Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Patrick O’Donnell took a look at the latest CREDO study of charter management organizations, showing that several CMOs with schools in Northeast Ohio are performing very well indeed. John Zitzner of Breakthrough Schools calls their results “mind-boggling”. You know what’s more mind-boggling to me? The fact that this piece has been posted on the PD website for nearly 48 hours and has attracted not one comment. Not one. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/21/17)
  2. Speaking of charter schools, here’s a story about the rent agreement between the City of Mansfield and a charter school which rents space from them. It’s a long one – over 1000 words – and the upshot is that the school has not paid rent for a year or so. But the round robin of misunderstandings, missing voice mails, typos in contracts, and the like reads like a comedy of errors on both sides. Interestingly, there are no online comments on that article either. (Mansfield News Journal, 6/21/17)
  3. As you may have heard, Dayton City Schools’ infamous busing woes lasted almost the entire year in 2016-17. But things are going to change in 2017-18! By which I mean the bell schedules at nearly
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Recently, several school districts asked to be repaid a chunk of the money that the state of Ohio is attempting to recover from the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT); House Bill 87, currently pending in the General Assembly, would grant them their wish. ECOT is the largest virtual school in Ohio and is notorious both for its political clout as well as its poor performance. It’s been embroiled in a lawsuit with the Ohio Department of Education and was recently ordered by the State Board of Education to return $60 million for being unable to prove all of its 15,000-plus students were logged in and adequately participating in learning last year. ECOT is fighting this decision and related issues in court.

ECOT’s track record may be poor, but there is something alarming in this discussion about the “lost money” that Ohio districts are now seeking. Regardless of whether ECOT could document their students’ attendance, these children were not being educated by their home districts either—because they didn’t attend their schools. That much is indisputable.

The question at the heart of the...

  1. Our own Jessica Poiner, in a blog posted Monday, “blasted” Ohio’s efforts to lower graduation requirements and reduce the state’s high school diploma to an Oprah-like certificate of participation. (“Everybody gets a diplomaaaaaaaa!”). Fortuitous timing of said Ohio Gadfly Daily post, too, since the Ohio Senate decided to include just such a lowering of graduation requirements in the state budget bill it is currently debating. Patrick O’Donnell noted that fortuitous timing and said so in this piece. In other, not-sure-it’s-unrelated news, the Senate is proposing to reduce Medicaid eligibility too. Can we really have it both ways, Senators? Just askin’. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/20/17)
  2. The first of those open-to-the-whole-public-really-everyone-no-seriously-everyone focus groups gathering input on the type of person Lorain schools needs as its CEO drew mostly district employees this week. Sad? Sure. Predictable? Maybe. But what’s interesting is that none of those quoted in this brief recap of the discussion seem sure that putative CEO frontrunner Moe Szyslak is their ideal candidate. Certainly not as sure as the other district supes quoted earlier in the week. But I could be wrong about that analysis. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 6/19/17) A second focus group held the following day
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John Zitzner

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

Not long ago, the Plain Dealer published an opinion article by former public school educator and teacher union head Bill Lavezzi. In his article, “Calls for funding equity for Ohio charter schools overlook charters’ failures and lack of transparency,” Lavezzi offered up five “simple, common-sense” standards that all charter schools should meet if they wish to receive equitable public funding. In the article, he also suggests that charters not meeting these conditions are “parasitic” and “undeserving not only of funding equity but of public funding itself.”

The idea that equitable funding for children should be conditional in the first place—especially for those students in public charter schools who are predominantly low-income and minority—makes about as much sense as a parent doing the same to his kids. In this analogy, public charter schools are the disliked step-child struggling to prove their worth to a parent dangling approval—and resources—conditionally for one, while doling it out unconditionally for the other....


Early last week, the Trump administration gave three states feedback on their submitted plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The nature of the comments varied for each state, but those addressed to Delaware inspired some fascinating debates around the rights and limitations of the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) under the new law.

Of particular interest is my colleague Mike Petrilli’s response to the Delaware feedback. He focused on two aspects of the USDOE’s response, in particular: 1) their suggestion that Delaware’s long-term goals for academic achievement weren’t “ambitious” enough and 2) their disapproval about Delaware’s inclusion of performance on AP and IB exams in its ”school quality or student success” indicator.

In reference to long-term goals, Mike argued:

The goals that Delaware submitted in its ESSA plan are extremely ambitious, almost irresponsibly so. In the course of a single generation of students, for example, Delaware is aiming to increase the math proficiency rate for Latino students from about 30 percent to about 65 percent. No state in the country has ever made that kind of progress—and that’s not ambitious enough?

He also pointed out that these kind of “utopian goals” were the...


When it comes to high standards and accountability, Ohio talks a pretty good talk. Many of the most popular education reforms of the day have already been proposed or passed in the Buckeye State, and a few have even been hailed as best in the country. As these policies have been implemented, however, and as sometimes unwelcome consequences begin to kick in, Buckeye policymakers have had a difficult time walking the walk. In fact, they’ve shown a lamentable habit of backing down in the face of pressure to weaken accountability.

Take the ongoing uproar over graduation requirements. Back in November, district superintendents started to warn of a graduation “apocalypse” in which a third of the class of 2018 might fall short of the state’s new and more rigorous graduation requirements. Despite many unanswered questions, the State Board has recommended that students be permitted to graduate regardless of whether they pass end-of-course exams or meet career and technical requirements. Instead, they’ll only need to two of eight conditions, a list that includes such rudimentary achievements as 93 percent attendance or 120 hours of work/community service during their senior year. As my colleagues have pointed out, the...

  1. Our own Chad Aldis was a guest on the State of Ohio news program on Friday. He was there to talk about our recent report on interdistrict open enrollment, along with the redoubtable Steve Dyer, although host Karen Kasler couldn’t resist asking them both about the status of the ongoing kerfuffle between the state’s largest online school and the Ohio Department of Education. The education portion of the show starts at 6:42 in the video and continues for the remainder of the episode! (The Ohio Channel, 6/16/17)
  2. Chad was also quoted in the D yesterday, in a piece which tried to assess the status of all those charter schools whose sponsors did not fare well on their evaluations last year. Ten of 21 cases are resolved, says the article, including the fate of Groveport’s Cruiser Academy, as noted by the Dispatch last week. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/18/17)
  3. Speaking of the D, editors there opined in praise of the state board of education in regard to the aforementioned online school kerfuffle. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/18/17) Today, Dispatch editors opined with equal energy in frustration at recent news regarding the years-old and seemingly far-from-being-behind-us data scrubbing scandal in
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Some Ohio lawmakers and educators recently proposed to roll back the state’s social studies exams, which presently include tests in fourth and sixth grade and end-of-course assessments (EOCs) for high-school students in both U.S. history and government. The proposals come from two avenues. As part of its version of the budget bill, the Senate Finance Committee would scrap fourth- and sixth-grade social studies testing. Meanwhile, an assessment review committee convened by state superintendent Paolo DeMaria goes further and jettisons all four social studies exams. (Superintendent DeMaria’s opinion differed from the committee, as he suggested that Ohio drop its fourth grade test and U.S. government EOC while leaving the other two in place.)

In today’s anti-testing climate, it’s not hard to see why policymakers are willing to abandon these exams. Unlike math, reading, and science, testing in social studies is not required under federal law and dropping it would marginally reduce total test burden while also satisfying political demands. Yet before policymakers sacrifice social studies on the anti-testing altar, they should consider the important reasons not to.

Social studies is an essential content area

One of the central missions of education is to prepare citizens and a key part...


In the wake of Donald Trump’s election and his selection of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, a lot of attention has been focused on school choice. Though charters and vouchers have received the lion’s share of attention, there’s another under-the-radar school choice program that impacts thousands of students: interdistrict open enrollment, a policy that permits students to attend school in a district other than the one in which they live.

Though Ohio’s program was one of the nation’s earliest, limited information has been available about who participates and how they perform academically. To shed some light on this important program, we commissioned a report: Interdistrict Open Enrollment in Ohio: Participation and Student Outcomes. On June 6, we hosted an event to present the findings and to learn more about how the policy works in practice.

Opening the event was Dr. Deven Carlson, a professor from the University of Oklahoma and one of the report’s co-authors. Carlson began by overviewing Ohio’s open enrollment program. (His slide deck is available here.)  

Report co-author Deven Carlson presents findings

In regards to...


The best advice my wife and I received on how to manage daily life with newly born twin daughters was from our pediatrician: get them on a schedule. Any schedule that works for you is fine, but it should be the same schedule for both children, and stick to it. It was a great insight from a pro and it has served us well. Our lives have gone far more smoothly than we feared they would all those years ago in the wake of the arrival of two very tiny babies needing constant care and attention.

My girls, circa 2002. Note the socks used for gloves on their tiny hands. Another decision point.

We have continued to treat our kids as a unit in most matters, including their education, which was marked by several decision points on opting into and out of schools. Now, however, as they finish their first year of high school, we are faced, for the first time, with choosing separate options for the girls—and that process has brought some new insights.

First, school choice is not a...