Daily News, chronicling the efforts of Dayton City Schools to avoid state takeover start serving their students at a high level of academic achievement. First up, an in-depth look at Ruskin Elementary School, which is “one of the top performing buildings” in the district despite neighborhood poverty and the somewhat vague report of “trauma” that some or all of the students have experienced. It seems like good news, but I do have some questions, of course. Like, why must all this seeming goodness be spearheaded by non-staffers? And why must it all be crammed into the afterschool time frame and not be a regular part of the school day? But Ruskin’s test scores indicate that something positive is going on here. (Dayton Daily News, 2/10/19) The profile above indicates that expansion of Ruskin’s success is not on the radar of Dayton City Schools officials. They cite logistics (finding outside partners with capacity) and cost (paying those partners to do the job that the schools get paid a lot of money to do themselves). But there is also some vague discussion of the need to “standardize” other district schools’ offerings before expanding afterschool programs could be considered, regardless of partners and money. I am not sure what that means, but journalist Josh Sweigart seems to understand. As an alternative, he offers this list of how the community can help support students in six other Dayton schools. (Dayton Daily News, 2/11/19)
  2. The headline of this piece promised to answer an important question: how Northwest Local Schools dealt with years of fiscal trouble and fought its way back into the black. I imagined some innovative cost-cutting, service sharing, and heretofore undreamed-of efficiency efforts made by courageous leaders and put forth for other districts to marvel at and emulate to the benefit of their students, families, staff, taxpayers, and bottom line. And then the other shoe dropped. Remember that old Northwest Local adage: you’ve got to spend money to save money. And that other old Northwest Local adage: don’t tax the old people; they hate that. (Canton Repository, 2/9/18) Here’s another version of the same story. How did tiny Rolling Hills Local Schools in rural eastern Ohio solve its financial troubles? By improving their academics, applying for and winning grants to support quality education, boosting their state report card, and then throwing open the doors to open enrollment. If supe sounds a little bit proud of his district when reporting all this, I think he’s probably justified. (Daily Jeffersonian, 2/11/19)

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