Ohio Gadfly Daily

      ACT I – Robots rising?

  1. A surprisingly-thorough and even handed account of how we got here and what’s at stake as the latest court date for ECOT-related matters looms. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/11/18)
  2. The recent switch to “robo-scoring” of the essay portion of Ohio’s ELA tests has not sat well with some school districts across the state who have noted scoring anomalies. The state’s effort to diagnose and address the issue is being hailed as “a responsible approach”. Yeah that’s high praise. I’m sure of it. What kind of effusiveness did you expect from testing and data nerds? (Columbus Dispatch, 2/10/18)


    ACT II – Creativity and Nature ascendent?

  3. Integrating arts into the entire curriculum in Mansfield City Schools is being hailed as the cure-all for every possible academic issue, including for the ill-defined “at-risk” students. With minimal evidence except for something about giraffes. That is what high praise sound like in the arts field. Personally,
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As teacher evaluation systems evolve around the nation—decreasing the importance of student growth scores in favor of more reliance on classroom observations—how best to support principals in observing and giving feedback on teacher performance will gain importance. While research may play a part in determining best practices going forward, a recent report from the Institute of Education Sciences is more of a cautionary tale than an exemplar.

The study involved 339 New Mexico principals who were scheduled to observe their teachers for the first of multiple times in the early part of the 2015-2016 school year. According to the state’s evaluation framework, principals are required to score teachers on a 22-item rubric after each observation and to hold a feedback conference within ten days of each observation. This was the first year of full implementation of the state’s new evaluation system, which ultimately assigned ratings to every teacher in the state based on classroom observations, student growth data, surveys, and other factors. This study explored whether providing a detailed checklist to principals could improve the quality of the post-observation conferences.

To carry out the experiment, the researchers randomly assigned half of the principals to a control group, while those...

  1. It has been said (mostly by me, probably) that there are only three seasons in Ohio – budget season, campaign season, and summer vacation. I invite all five of my loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers (yes, it’s been a successful couple of months) to guess which one we’re in right now. The only clues I’m going to give you are the comments and accusations regarding the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission included in this piece. You have 30 seconds. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/9/18)
  2. Speaking of districts operating under the aegis of Academic Distress Commissions, it turns out that Lorain CEO David Hardy wasn’t kidding when he suggested earlier this week that his academic turnaround plan could mean big changes at the Colossus of Lorain (a.k.a. the schmancy, not-as-new-as-it-once-was-but-still-shiny-enough, high school). To wit: the phase-in of a set of smaller, themed “academies” within the single building. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/8/18) You’d think that the development of academic pathways focusing on STEM, performing arts, early college access, and the like would be cause for celebration. But alas both the Morning Journal and the Chronicle report the biggest attention-getter in Hardy’s proposal was the possibility that “those kids” would be allowed
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Campaign season in Ohio is in full swing. With a gubernatorial election this year, there’s been ample media coverage related to who’s entering the race, who’s withdrawing, who’s getting endorsed by whom, and who has the most cash. What’s less clear is where each candidate stands on education. To some extent, one can assume candidate views based on past priorities (if they hold or have held office) or on party affiliation. But partisanship does not always predict policy positions, and education is odd that way—you can find pro-school choice Democrats in some communities and anti-school choice Republicans in others, for example.

It’s not unusual for candidates at this stage in the game (pre-primary) to keep their talking points broad and their websites vague. Even so, it’s a bit disappointing that so many of Ohio’s current gubernatorial candidates are so light on education details. Only three candidates (of eight total) noted specific education positions on their websites in a way that was easy for voters to find (see the table below). And while many have provided quotes on education to the media, much of it is overtly partisan (see “quotes” below). Voters shouldn’t have to comb all...

  1. I think this story is probably just as cute and benign as it comes across, but just for kicks I’m going to try to be needlessly provocative in clipping it. In the wake of the ECOT debacle/dumpster fire/implosion/horror show/disaster (circle one), a charitable foundation in rural Crawford County has announced a new college scholarship program that is—for the first time that anyone in this pastureland seemingly can recall—open to students who have attended an online school. OMG!/*Gasp!*/I am outraged!/WTF?! (circle one) Why this reckless encouragement of online charter school attendance by well-intentioned philanthropists who should clearly know better? The trustees of the foundation felt it important to offer their scholarship to online students as that option “becomes more popular” among families. Sorry to be the one to break the news to you, Rockefeller, but that option just got several-thousand-kids less popular virtually overnight. (Bucyrus Telegraph Forum, 2/6/18)
  2. Despite the actual provocative headline, there are very few clues in this preview of Lorain CEO David Hardy’s upcoming town hall meeting, in which he is to reveal some more nitty-gritty details of his plan to improve academic achievement in the district. But you can probably forgive the people of
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Louisiana gets a ton of education-related attention, most of it focused on the Recovery School District and the proliferation of charter schools in New Orleans. While these reforms are certainly worth a close look, it’s the state’s quieter efforts on curriculum that may be truly changing the game for students and teachers.

My colleague Robert Pondiscio wrote an in-depth analysis of these initiatives that’s definitely worth a read. The upshot is that education leaders in Louisiana recognized the transformative power of high-quality curriculum and took action. They started by reviewing the curricula that schools used in order to determine rigor, coherency, and alignment to state standards. After identifying the best curricula, Louisiana created incentives for districts to select those materials rather than others. The state also evaluated professional development providers and recommended to schools only the providers who offered trainings specific to the best curricula rather than broad and general strategies. 

So far, these efforts seem to be paying off: Louisiana students have shown improvements on state tests, the ACT, and  AP exams. In addition, the state saw upticks on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in fourth-grade math and reading. By most measures,...


Ohio Representative Andrew Brenner has introduced legislation described on the General Assembly’s website as an effort to “revise school funding.” If there were an award for understatement of the year, that might win the prize. The bill (House Bill 102) wouldn’t just “revise” school funding policies; it would revolutionize them—so much so that enacting it requires not only passage through the General Assembly but also approval via statewide referendum.

Given the sweeping changes he is proposing, Representative Brenner has prudently stated that his bill is intended as “a way to open up the discussion about how we traditionally fund schools in Ohio.” This discussion is sorely needed, but let’s also see what is in his bill. What ideas are promising and which deserve greater scrutiny?

The central ideas

The heart of HB 102 is to shift responsibility for school funding to the state level, a significant departure from the hybrid state-local funding system of today. To this end, Brenner would eliminate all district-level taxes and make up the difference with a 2 percent statewide property tax and a hike in the state sales tax. With funding centralized, HB 102 then sets across-the-board per-pupil amounts for all school districts...

  1. Northeast Ohio’s own version of the Loch Ness Monster has reared his head again, and it looks like he might want to stick around a while this time. Denessie Kucinich says he’s running for governor, you see, using lots of the same rhetoric and ideas that he’s floated before. To wit: giving control of the state’s charter schools over to the elected school boards in the districts in which they operate. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is on hand to offer a simpler solution which would accomplish Denessie’s ultimate aim a little more easily. If only he’ll listen to sage advice. (Toledo Blade, 2/2/18)
  2. Speaking of charter schools, a page A1, top-of-the-fold news item in yesterday’s Dispatch noted that “GOP-dominated areas of Ohio have few charter schools in them.” Why do you suppose the D would bring up a weird factoid like that so prominently just now? (Columbus Dispatch, 2/4/18) Probably because there was, further down in the article mix yesterday, a piece that asked the question “will ECOT be the next scandal that brings Democrats to power in Ohio”? Allow me to consult my Magic 8 Ball. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/4/18)
  3. Back in the real world,
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Malcolm X once said, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” 

Wise words. Education has long been the source of opportunity, a passport if you will, for Americans to pursue a better life. But education isn’t a passive activity; it’s earned through hard work, preparation, attainment.

Starting in 2009, Ohio began to move away from a relatively low benchmark of competency—the Ohio Graduation Tests[1] (OGT)—and toward the more rigorous expectations of high school end-of-course exams as a precondition for obtaining a diploma.[2] The impetus was that too few students in Ohio were leaving high school with the skills necessary either to enroll in postsecondary education without costly remediation or to enter the workforce. The new system, deemed the “College and Work Ready Assessment System,” was designed to require more work on the part of students to be successful and to act as an effective replacement of the OGTs and their low expectations.

Just as the requirements were finally set to be enforced, however, concerns that too few students would meet the higher bar resulted in development of a new and...

  1. Not much to report on today that isn’t shameless politicking or overt criminality. So what does that leave us with? John Kasich, that’s what. Mr. Kasich, who is, I am given to understand, not running for anything at the moment, told some reporters yesterday that he is in favor of doing away with an elected state board of education. That guy. Didn’t he used to be the governor or something? (Gongwer Ohio, 2/1/18)
  2. Folks in North central Ohio are celebrating 30 years since the merger of Firelands Local Schools with South Amherst Schools. My how time flies. Sounds like a positive outcome for both communities at this remove, but I do wonder how much doom and gloom was predicted by opponents back in 1988. I would go try and look it up, but I am afraid of what fiery rhetoric I might uncover, not to mention the photographs of all those people in shoulder pads and giant hair. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/1/18)