Ohio Gadfly Daily

Over the past two years, Fordham has been an outspoken critic of some of the efforts to modify Ohio’s graduation requirements. It’s not that we think the current graduation requirements are perfect. Heck, we’ve even offered a variety of ideas to modify the current framework. It’s that the “solutions” being offered create pathways where students can receive diplomas without any objective demonstration of academic competency. To us, this is a problem and ignores the very real reason that graduation requirements were made more rigorous in the first place. Namely, too few students have been graduating from high school with the skills to either go to college or enter the workforce.

In early May, the Akron Beacon Journal wrote an important story detailing how the modified graduation requirements for the class of 2018 (students who can’t pass state assessments or earn industry credentials can receive a diploma by completing two of nine other pathways) are playing out in Akron. This is the first large school district where we could see the impact of the modified graduation requirements.

The data raised many concerns for me, and I wrote an op-ed that was published on May 17 in the Beacon Journal....


With college tuition at an all-time high, Ohio families are increasingly interested in finding ways to save on costs. Dual credit is a promising solution because if offers students the chance to earn high school and college credits simultaneously. Ohio has a plethora of dual-credit options, but some are better known to families than others. Here is a quick overview of the offerings.

Awarded credit

This is likely the best-known dual-credit pathway. Students can earn college credit through programs like Advanced Placement (AP), a set of subject-specific courses and tests designed to give secondary students a taste of college-level material. State law guarantees that students can receive college credit from state institutions for any of the thirty-eight available AP tests as long as they earn a score of three or higher out of five. Although this credit will show up on students’ college transcripts, course grades aren’t included. Even students who don’t take official AP courses are allowed to take the tests and earn credit if they earn a high enough score, an option that is sometimes necessary when schools won’t or can’t offer the courses.

Transcripted credit

Students enrolled in College Credit Plus...

  1. Noted newspaper nabob Bertram de Souza opined this weekend in support of the Youngstown Plan. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/8/18)
  2. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is back in Northwest Ohio today, visiting Penta Career Center outside Toledo to observe its adult career-tech training programs. Nice. (Toledo Blade, 7/8/18)
  3. Despite endless verbal commitments from multiple entities and organizations to boost the quality and quantity of pre-K in central Ohio, at least one prominent source of funding for such work is in question. Seems that the usually-bottomless piggy bank of the City of Columbus’ Education Department may be dry and it may need to stop supporting its teacher education program at the end of this fiscal year. Couldn’t have anything to do with copious unwarranted tax abatements given by City Council to developers, could it? (Columbus Dispatch, 7/8/18)
  4. After making a giant fuss back in December to protest their sponsor rating – and winning their appeal – Newark City Schools has apparently decided to forego sponsoring any charter schools after all for 2018-19. Wonder what changed? Anywho, that’s bad news for students at the district-sponsored dropout recovery school, which is now permanently closed. Whether those students will
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Big changes are coming for Ohio’s dropout prevention and recovery charter schools

The State Board of Education recently adopted significant changes to the rules around Ohio's dropout prevention and recovery school report cards. Among other changes, graduation rate expectations have increased and it will now be more difficult for schools to earn dropout prevention and recovery school designations. Fordham’s Jessica Poiner breaks down some of the changes here.  

Toledo charter school students attend behavioral health summer camp

This year, Caregiver Grove (a behavioral health service provider) started providing in-school counseling at several charter schools in Toledo, including Achieve, STAR Academy of Toledo, and REACH Academy. But their work didn’t stop when summer vacation began. Instead, they launched a summer version of the program and 20 students, ages 8 to 17, are currently enrolled. The program is set up like a summer camp (with sports, field trips, and art) that’s designed to help the students with anger management, depression and anxiety, social skills, and expressing emotions.

Innovation Ohio’s half truths about ECOT and school funding

Over the past month, several newspapers have published articles on ECOT and based their coverage on an...

  1. While LeBron James is leaving Northeast Ohio for a new job out west, his family foundation is plowing ahead with its support of the new I Promise School in Akron. He promises to be there on opening day in August. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/3/18)
  2. Meanwhile, in Lorain, bellyaching from the elected board continues as they dither on the topic of a levy. Oh, and there’s something about Ariana Grande in here too. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 7/3/18)
  3. Speaking of money, the premature shut down of ECOT early this year turned off the spigot of financial “clawback” of state funding from the school to the state which had been underway. Really? Whoda thunk it? Six months later, a new source of money may have been identified. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/3/18) Back in the real world, here’s an update on the state’s effort to account for the dissemination of former ECOT students. Six months after closing, 2,300 former ECOTters remain unaccounted for. Some folks say this is not unusual because of the frequent turnover in online schools in general and because some 1,000 of these unaccounted students are technically adults – 18 or over – who
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Since 2012, Tennessee has taken a unique approach to intervening in struggling schools. With the goal of turning around the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state (known as priority schools), officials introduced two separate models: the Achievement School District (ASD) and Innovation Zones (iZones). The ASD is a state-run district that directly manages some priority schools and turns others over to select charter management organizations. iZones, on the other hand, are subsets of priority schools that remain under district control but are granted greater autonomy and financial support to implement interventions. There are four districts that contain iZones: Shelby County Schools (Memphis), Metro-Nashville Public Schools, Hamilton County Schools (Chattanooga), and Knox County Schools (Knoxville). The remaining priority schools weren’t included in either of these initiatives, effectively creating a comparison group.

Research teams from Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky have kept a close eye on both initiatives. In 2015, they published an evaluation of the ASD and iZone schools after three years of implementation. They found that, while ASD schools did not improve any more or less than other priority schools, iZone schools produced moderate to large positive effects on student test scores. A separate ...

  1. Remember what we were saying last week about the downbeat assessment of the passage of a bill that would, among other things, change many facets of e-school accountability? Well, “downbeat” appears to have given way to outright pessimism over the weekend, with editors in Columbus… (Columbus Dispatch, 6/30/18) …and editors in Akron opining strongly on the topic. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/1/18)
  2. Conversely, laurels are in the offing in regard to recently-passed legislation making changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/1/18)
  3. Speaking of teachers, contract negotiations are underway in Youngstown, for the first time since the district began operating under the aegis of a CEO-style Academic Distress Commission. Almost everyone interviewed in this piece expresses optimism for the process, including some folks whose opinion on the matter should probably not be included. Here’s hoping for a good process and outcome despite that. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/1/18)
  4. Here’s a nice look at what could be described as a behavioral health summer camp in Toledo – designed to help students with things like anger management and respecting boundaries. The most interesting part: the entire program consists only of charter school students. How’d that
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Over the past month, local newspapers across Ohio have blasted headlines such as “Local schools lost millions to ECOT” and “Study: Now-defunct ECOT siphoned $2.6 million from Athens-area schools.” Taking a statewide view, the Columbus Dispatch ran a piece titled “Liberal group says ECOT diverted $591M from public schools in 6 years.” These news articles are all based on an analysis by Innovation Ohio—an anti-charter school group—that calculates the amount of state money that transferred from local districts to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) from 2012–13 to 2017–18, the year in which the behemoth online charter school closed.

First off, ECOT’s shameless political self-dealings were outrageous and have harmed the reputation of responsible charter public schools in Ohio. Its academic results were astonishingly bad, with abysmal value-added scores—estimates of its impact on student growth over time—being the clearest signs of educational dysfunction. (No, its low graduation rates are not compelling evidence as some claim; the school likely enrolled significant numbers of credit-deficient students, artificially “deflating” their graduation rate.)

All in all, count me sympathetic to those who are outraged and indignant at the school. But ECOT’s wrongs don’t make it right to distort...



Legislative update: SB 216 and HB 87

This week, the House and Senate each passed wide ranging education bills—SB 216 and HB 87, respectively. The bills, on their way to Governor Kasich for approval, revamp Ohio’s teacher evaluation system, tweak teacher licensure provisions, allow districts to administer paper and pencil assessments to third graders, and make a variety of changes related to online charter schools. The online charter measures drew the most public attention with stories in all major newspapers.

Supreme Court Janus decision

The Supreme Court ruled on the Janus case this week, holding that requiring employees to pay negotiating fees to unions violates the first amendment. The 74 describes the particulars and captures early public reaction.

New resource: Success Academy makes its literacy curriculum available

On Thursday, Success Academy Charter Schools (the largest and highest performing charter network in New York City) published its entire middle school curriculum as well as its first e-courses. That means that the charter school network’s entire K-8 literacy program (which has led to exceptional reading achievement for students in New York) is now available for free to everyone....

  1. As we noted on Wednesday, the state legislature was moving expeditiously to pass a ton of bills, including one that contained measures to deal with Ohio’s “online charter school problem” (yes, that problem). By the end of the day on Wednesday, that bill and a ton of others had passed out of the General Assembly and were headed to Governor Kasich’s desk. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/27/18) This all sounds like good news to me as I understand it. What, then, to make of the decidedly downbeat coverage of these e-school changes? Check out the PD’s take and see what you think. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/27/18) Also on its way to the governor after the flurry of expedition – SB 216 – the education deregulation bill. Here’s a look at its final form. More on this in Item 3 below. (Dayton Daily News, 6/28/18)
  2. Let’s get back to that downbeat assessment of the bill passed to address Ohio’s “online charter school problem” (you know the problem I mean), mentioned in Item 1 above. We have previously discussed the widespread demonization of ECOT, which went so far as to turn literal when its moldering corpse was compared to Dracula
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