Ohio Gadfly Daily

Research continues to point to the correlation between socioeconomic status and educational outcomes. Three new initiatives in the Buckeye State are cause for cautious optimism that old methods of addressing poverty may be giving way to innovation and new promise, especially for our youngest citizens.

  • Founded by Hillbilly Elegy author and Ohio native J.D. Vance, Our Ohio Renewal is a bold new initiative that will explore statewide policy solutions to intractable problems plaguing poor families. Vance’s upbringing included divorce, drug abuse, violence, and multi-generational poverty. Yet his rise through the Marine Corps, The Ohio State University, and Yale Law School against long odds challenge the notion that demography is destiny and will undoubtedly inform his work on behalf of families.
  • The Family Independence Initiative takes a city-centric approach to disrupting the cycle of poverty for families. The brainchild of Mauricio Lim Miller, this initiative steps away from the traditional service provider role and instead takes on a coaching role for poor families – families like the one in which he grew up. “…[M]y mother figured out how to get me out of poverty,” Lim Miller said in a recent New York Times profile of his life
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Charter opponents have long claimed that charter schools siphon resources away from the traditional public school system. The ideological motivation for this line of reasoning is clear when touted by teachers unions and their friends: i.e., calling charters parasitic unless they conform to traditional school practices, including mandatory unionization, makes that bias obvious. There’s also a technical basis for the argument, given how charters are funded in Ohio and in many states. Indirect or pass-through funding inevitably feels like a loss to districts and contributes to hostility toward charter schools for “stealing” students and “draining” the system.

But what impact do charter schools actually have on traditional public schools and the students who remain there? Are such loaded accusations deserved? Or might the presence of charters improve student outcomes through competition or as effective charter practices spill over into district schools?  

Recent research from Temple University professor Sarah Cordes sheds needed light on this question. Cordes examined the impact of charter schools in close proximity to, or even co-located with, traditional public schools (TPS) in New York City over a fourteen-year time span. Her analysis departed from previous research examining charter effects at the district level or...

  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted as saying that online schools are “not going away” in this piece from earlier in the week in which Columbus editors opine in support of Auditor Yost’s (…) recent guidance regarding charter school funding claw backs. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/17/17)
  2. On the very same day, the D published this chirpy piece about the start of the new school year, noting (with a tiny bit of surprise, perhaps?) that online school teachers are prepping for the first day just like all the other teachers out there. Those that still have jobs, I guess they mean. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/17/17)
  3. Speaking of the new school year, let’s take a quick look at some “innovations” happening around Ohio. First up, Toledo City Schools are debuting ten new Wi-Fi enabled school buses as part of a pilot program to create what they call “rolling study halls” especially for kids with the longest commutes. If it works out, more buses will be added. How will they know if it’s working out? Reportedly by tracking the academic performance of student bus riders. (Gasp!) It is worth noting – and the Blade does – that since most district high
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Back in July, the Columbus Dispatch posted an article entitled “Ohio high schoolers test poorly in math.” The story emerged from a State Board of Education meeting at which the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) shared preliminary assessment results from the 2016-17 school year.

Lost in the headline was the promising news that the results pointed upward for grades 3-8. Of the sixteen state tests administered in those grades, only one—5th grade math—had a lower proficiency rate than in 2016. The tables below show the results for English language arts and math in grades 3-8.

The high school results, however, were more disheartening. The table below shows that five of the ten End Of Course subject exams showed decreases in proficiency: geometry, integrated math I, physical science, biology, and American history.

How concerned should we be?  There’s no denying that thousands of students still aren’t doing...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis, an expert in charter school policy if the press it to be believed, is quoted in this new piece regarding pending legislation designed to “return” money clawed back from charter schools to the district schools from which it was “taken”. Sorry for the overuse of quotation marks, but it can’t be helped in this context. School funding is hard. Sadly, Chad’s remarks on the substance of the bills in question only come after an intricate and lengthy discussion of bill language plagiarization, which you will be forgiven for concluding is actually the most important thing here. (WYTV, Youngstown, 8/15/17) Speaking of claw backs, in a completely unrelated story (probably), another online school bit the dust (probably) less than a week before school starts this year. Their school year is currently on hold due to financial stability concerns in the face of those aforementioned claw backs. Kudos to everyone involved. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/14/17)
  2. Meanwhile, Youngstown CEO Krish Mohip abruptly ended a consulting gig with a district vendor after questions of propriety were broached by the Vindy. (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/16/17) In a completely unrelated story (probably), the Youngstown ADC has agreed to ask
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July and August might otherwise be sleepy months best reserved for recovering from Ohio’s biennial budget process, lounging beachside, and avoiding one’s smartphone and computer. The downtime also creates space to reflect. In the world of education policy, there is much to ruminate about, especially when it comes to the words and actions of our state leaders and the impact their decisions will have on Ohio students.

One such group of decisions makers is the State Board of Education, a nineteen-member board of partially elected, partially appointed leaders whose stated vision is: “For all Ohio students to graduate from the PK-12 education system with the knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary to successfully continue their education and/or be workforce ready and successfully participate in the global economy as productive citizens.”

Unfortunately, board members’ vacillations in recent months on foundational elements like testing, accountability, standards—even the basic belief that schools can make a real difference in helping students—seem to undermine that vision. The board most visibly took up the mantel of mediocrity this spring during the state’s debate over what should constitute appropriate graduation requirements. In April, members adopted recommendations (later adopted by the legislature and passed into law) that set Ohio...

  1. As all my loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers know, your humble clips compiler is consistent in believing that, aside from you, very few others take this little news clips lark seriously (and that both of you should probably find additional hobbies; just sayin’). It is in that spirit of humility that I say truly that I’m sure this had nothing to do with me and my lengthy ramble at the start of Friday’s clips and instead had everything to do with thorough journalism. To wit: Jim Siegel was able to find all of the other online schools to which State Auditor Dave Yost’s (…) new guidance, issued last week, currently applies. Interestingly, he gives a good update on how those schools have handled the results of their attendance audits, but how they’re planning to comply with the new guidance remains a mystery. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/12/17)
  2. As noted in the above piece, at least two online charter schools to which State Auditor Dave Yost’s (…) new guidance currently applies have simply closed their doors in reaction to the monetary “claw back” required of them due to the results of their attendance audits. Here is a more detailed story on
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  1. In case you missed it, State Auditor Dave Yost (…) issued some guidance this week. What’s the big deal, I hear you ask. Doesn’t he do that literally every week? Well, probably. But this is rather special guidance with some potentially far-reaching effects for charter schools across the state for years to come. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/9/17) Of course, you might not get that impression if you read the foregoing Dispatch piece, or indeed this version of the story from the PD. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/9/17) The D and the PD and the Blade are focused solely on how this guidance affects Ohio’s largest online charter school, which, as both of my dedicated Gadfly Bites subscribers know, is currently involved a kerfuffle with seemingly every facet of state government over matters of contract law and the results of an attendance audit. Of course, said school’s sponsor is located in Toledo, so kudos to the Blade for the local angle at least. (Toledo Blade, 8/9/17) Not even the analytical and thorough folks at Gongwer could think of the name of any other charter school – online or otherwise – to which this guidance currently applies. But I am assured
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John Mullaney

NOTES: John Mullaney is the Executive Director of the Nord Family Foundation. Both authors were part of the Straight A Fund advisory board in FY 14-15.

This piece originally appeared in a slightly different form in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

In 2013, Governor Kasich and Ohio legislators enacted the Straight A Fund, one of the nation’s largest statewide competitive grant programs for K-12 education. The idea sprang from philanthropic foundations across Ohio who saw this as an opportunity to have the state co-invest in truly innovative approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. A 2009 report Beyond Tinkering was presented to the legislature with specific recommendations to initiate such a fund. With $250 million in state funding over fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015, Straight A awarded sixty-one grants in amounts ranging from about $200,000 to $15 million. The fund was intended to spark innovative thinking and practices with the goal of boosting student achievement and reducing costs.

Yet after an initial burst of excitement, enthusiasm for Straight A waned. Collaborators from the philanthropic sector expressed concerns about the legislative emphasis on cost-savings, which some felt eclipsed the focus on innovation and achievement. In FY 2016-17, state lawmakers...

But we do. Really.

  1. The dynamic duo of John Mullaney, executive director of the Nord Family Foundation and Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill opine in the PD today on the topic of the state’s late, lamented Straight A Innovation Fund grant program. Both were members of the program’s grant advisory board. Interesting read, if I do say so myself. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/9/17) Meanwhile, Fordham was reportedly one side of a “night and day” comparison of the quality of two charter school sponsors in Cleveland. I think I know which was which, but it probably depends on your perspective. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/8/17)
  2. Last night’s Dayton City Schools board meeting seemed to be taken up primarily with the administration’s update on how teacher contract negotiations have been going. Oh, and the revelation that teachers probably wouldn’t be paid this Friday if they went on strike. Triple dog dare? You decide. (Dayton Daily News, 8/8/17) Negotiations were set to resume this morning in Dayton, with high hopes for successful resolution without a strike. So we’ll file this piece – 10 things that will happen if Dayton’s teachers strike – under “hopefully just speculative fiction”. (Dayton Daily News,
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