Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. A task force was created this week to lead discussion and recommend a course of action to deal with the—frankly pretty enormous—problem of Dayton City Schools’ numerous underutilized buildings. A sticky wicket, to be sure, that will resist easy resolution. (Dayton Daily News, 1/4/18) And just how did this humungous underutilization problem come to be? The redoubtable Jeremy Kelley lays it out in depressing detail. From the echoey halls of the administration building(s), to the unmaintained eyesores spread across the city, to the one-third empty new builds, evidence of blinkeredness and unanchored hope for revival on the part of long-gone district leaders shows up at every turn. A sad and stunning fall. (Dayton Daily News, 1/4/18)
     
  2. On to some sunnier news: here is a look at some of the fun and crazy extracurricular clubs to be had at suburban and private schools around central Ohio. I can’t decide if my favorite is Pancake Club in Grandview or the early-morning Conspiracy Theory Club at Watterson. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/5/18) Speaking of which, here’s a quick look at the “cursive breakfast club”, an effort by the Springfield area Family, Career and Community Leaders of America group (FCCLA) to
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  1. Fordham is namechecked in this brief New Year’s Day story on possible report card changes for schools and districts coming via legislation in 2018. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 1/1/18) The findings of Fordham’s recent report on suggested improvements to state report cards feature more heavily in this editorial encouraging the above-mentioned legislative changes. (Toledo Blade, 1/2/18)
     
  2. Speaking of editorializing for the New Year, editors in Columbus asked central Ohio leaders to “share their resolutions” for 2018. Columbus school board president Gary Baker shares…something. It raised several questions in my mind, but that’s probably just me. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/1/18)
     
  3. In actual Columbus City Schools news, it appears that the district will be allowed by the state to expand its roster of “selective admission” school buildings in 2018. Columbus is a pioneer in this regard, prioritizing up to 20 percent of seats in as many as six of its alternative schools for students who meet academic and disciplinary requirements. Interesting. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/2/18) Meanwhile, the district is currently facing some budget shortfall projections for the next couple of years, but the interim supe seems pretty confident those will work themselves out. But I bet that probably depends
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  1. Closing out the year with a further discussion of graduation rates, the Dispatch settled on the topic of charter school grad rates, finding them to be far lower than for traditional district schools. The theme seems to be that charter high schools are obviously worse than traditional district high schools, but Fordham’s Aaron Churchill raises the issue that students who move between school types during their high school career can cause a data hiccup that tends to “disguise” just which school gets credited or debited with “success” or “failure” on behalf of that student. No one asked me, of course, but I might also suggest that some cooking of the books on grad rates (the deuce you say!) might be happening as well. And if so, the putative cooks are probably not the folks whose books look less good. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/26/17)
     
  2. A bill has been promised for the new year which would make changes in the state’s school and district report cards. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/28/17) Fordham’s report on the topic of state report cards from earlier this year is alluded to in the Gongwer piece. It is mentioned specifically in this year end education news
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To ring in the New Year, we at the Ohio Gadfly have a tradition—two years running!—of predicting the top issues in education for the coming year. Once again, the job has fallen to yours truly to peer into the crystal ball and see what’s on the horizon in our corner of the world. Some may be more under-the-radar than the usual topics that make headlines, but are nevertheless worth taking stock of. Without further ado, here’s my top five.

5. Parent Power via Homeschooling or Private Education

Parents can make their voices heard and their preferences known in various ways within conventional school systems. But families also seem to be taking even bolder steps in their children’s education—either homeschooling them or enrolling them in non-chartered private schools, which operate under even less oversight than more traditional private schools. In Ohio, the number of homeschooled children increased from 25,565 to 28,539 between 2014-15 and 2015-16 (the most recent data available). Meanwhile, the number of non-chartered private schools is also on the rise. In 2014-15, the Ohio Department of Education listed 312 non-chartered schools; in the current school year, there are 425 such...

  1. The outgoing school board and the interim supe made some fairly permanent decisions this week regarding the school closure process in Dayton. Come the new year, several public meetings will be held to discuss the situation and solicit feedback on the district’s multiple wildly underutilized school buildings as well as its (apparently) crumbling-at-the-seams HQ building too. (Dayton Daily News, 12/20/17) The outgoing school board and the interim supe also made a fairly permanent decision regarding approval of a new contract with the district’s paraprofessionals union. That still leaves four of Dayton’s eleven bargaining units (how many?!) working on expired contracts, including bus drivers and mechanics. (Dayton Daily News, 12/20/17) I’m sure the district’s drivers and mechanics will work it all out with the school board. I’m sure it won’t be complicated at all by the fact that the city’s public transit drivers have called a strike starting on January 1 due to unresolved contract issues of their own. Guess who loses if it turns sour in one or both of those negotiations? That’s right: folks who already have trouble getting to school and work on the bus every day already! (Dayton Daily News, 12/21/17)
     
  2. Speaking of
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In the world of American politics, controversy dominated 2017. In the world of Ohio education policy, things were a bit quieter—but still eventful. As we say goodbye (or good riddance) to 2017, here’s a look at the seven biggest education stories of the year.

7) State budget

You know it’s a slow year when the budget bill barely makes the list of top education stories. On June 30, Governor Kasich signed Ohio’s biennial state budget. The bill largely maintained the current school funding formula, with nominal increases to base foundation aid to schools (including charters). Three out of four districts will see a funding increase across the biennium. With legislators concentrating on ways to fill a nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall, several important funding reform ideas failed to get the time and attention they deserved—including solutions to the decades-long problem of caps and guarantees and an emerging idea to directly fund school choice programs. As for the latter, charters continue to be supported inequitably and based on an archaic payment system that subtracts dollars from districts instead of paying charter schools directly, leaving both charters and districts frustrated.

6) School choice

During his campaign, President Trump ...

A new working paper from the Stanford Graduate School of Education uses roughly 300 million state math and English language arts test scores from 2009–15 for students in third through eighth grade in over 11,000 school districts across the country to take a really-big-picture look at patterns of academic achievement. The analysis allows users to compare the growth rates across U.S. school districts, a view of educational quality that is rarely seen at a national level. The findings—broken down over time, by geography, and into various subgroups—should be of interest to all education stakeholders.

The data come from NAEP and state assessments via the National Center for Education Statistics and exclude only the smallest districts for whom data on test scores and/or socioeconomic status (SES) are not available due to small sample sizes. Data on students in bricks-and-mortar charter schools are also included, rolled into the data of the district in which each school is located. Data on students in online charter schools, which enroll without regard to district boundaries, is excluded. The author of the study estimates that the data account for almost 99 percent of all public school students.

The best news comes from the temporal analysis:...

  1. In case you missed it, Aaron Churchill had an op ed published in the Dispatch yesterday in which he argues for a revamp of Ohio’s school and district report cards. He lays out in brief the recommendations of his recent Back to the Basics report. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/19/17)
     
  2. Also possibly up for a revamp—Ohio’s teacher evaluation system. State Senator Peggy Lehner has introduced a bill that would make changes to what data are used to measure performance, the timing of observations, the rubric by which teachers are graded, and the professional development track which follows evaluation findings. A lengthy and important list. (Dayton Daily News, 12/19/17) Speaking of teachers, Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip says that his teachers must improve their attendance. Some of those Y’town numbers look kinda bad, but the biggest question in this article for me: why is Austintown’s teacher absenteeism so much higher than Youngstown’s? (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/17/17)
     
  3. It’s all change in Dayton these days. After this week’s school board meeting, it seems likely that their next president with be a newcomer rather than one of the experienced continuing members. Maybe he was the only one with a copy of
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Here at Fordham, we try to keep our finger on the pulse of what our Ohio readers are interested in. But every year, we are pleasantly surprised when blog posts take on lives of their own.

Herewith, the most-read Ohio Gadfly blog posts of 2017, with some thoughts as to why these pieces caught your attention.

1. The student perspective

Chad Aldis’ daughter Alli had just finished her sophomore year when she wrote “My experience with AP U.S. History: The importance of rigor in bringing history to life” in June. In it, she described how much she disliked the rote memorization and dry recitation of facts that characterized her previous history classes. But all that changed when she enrolled in Advanced Placement. Engaging content, in-class debates, essays, and take-home packets allowed Alli and her classmates to dig deeper into the aspects of American history that they found interesting. It’s hard to say whether it was readers’ own experience of the dry and dusty version of history class or perhaps their own love of APUSH that drew them to this piece; but whatever it was, this was our most-read blog of the year by a very long way.

2. Wishful...

Last week, Bellwether Education Partners (in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success) released its review of Ohio’s plan to comply with the federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This was part of a larger project gauging the strengths and weaknesses of each state’s ESSA plan. Ohio policymakers should give careful thought to their feedback; but what should they take away from this evaluation? Let me offer three points of strong agreement with their Ohio review—and one different viewpoint. Note: I participated in this project as a peer reviewer but did not evaluate Ohio’s plan.

The areas in which the reviewers’ opinions were spot-on are as follows.

  • Ohio’s accountability system is too complex. Under its summary of weaknesses, Bellwether writes: “The sheer number of measures included creates a complicated system and tends to dilute the value of many individual measures as a result.” Amen. Ohio now includes up to fifteen district or school ratings, including an overall rating, six component ratings, and eight subcomponent ratings (i.e., ratings within a larger component). This creates a noisy, cluttered report card that can lead to confusion rather than clarity on school and student performance. State legislators
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