Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. We start today with the last preview piece ahead of the release of state report card data, published late on Tuesday. Fordham is namechecked and Aaron is quoted in this story, specifically regarding the depth and accuracy of Ohio’s report cards. (Dayton Daily News, 9/12/18)
  2. The report card data was released yesterday morning and initial coverage followed quickly after. These first wave reports are mainly about the overall grade that schools and districts received—the first time in six years that a comprehensive letter grade has been given as the new report card protocols were phased in. The following clips all include quotes from Chad; his main point generally that this year is a “return to normalcy” in data and reporting after the extended phase-in period. You can find coverage in the Enquirer… (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/13/18) …and in the PD… (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/13/18) …and in Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/13/18)
  3. Aaron had been quoted in the initial Dispatch coverage yesterday—discussing the performance of central Ohio suburban districts—but the revised version omits him. Can’t imagine why. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/18)
  4. Here is some coverage of state report cards from which Fordham was absent right from
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What’s slowing down the growth of charter schools?

Charter school growth in Ohio and around the country has slowed. Amy Wilkins, Senior Vice President of Advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, recently joined Todd Feinburg on his radio show to talk about why and the important role that charters play in the public education ecosystem. Listen here.  

DeWine’s plan for education and charter schools

Last week, Mike DeWine, Republican candidate for governor, released his education agenda. Although it didn’t focus on charter schools, he has pledged to hold online schools more accountable by establishing a pay-for-performance model that requires students to show competency on end-of-course exams before an online school receives all of its state aid. You can read his full plan here.

Cordray’s plan for education and charter schools

This week, Richard Cordray, Democratic candidate for governor, unveiled his plan for education. He would (among other things) directly fund all charter schools with state funds, permit only nonprofit charter operators, and apply all regulations that apply to traditional public schools to charter schools. Click here to read the full plan.

Charter school effects on district...


Today, the Ohio Department of Education released school report cards based on data from the 2017-18 school year. For two decades, Ohio’s report cards have offered an important annual check on the performance of school districts and public schools that serve 1.6 million K-12 students. Starting with the 2012-13 school year, Ohio has gradually implemented a new A to F report-card framework, and this year’s iteration marks the completion of this transition by instituting a summative grade for both schools and districts.  

“For many years, Ohio provided an overall district and school rating,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “But with the shift to more rigorous standards and assessments, the state suspended the overall designation at the end of the 2011-12 school year. This year marks a return to normalcy, as Ohio now offers an overall grade that combines its disparate report-card elements.”

“Issuing a single prominent rating, much like an overall GPA, will provide families and communities a summary of a school’s overall level of academic achievement,” Aldis continued. “At the same time, the continued availability of component grades ensures important indicators of a school’s strengths and weaknesses...

  1. The Senate President weighed in again this week on the topic of graduation requirements. He wants a long-term, permanent proposal to consider, it seems, and remains uninterested in extending temporary options. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/10/18)
  2. It apparently took three reporters to craft this piece looking at various aspects of school report cards, imminently to be released. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/11/18) A variation of this piece was also published in the Columbus Dispatch.
  3. I don’t usually clip blogs or press releases around here, but credit where credit is due: The Ohio Arts Council this week announced the launch of an online data widget that very thoroughly presents the state of arts education in Ohio’s public schools. And I mean every public school. It is a fascinating look, filterable by county, city, and district and it includes data on charter and STEM schools too. If you want to bypass the blog, you can access the widget itself here. I think this is proof positive that reports of the death of arts education have been exaggerated. (Ohio Arts Council blog, 9/10/18)
  4. The Ohio Mayors Alliance threw a shindig in Columbus this week. Lots of bigwigs
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  1. A quiet weekend in clips, but what we do have is all on the same topic: report cards. The Plain Dealer is looking toward the release of state report cards later this week. There is a lot of focus on the three districts on the brink of an academic distress designation—one is cautiously optimistic, the other two seem resigned to their fate. Chad Aldis is on hand as the sole voice in support of overall school grades, to make their debut on report cards at long last this year. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/10/18)
  2. Same anticipation is afoot in the Mahoning Valley. Most of the word count is reserved for Youngstown CEO Krish Mohip, who is expecting to see some good outcomes on growth measures for his district. The rest of the districts interviewed here seem to be expecting status quo. (Youngstown Vindicator, 9/9/18)
  3. Finally, state legislators have their eyes peeled for those report cards as well. The chairs of the education committees in both House and Senate assert that report card data will influence any future discussion of changing the state’s graduation requirements that occur in their respective chambers this fall. Can’t wait. Link
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In the final days of August, the Ohio Department (ODE) of Education and the State Board of Education released their five-year strategic plan for education. It includes a state-level vision, a goal focused on high school graduates, four learning domains, ten priority strategies, and three core principles.

The bulk of the plan is a breakdown of the ten strategies that ODE and SBOE plan to use to achieve their declared goal. Although each of these strategies is worth studying in depth, there are three in particular—those that are aimed at improving standards, assessments, and accountability—that deserve a close look:

Strategy 4: Identify clear learning standards and guidelines that reflect all four equal learning domains.

Strategy 5: Move toward a varied system of assessments to appropriately gauge the four equal learning domains and allow students to demonstrate competency and mastery in ways beyond state standardized tests.

Strategy 6: Refine the state’s accountability system to be a fairer, more meaningful process that reflects all four equal learning domains.

Each of these strategies contains a reference to the “four equal learning domains:”

The key word, certainly implied...


On a recent visit to Xenia schools, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said: “I think so many times we underestimate what students can do. Our hearts tell us to be a little more protective—I’m not sure they can reach that level or handle that kind of work. But time and time again as I go across the state talking to teachers, I find that their socks are blown off because kids always are able to exceed even the highest expectations we set.”

Superintendent DeMaria is right, but not everyone in authority seems to agree. As you’ll recall, doomsayers sounded the alarm back in 2016, declaring that hordes of students would never meet the state’s new and tougher graduation requirements, which offer young Ohioans three pathways to a diploma. Of the three, the state test pathway caused the most concern: Students earn one to five points based on their performance on seven end-of-course (EOC) exams, and must earn a total of eighteen out of thirty-five points to graduate. District officials claimed that students were struggling to accumulate eighteen points because the tests were so difficult.

Perhaps unsure how to judge that concern, and open to giving schools more...


Editor’s Note: As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is the first in our series, under the umbrella of creating transparent and equitable funding systems. You can access all of the entries in the series to date here.

Proposal: For funding purposes, Ohio should decouple the identification of economically disadvantaged (ED) students from eligibility for federal free and reduced-priced lunches (FRPL). Instead, the state should identify low-income students through their family’s participation in other means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and/or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—a process known as direct certification.

Background: With fewer resources at home, low-income students require more public funds to support their education. Recognizing this, Ohio provides additional state aid to districts serving more ED students (see table 1 above). In FY 2018, the incremental amount is $272 per pupil, with an adjustment that steers more dollars to districts serving the highest proportions of ED students. Ohio generally identifies ED students...


Creating smart, coherent education policy is painstaking work; there are technical, budgetary, and political challenges at almost every turn. But it is some of the most important work that state leaders can undertake. As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students.

Over the coming months, we’ll post a series of policy proposals on our blog and compile them on this page. These proposals aim to ensure that Ohio can thrive well into the future in a global economy where knowledge, talent, and technical skills are at a premium. Ohio has a long proud history as one of the nation’s engines of growth, but today faces challenges such as a large “talent gap.” To better understand this gap, only 43 percent of working age Ohioans have postsecondary certifications today. By 2025, it is estimated that 64 percent of in-demand jobs will require such credentials. A strong K-12 education system is a key to closing this enormous gap.

We believe that if Ohio...


Among the most frequently heard concerns around charter schools is that they drain money from traditional districts, potentially harming students who stay behind. Yet another school of thought theorizes that charters encourage district improvements by injecting competition into a largely monopolistic system. A new study conducted by Matthew Ridley and Camille Terrier puts both these claims to the test using data from Massachusetts, a state that recently held a hotly debated and ultimately unsuccessful referendum on expanding charters.

To examine charters’ effects on district spending and achievement, the researchers rely on a 2011 reform that allowed charter school expansion in underperforming Massachusetts districts. They identify nine “expanding” districts, including Boston, where the charter share increased markedly post-reform, and then compare their spending and test-score growth in math and English language arts (ELA) to “non-expanding” districts whose charter share remained flat. The analysts use various statistical techniques, including a “synthetic control method,” to estimate the impacts of charter expansion in the years after reform (2011–12 through 2014–15).

In terms of fiscal impact, their study finds that charter expansions increased districts’ per-pupil expenditures. Post-reform, total per-pupil spending in expanding districts rose at a faster clip than non-expanding ones,...