Ohio Gadfly Daily

Following the lead of our D.C. colleagues, we totted up the most-read articles posted on Ohio Gadfly Daily in 2016.

The Top Five editorial posts are a microcosm of the issues we address regularly in an effort to advance educational excellence in a very real way here in the Buckeye State:

1. House Bill 420: Opting out of accountability by Jamie Davies O’Leary (published January 25)

At the height of the pushback against Common Core-aligned testing in Ohio, HB 420 was born. It would have allowed schools and districts to exempt from certain accountability measures those students whose parents opted them out of taking standardized tests. We cautioned against the inadvertent deterrent effect on testing participation and the erosion of the state’s accountability system.

2. How will ESSA change Ohio’s school report cards? by Jessica Poiner (published June 13)

Ohio’s accountability and report card system was reasonably robust before the advent of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), but as we discussed in detail back in June, the myriad new reporting requirements would engender a number of changes for the Buckeye State to be in compliance with ESSA. Our point-by-point analysis is a must-read for anyone who...

  1. Public radio’s Andy Chow published his year-end education wrap up yesterday. He wrote mainly about charter schools and resurrected an old quote from our own Chad Aldis in regard to the delayed award of federal Charter School Program grant funds. Thanks, Andy! (WVXU-FM, Cincinnati, 12/29/16)
  2. One of the few non-charter-specific items Andy mentioned in his wrap up was the potential change in Ohio’s new graduation requirements mooted near the end of the year. This issue was taken up by the state board of education in its last meeting of the year and was ultimately kicked down the road a bit further by the creation of a study group to look at the issue. In question is whether more stringent end-of-course exam requirements – in force for the Class of 2018 – will result in a “graduation rate apocalypse”. However, in the real world, we have the example of Shelby City Schools, a smallish district in North Central Ohio whose leaders are taking the new requirements seriously and are working hard to identify those students who may not reach the needed points – and putting plans and support in place to make sure they put in the work
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  1. We start with a curious little story from Dayton. It is ostensibly about the reaction of several Dayton-area colleges to a new report predicting a decline in the overall number of high school graduates produced by U.S. schools over the next 20 years (e.g. – erosion of their customer base). Most of the word count is dedicated to that reaction (in short: look for new college students elsewhere and work hard to attract those U.S. students who are around). However, the more interesting question – why there is expected to be such a precipitous decline – is unaddressed here. You, like me, will have to read the latest edition of Knocking on the College Door from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in order to answer that question. To be fair to the DDN, it was 30-some pages into said report before we even got an inkling of the reasons. Weird. (Dayton Daily News, 12/27/16)
  2. As we noted when those ratings first came out, school districts across the state fared particularly poorly on charter sponsor evaluations. One such district, Oregon City Schools in suburban Toledo, is formally appealing its rating in a bid to keep its
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  1. Editors in Youngstown opined yesterday generally in favor of school CEO Krish Mohip’s setting of a 100% graduation target. They opine on a lot of other things too while they’re at it. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/22/16)  And just in case Youngstown-area parents are not heartened by Mohip’s pledge, there is an option for some of you. Valley STEM + ME2 Academy is now accepting applications for rising ninth- and tenth-graders in the area for the 2017-18 school year. As a huge fan of standalone STEM schools, your humble compiler says click or call today. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/23/16)
  2. State Senator Tom Sawyer opined yesterday on the topic of inter-district open enrollment, intending to drum up public support for a legislative-level review of the program. (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/22/16)
  3. Speaking of school choice, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati announced this week that it will make an additional $2 million per year in tuition assistance available to Catholic school families in need of help, starting with the 2017-18 school year. This includes high schoolers already receiving tuition vouchers via the EdChoice Scholarship program. Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 12/21/16)
  4. We end today with a nice inside look at
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At the end of November, we asked you—our loyal Ohio Gadfly readers—to tell us what you thought were the top education stories for 2016. The choices were numerous and we appreciate all of the responses. In the spirit of “ringing out the old,” we give you the Top 5:

  1. House Bill 2 (HB 2): It is difficult to overstate the importance of this wide-ranging reform of Ohio’s charter school policies, which went into effect in February of this year. Almost immediately, we observed “HB2 effects” rippling throughout the sector, particularly in terms of sponsor decision-making around school closures. Additionally, “sponsor hopping” (in which schools seek out the sponsor of least resistance when anticipating a contract non-renewal) disappeared virtually overnight. Completion of the new, rigorous sponsor evaluations that were strengthened by HB 2 occurred in October (more on these later). Befitting the top placement for this story in 2016, there is much more to say. Stay tuned to the Ohio Education Gadfly for our detailed analysis of the early implementation of HB 2, expected in the New Year.
  2. ECOT vs. ODE: Ohio’s largest online charter school was embroiled in a lawsuit with the Ohio Department of
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  1. Longtime Ohio education curmudgeon Bill Phillis found an outlet through which to express his distaste for a proposed new funding formula introduced in the state legislature last week by the chair of the House Education Committee. Phillis apparently told Patrick O’Donnell his top concern was that ending local funding and allowing all state funding to “follow the child” would make choosing schools too easy for parents and budgeting for districts too hard. There are other reasons given, but I’ll just stop there. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/20/16)
  2. Speaking of school choice, Columbus City Schools is set to initiate all-online registration and management of its intra-district choice program. The district’s PR flack extols the virtues of quick and easy access to info and forms and the like in this brief piece and takes a second to mention that charter school students who live in the city can apply too (how generous). Anyone besides me concerned about who might not have easy access to/facility with the internet re: choosing? (Columbus Dispatch Education Insider, 12/21/16)
  3. Here is a nice piece about two nonprofit organizations which have for years provided out-of-school support for students in Cleveland. It is part of
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  1. Here’s another article on Fordham-sponsored charter school DECA Prep’s expansion plans, now underway in Dayton. There’s some great detail here about the school’s plans. I find the “parent center” portion to be very interesting. Kudos to DECA on all fronts! (Dayton Daily News, 12/18/16)
  2. DECA is also name-checked in this piece – among a list of many other options from which one Dayton resident could choose for her grandson. The main part of the story is about inter-district open enrollment in Montgomery County, timed to coincide with the first public discussions in Huber Heights schools about the possibility of opening up their borders to students from outside. It’s a very interesting piece and thoroughly discusses the pros and cons. I was especially impressed by the superintendent from Kettering schools who candidly (and accurately) noted that “revenues are the main driver of open enrollment on the school side, while it’s just another form of school choice on the family side.” (Dayton Daily News, 12/17/16)
  3. Here is an interesting story on the current career-skills training going on at one Columbus City Schools high school. Specifically, construction trades. Nice. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/18/16)
  4. Finally today, eSports has
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  1. The end of the legislative session in Ohio included a couple of surprises, one of which was a bill from Rep. Andrew Brenner proposing a fairly radical overhaul of school funding in the state. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/15/16) Stakeholders are starting to react to the proposal and comments are, at least at first, nuanced and non-dogmatic. The details will be key going forward, but as Brenner notes in the Dispatch piece and this Gongwer piece, he is mainly aiming to “start a conversation” around the issue of tackling school funding. Mission accomplished, it seems. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/15/16)
  2. Fascinating commentary from an English teacher in Shaker Heights schools in suburban Cleveland. It’s a district with a distinct group of high-flyers and kids with distinct disadvantages. Teacher Cotton defines from firsthand what the terms “achievement gap” and “opportunity gap” mean to him and rejects them both as means by which to measure/rate the success of his district. His beef seems to be mainly with the Ohio Department of Education and one or more of the ratings given to the district by ODE, but it also seems to me that his argument is missing some important nuance in that regard.
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  1. Fordham’s first-ever analysis of Ohio’s EdChoice program – released earlier this year – was cited in a “School Vouchers 101” piece on NPR. NPR!! (National Public Radio, 12/7/16)
  2. I’m sure we talked about this last week, but here it is again. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece which discusses the impending end of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Anybody besides me think Bush’s writing sounds positively giddy here? (Columbus Dispatch, 12/14/16)
  3. As we noted earlier, the Ohio State Board of Education this week discussed changing the state’s new graduation requirements before they were fully implemented, amid widely-publicized fears of a “graduation apocalypse”. I don’t know about that last part, but no changes were made to said requirements this week. Instead, a workgroup will be impaneled to further discuss the issue and to make recommendations somewhere down the road. Chad testified before the board yesterday on the topic. Coverage of the non-decision which notes and/or quotes Chad’s testimony can be found in Gongwer (Gongwer Ohio, 12/13/16) and on Ideastream public radio. (Ideastream Public Media, Cleveland, 12/13/16) Anyone interested can read the full text of Chad’s remarks here.
  4. Further
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NOTE: The State Board of Education of Ohio is today debating whether to change graduation requirements for the Class of 2018 and beyond. Below are the written remarks that Chad Aldis gave before the board today.

Thank you, President Gunlock and state board members, for allowing me to offer public comment today.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-oriented nonprofit focused on research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

High school diplomas are supposed to signal whether a young person possesses a certain set of knowledge and skills. To its credit, Ohio is phasing in new graduation standards that will do that by better matching the expectations of post-secondary institutions, employers, and our armed forces. The new standards ask our young people to demonstrate readiness by either passing end of course exams (EOCs), achieving a remediation free ACT or SAT score, or earning an industry credential.

After years of low graduation standards, Ohio’s new requirements are a major step in the right direction. We need to set the expectations high for the young men and women who...