Ohio Gadfly Daily

You’ve probably heard by now that basketball superstar LeBron James opened a school for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Called I Promise School (IPS), it’s a joint effort between the I Promise Network, the LeBron James Family Foundation, and Akron Public Schools. The newly renovated building opened its doors on July 30 to 240 students in third and fourth grade, along with forty-three staff members. Though he’s taking his talents to Los Angeles, King James himself was on hand to dedicate the new school.

Just like students who are part of the I Promise Network that serves more than 1,300 children and their families across the district, IPS students were identified based on their reading achievement data. After identifying students who were a year or two behind grade level, administrators used a lottery to randomly select which children would be offered a spot at the new school. These students will receive free uniforms, transportation within two miles, tuition to the University of Akron when they graduate, a bicycle and helmet, and a variety of other resources. Their families will have access to GED classes, job placement assistance, and a food pantry.

James is being lavished with praise...


While the so-called “word gap” between children from low and high socioeconomic circumstances continues, as it has for decades, to get much attention, researchers are continuing to dig deeper into the quantity and quality of language with which young children interact. There is more to successful language acquisition than just pouring more words into their ears. A new study from a University of Miami (FL) team led by Lynn Perry adds some small-scale evidence to support the primacy of quality over quantity in language interaction, but also adds a twist.

The twist is perhaps the most interesting part. Rather than focusing on the much-studied parent-child interactions at home, Perry and company looked at language interaction for children in a daycare setting, recording and analyzing the quantity and quality of language in five-minute increments during forty-two recording days over a full year. This includes adult-child and peer-peer interactions in both structured and unstructured situations. Using the Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) device, the researchers were able to collect data on the quantity of language expressed by each child, the quantity of language heard, differentiation of adult versus peer language, and language quality as defined by conversational turns between children and...



Ohio House Education Committee chair voices support for charters

This week, Representative Andrew Brenner, Chairman of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee, penned a blog that’s featured on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ website. Rep. Brenner explains why he supports charter public schools and how they provide opportunities for students to reach their potentials.

New LGBTQ-affirming charter school to open in Cleveland

The Albert Einstein Academies of Ohio, a group of charter public schools serving students in Cleveland, is opening a LGBTQ-affirming school in grades 9-12 this fall. Superintendent Dr. Bruce Thomas said the idea for the school was created after he and his team of school leaders saw a clear lack of resources for LGBTQ students in the area. The school will include a comprehensive and inclusive curriculum, mental and physical health resources, and tailored social supports.

Match Charter School shares its curriculum

In an effort called Match Fishtank, Match Charter School (a PreK-12 public school in Boston) is sharing the standards-based curriculum that it has developed and refined over the last 15 years. The goal is to share good baseline curriculum and assessments with...

  1. The good news: everyone in Dayton now seems to be on the same page regarding the timeline for a possible academic distress designation in the district. The bad news: that timeline is a year shorter than many folks believed. It seems to me that “the path forward” is a lot less clear than it might have been a week ago. But what do I know? I’m probably just being “edgy” for the sake of it. (Dayton Daily News, 8/1/18)
  2. Meanwhile, in nearby Kettering, an investigation of family residency revealed that 137 students were attending Kettering schools inappropriately in 2016-17, and 85 did so in 2017-18. Kettering, like many high-flying inner-ring suburban districts, does not allow open enrollment, although outside folks are allowed to pay tuition to attend if they wish. The tuition rate is not specified in this story. I’m not sure what happened to those previous fraudsters, but new verification procedures are in place for the upcoming school year to stop it happening again. (Dayton Daily News, 8/2/18)
  3. There are two infuriating things in this otherwise-innocent piece on changes to Medina City Schools’ class rosters for the upcoming year. Both are caused by lazy
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In a paper titled Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement, the Ohio Department of Education recently wrote that districts have “a limited understanding of how to build early literacy in young children.” This is manifestly troubling, as so much in life hinges on reading fluency—and it’s not as if there were a dearth of quality research on how kids learn to read. This is, in fact, one of the most thoroughly analyzed parts of schooling. (Fordham’s new literacy lifelines offer concise practical advice based in research.)

If this what-is-known and how-to-do-it knowledge isn’t well-lodged in the minds of district leaders and practitioners in Ohio schools, something needs to change. One can go back to Jeanne Chall’s 1967 book or the report in 2000 from the National Reading Panel. But a more recent and accessible review is a fine paper by Anne Castles, Kathleen Rastle, and Kate Nation. In what they call a “comprehensive tutorial review on the science of learning to read,” the authors review the major research findings and offer insight on how evidence can inform practice. The paper is organized around three general phases of literacy development, which they define as: (1) cracking...


Weighted student funding, also known as student-based budgeting (SBB), is a funding mechanism that aims to allocate school resources more equitably. Rather than having districts fund schools based on staffing and resource needs, SBB requires districts to provide a base amount to each school for each student and then adds supplemental funding based on student characteristics such as poverty, disability, limited English proficiency, or academic proficiency. Transitioning to a SBB model doesn’t necessarily give schools more money—it just changes how school leaders are able to use allocated money. (For more information on SBB, see here, here and here.)

Two of the biggest differences between SBB and traditional school funding formulas are flexibility and transparency. In districts that use a traditional funding model, school leaders have limited knowledge about how central offices choose to dole out funds and almost zero control over how to spend the funds they receive. School leaders in districts that use SBB models, on the other hand, can easily determine how funds are awarded and have more autonomy to direct their schools’ funds toward student needs. 

To promote SBB, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act authorized a pilot program for districts interested in this...

  1. As you may have seen in media outlets both social and not, Monday’s opening of the I Promise School in Akron was quite the event. Here’s a sample of some coverage from the hometown paper but there’s plenty more where that came from should you want it. Hopefully the documentary camera crew was there on Day Two, because it seems no other media outlet (social or otherwise) was present. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/30/18)
  2. Yesterday, however, editors in Canton did opine on the golden opportunity presented by both Akron’s I Promise and Canton’s own AIM Academy, both on Day Two of operation. Yes, they mean an opportunity for students to succeed. (Canton Repository, 7/31/18)
  3. Not to be outdone by the NBA, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns this week announced a new effort to assist students in Lorain City Schools who may have trouble affording uniforms. The support this year will allow for deeply discounted “Titan Pride Packages” of clothing. The goal is to eventually raise enough support to provide those packages free of charge to every Lorain student. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 7/31/18) The Browns’ purchasing office might want to hold off on that initial order for
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Since 2007, Ohio’s minimum wage has climbed from $6.85 per hour to the current rate of $8.30. Earlier this year, state Democratic leaders introduced a bill that would further accelerate minimum wage increases to $15.00 per hour by 2025. Though unlikely to pass this year, the legislation is part of a national debate about what constitutes a “living wage” for employees who may be trying to make ends meet for their families. My intention is not to jump into the rancorous discourse around wage floors for grown-ups. But it is worth examining how escalating minimum wages might affect work opportunities for teenagers. In my view, if we want to promote more teenage employment, Ohio policymakers should consider setting a youth minimum wage that differs from that of adults.

Figure 1 shows some national data on teenage employment trends. There’s been a dramatic decline in the employment of sixteen- to nineteen-year-olds over the past forty years. In 1980, almost 60 percent of young people in this age range held part- or full-time jobs; that number has since fallen to just 35 percent. This drop in teenage employment diverges from the general working-age population trend, which has remained steady over...

  1. Fordham’s own Mike Petrilli and Amber Northern have an editorial published in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer, discussing the findings of the recent Charter School Deserts report and urging changes in Ohio law that could address those issues here in the Buckeye State. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/30/18)
  2. One of the law changes championed by my bosses in their op-ed above is access to state facilities funding for charter schools in Ohio. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but I personally think it will be a cold day in Hell, California, before that happens. I will submit this piece from Columbus as Exhibit A to support my downbeat assertion. It simultaneously besmirches the current funding sources charters must utilize, belittles a local charter for “not looking like a school”, and casts aspersions because the operators dared to try and make a non-purpose-built building (which most charters cannot do) look and function more like a school. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/29/18)
  3. Meanwhile, school leaders from various districts, Catholic, and Christian schools in Stark County were approached by the Repository to tell readers why they are so awesome and what they are doing to remain awesome and maybe even to get more awesome in the
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OhDELA testing new approach to online learning

The Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy (OhDELA) is now working with ACCEL Schools. The charter school’s new operator, ACCEL CEO Ron Packard, recently announced his plans for improving OhDELA’s performance using a “new approach to online learning.” Some of the changes include requiring more in-person meetings between students and teachers, doing less advertising to ensure they’re recruiting students who are truly well-suited for online classes, and more.

It’s time to be pragmatic about online charter schools

Last month, the General Assembly passed two pieces of legislation (SB 216 and HB 87) that, among other things, seek to address some of the issues that have plagued online charter schools in Ohio. But an important measure (from HB 707—a bill that didn’t pass) that would have required ODE to adopt rules allowing online charter schools to disenroll students for not “actively participating in learning opportunities” didn’t pass. Fordham’s Chad Aldis believes Ohio needs to revisit this recommendation—he explains why here.

IDEA schools success story

This week, Idea Public Schools’ superintendent Joann Gama is celebrating: All 849 seniors from her charter schools graduated this...