Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. The Dispatch published an interesting piece this weekend discussing the lack of district superintendents who are female and people of color in Ohio. They interview outgoing Reynoldsburg supe Tina Thomas-Manning, an African-American woman, who talks about her difficulties in reaching the position. In the end, the discussion focuses almost solely on women vs. men and the people of color part of the question kind of fades away. I can’t wait to see the D’s analysis of how the numbers shake out for charter school leaders. I’ll just hold my breath while I wait for that one to be published… (Columbus Dispatch, 7/2/17)
  2. Dispatch editors, meanwhile, were opining on the ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and just about every entity of state government. Kinda like trying to hit a moving target. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/2/17)
  3. Editors in Youngstown this weekend were opining on district CEO Krish Mohip at the start of his second year in charge. Seems generally favorable, with some uphill battles yet to come. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/2/17)
  4. Finally today, we have a set of profiles of recent high school graduates from various Stark County High Schools. Each story is individual (even the
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  1. After the departure of its high-profile leader in the recent past, FutureReady Columbus is still trying to get itself ready for the present day. The organization was born as a big ticket, partner-fueled initiative to help Columbus students get the best possible education. While the dollars and the big-name partners still seem to be in place, the unexpected need to do a second leader search has required them to slow their roll and to significantly shrink their focus. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/29/17) A similar organization in Toledo appears to have had a similar trajectory. Take your time, people. I’m sure it’s fine. (Toledo Blade, 6/29/17)
  2. So, what’s up with that ongoing kerfuffle between the state’s largest online school and the Ohio Department of Education? And the State Board of Education? And the court system? And StateAuditor Man!? And the court of public opinion? And the Ohio Attorney General? And several newspapers around the state? Well, I’m glad you asked, but you might not be. You can check out updates on the fast-moving situation from the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/29/17), and the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 6/29/17), and the Plain Dealer (again) for everything you
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Joshua D. Hawley

Apprenticeships are all the rage. President Trump recently announced a doubling of federal funding for apprenticeship programs to $200 million in his next budget. This follows an investment by President Obama of $50 million in the outgoing months of his administration. In fact, this follows a major rewrite of the federal legislation governing job training in 2014. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) calls for a much greater level of coordination among workforce programs.

President Trump correctly noted that the organizational framework surrounding workforce development still needs some work, but this criticism is too simplistic. States have made major strides in recent years to improve the coordination of workforce development, and some have promoted apprenticeships as a part of the effort. The WIOA legislation made a requirement for workforce plans at the state level and some states have plans to expand apprenticeships. Many states have invested state tax revenue in apprenticeships and other mechanisms to strengthen training for youth.

Ohio, for instance, has recently taken critical steps to link apprenticeship programs to young people’s educational experiences. These include: 1) expanding linkages between high schools and state-recognized pre-apprenticeship programs through the College Credit Plus program, 2) developing an optional state...


In early June, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released an updated draft of its ESSA plan for public comment. The department had initially intended to submit its plan earlier this spring, but after heavy pressure, state officials decided to delay submission until September. The most important part of the document is its description of the state’s proposed school accountability and intervention policies. We believe that Ohio’s plan does a good job meeting both federal and state requirements.

Still, Ohio should aim for excellence, if not perfection. Allow me to identify three improvements worthy of consideration before ODE submits its plan to the U.S. Department of Education. These are sections that ODE could likely tweak without running afoul of federal or state law.

Eliminate the Chronic Absenteeism indicator (Title I, Part A: Improving Basic Programs Operated by LEAs—Indicators; lines 428-512)

ODE proposes using Chronic Absenteeism as a new report-card measure to comply with ESSA’s requirement for an indicator of School Quality or Student Success. This is a mistake. While related to student learning, absenteeism is not itself an outcome measure, which should form the basis of school accountability. Attendance should be viewed more akin to an “input”...


This blog originally appeared as an editorial in today’s edition of the Columbus Dispatch.

The Ohio Senate just voted to allow the class of 2018 to receive diplomas without demonstrating proficiency in a single academic subject area. The competence-free graduation option, which came from recommendations made by the State Board of Education under pressure from local school superintendents, would award students a diploma upon meeting just two of eight conditions.

These include softballs like attending school regularly, obtaining a 2.5 senior-year grade-point average or completing community service. Show up, do a nominal number of assignments or a few months of part-time volunteer work, and the diploma is yours. Forget about setting a pitifully low bar; Ohio is about to remove it altogether.

It’s important to remember why, decades ago, Ohio and many other states decided to set competency-based graduation requirements in the first place. Namely, too many local school districts were willing to hand out diplomas that their graduates could not read, to young adults who had made it to 18 with the reading, writing, and math skills of grade-school students. The system had failed them.

The problem was most pernicious for poor and minority students, who were much...


In a provocative headline, a recent Wall Street Journal article proclaimed that “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City.’” The piece profiles Kenton, Ohio, along with several other towns across the nation that have recently suffered population losses, sluggish economies, and surging substance abuse. The sudden interest in communities like Kenton is not surprising, given that President Trump rode a wave of rural and small-town support to the White House.

Long a neglected realm of school reform, rural education is also capturing more attention. Collin Roth and Will Flanders of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty point out that rural students in the Badger State post some of the lowest ACT scores and highest college remediation rates; this mirrors data from Ohio. A recent study from the Rural School and Community Trust notes that nearly half of rural students are low-income (eligible for subsidized meals) and often have limited opportunities to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Meanwhile, a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Education documents the challenges rural schools face recruiting and retaining teachers and securing parental involvement.

Of course, there isn’t a single cure-all that can elevate education in sparsely populated...

  1. Our own Jamie Davies O’Leary was front and center on the editorial page of The D this morning, opining against lowering graduation standards in the strongest possible terms. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/28/17) In case you’ve forgotten what she’s talking about, here’s Jeremy Kelley to remind you and give you the depressing legislative update. Personally, I can’t believe we’re going down this road and can’t bear to discuss it further. (Dayton Daily News, 6/27/17)
  2. Speaking of things that I can’t bear: I missed out on clipping some important budget-related news on Friday. Our own Chad Aldis was discussing potential changes to the state’s sponsor evaluation system proposed in the budget. He advised that, whatever the outcome, the focus stay as firmly on academic outcomes as possible. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/23/17)
  3. In somewhat related news, a kerfuffle is afoot in Cleveland regarding the proposed opening of two new charter schools for next school year – one of which will be sponsored by Fordham if it actually opens. At issue is how, when, and whether the Cleveland Transformation Alliance vets charter sponsors operating in the city. I’m sure this will all get worked out, but the rhetoric is a
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Despite their pronouncements to the contrary, many of Ohio’s affluent suburban school districts are about as “public” as a gated community. That’s the right conclusion to draw from a series of recent events.

In late May, The Columbus Dispatch explored how some school districts in Ohio are rooting out students with “questionable residency” (my colleague Jamie Davies O’Leary also examined this Dispatch article here). For those unfamiliar with questionable residency, it refers to students who are enrolled in a school district where they claim to live, but who actually live elsewhere. In particular, the article focused on Bexley City Schools, citing arguments in favor of investigating residency claims from both the superintendent and the district’s law firm and investigators.

Three weeks later, we released Interdistrict Open Enrollment in Ohio: Participation and Student Outcomes. The report examined statewide data on Ohio’s open enrollment policy, which permits students to attend school in a district other than the one in which they live. Ohio’s policy is voluntary, which means it’s up to districts to decide whether to accept non-resident students. In total, 80 percent of Ohio’s 610 school districts allow open enrollees, and more than 70,000 students participate in the...

  1. Not much going on in education news over the weekend, but what there is of it revolves around money. Of course. First up, a huge surplus in the class fees fund in Toledo Public Schools likely means drastically lower fees for many classes next year – even full elimination in the costs of some workbooks and lab coats and art supplies. This is awesome for folks, certainly, but I might wonder what it does to the renewal chances of the three district levies on the horizon over the next 18 months. Do you need money or don’t you? Inquiring minds want to know. (Toledo Blade, 6/26/17)
  2. You know who’s got a lot of money to spend? Dayton’s Preschool Promise program, that’s who. And they’re still having trouble finding 3 and 4 year olds to spend it on. But never fear, they’ve spent some of that money to hire some outreach coordinators to work hard over the summer to recruit families into the program. Because preschool is some kind of unknown quantity that parents need spelled out to them. Good luck! (Dayton Daily News, 6/24/17)
  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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