Ohio Gadfly Daily

Like any life transition, preparing for a new job and saying farewell to colleagues and allies offers a bittersweet window of time to reflect. I’m sitting in that window now. Having finished almost a decade in the Ohio K–12 education policy space and my second stint at Fordham Ohio, I’m shifting into the early childhood policy domain.

Here are five essential ingredients for any advocate’s personal tool kit that I’ve been reflecting on and that I’ll be taking with me.

Principles that ground you—deeply

Working in public policy inevitably means you will interface with politics, whether you like it or not. When I began working in education policy at the state level, Obama had just been elected and Arne Duncan was his education secretary. There was a strong bipartisan coalition around charter schools—nationally at least—and I had been living and working in states where charter schools weren’t as partisan or as contentious as they are in the Buckeye State. It was news to me when I arrived back in Ohio and quickly learned that charter schools were almost exclusively supported by Republicans. Moreover, Democrats would be contesting the creation of Teach For America – Ohio, a program I—as a...

  1. I believe there is a headline error in this piece looking at the precarious state of play in Trotwood Schools after several years of poor report cards and attempts to remedy that problem. See if you can spot it. (Dayton Daily News, 4/2/18)
  2. Meanwhile, and on a similar theme, editors in Toledo say: “Fire bad.” (Toledo Blade, 3/30/18)
  3. The only person I can think of who could get away with publishing a serious education-related commentary piece on April Fools Day is the Vindy’s venerable (and irascible) Bertram de Souza. That being said, I will admit I am not sure whether he’s being serious here or not. Anyone else want to read it and take a guess? (Youngstown Vindicator, 4/1/18)
  4. This one is almost certainly not an April Fools Day prank, although certain phrases—“the baseball team goes to watch the school play”—did give me pause. If the community-wide movement to increase student participation in sports in Talawanda Schools is indeed real, let’s hope they get another story published on a different day so as not to potentially confuse folks. (Middletown Journal-News, 4/1/18)
  5. A round-robin series of facilities moves among the City of
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  1. It’s spring break in Dayton City Schools, but that doesn’t mean things are quiet in the district. School bus drivers, who have been working without a contract for the entire school year so far, seem to have reached an impasse with the administration and the board. They voted for a strike notice earlier in the week, which would lead to a walkout on April 10, the second day back from spring break. My guess is that folks will get very little actual break as they try to hammer out an agreement before then. (Dayton Daily News, 3/29/18) Meanwhile, in Sylvania Schools in suburban Toledo, there’s apparently too much busing. Or at least busing that’s too expensive to maintain. A plan to eliminate district transportation to certain private schools—and to offer payment in lieu of transportation—is facing a small but determined opposition from families that would be affected. (Toledo Blade, 3/30/18)
  2. On the other side of the state, a Cincinnati charter school will close at the end of this school year. Its sponsor, Cincinnati City Schools, you may recall lost its ability to sponsor charters because of a poor evaluation by the state. While details here are sketchy,
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  1. Well, well, well. Nothing official here, but it is nice to hear the President of the Ohio Senate say that Ohio’s current participation-trophy graduation requirements should not be extended to the Classes of 2019 and 2020. Without “a good reason”, that is. (Gongwer Ohio, 3/26/18)
  2. It is also nice—though somewhat shocking in its candor—to hear what really went on behind closed doors of the Columbus City Schools’ recently-suspended superintendent search. Hey guys, once you get your new search underway I hear there’s a dude in the Youngstown area looking for a new gig…although I think he might prefer someplace where it snows a lot. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/27/18)
  3. Staying in Columbus for a moment, Dispatch editors opined today on the now-discredited Education Trust evaluation of Ohio’s efforts to target school funding for the benefit of its poorest students. Sorry to inject my own thoughts into a clip about an editorial, but I fear that they are missing the actual point of the revised analysis in their conclusion. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/28/18) Dispatch editors also opined today on the Move to PROSPER program, which we’ve been following with interest here in the Bites for a year or
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Ohio’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan doesn’t include many changes to the state’s current accountability system, but it does make some meaningful adjustments that improve equity within the state. Most notably, it lowers the minimum number for Ohio subgroup sizes, or n-size, from thirty to fifteen students for accountability purposes—a transition the state is implementing gradually and will complete in the 2018–19 school year. Unfortunately, legislation that recently passed the Senate, S.B. 216, would undo the n-size shift before it’s fully implemented. Here’s why that would be a mistake.

N-size and why it matters

Subgroups generally comprise historically disadvantaged populations like black and Latino children and English language learners (ELLs). Ohio’s previous n-size of thirty students meant, for example, that only schools with at least thirty ELLs had to report their performance as a subgroup for state report card purposes. Lowering this threshold to fifteen students is beneficial because it improves transparency and holds schools accountable for meeting the needs of underprivileged students, increasing the likelihood that students will receive the proper supports and interventions they need. Indeed, civil rights groups like Ohio’s Latino community, the NAACP, and disability rights organizations have long urged schools...


STEM education is, by design, integrative. It strives to emulate the real-world work of engineers within a teaching environment. Traditional science and math concepts merge with hands-on design-and-build work using technology, often through “design challenges.” Team dynamics, learning by failure and revision, and analytical thinking all factor in as well. It’s a big lift, but such efforts are vital for schools to attempt as demand for STEM—from parents, employers, the military, and colleges—increases. Traditional education models may not readily adapt to the hands-on demands of STEM, nor can many practitioners turn on a dime to accommodate a tech-heavy pedagogy. A new report from Michigan Technological University sheds light on some of these complexities that teachers face bringing STEM education into their practice.

Authors Emily Dare, Joshua Ellis, and Gillian Roehrig use observation and interview data to assess the first-time STEM integration efforts of teachers in nine physical science classrooms in different, unnamed middle schools in the United States. The researchers posit that a lack of consensus over best practices and a lack of professional development contribute to the difficulties. Both classroom observation and teacher reflection data for these nine case studies of teachers attempting STEM integration with little...

  1. The bill which proposes, among other things, a consolidation of Ohio’s K-12, higher ed, and workforce development governance structures was the topic of dueling op-eds in the Dispatch this weekend. Fordham’s Aaron Churchill provided the case in support of the proposal. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/25/18) The CEO of the Ohio School Boards Association provided the case against the proposal. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/25/18) There’s even a poll you can take to register your own feelings on the matter. How very civic of the editorial page editors of the D.
  2. I think the folks at the Elyria Chronicle were as surprised as I was by the dueling articles on Lorain school board member Yvonne Johnson which ran in the Chronicle and in the Northern Ohio Morning Journal last week. Specifically, why those two articles seemed to present polar opposite views of her positions. So, they asked her about it. The answers are interesting, cogent, and eye-opening. Take a look. (Elyria Chronicle, 3/24/18) Speaking of taking a second look, you remember that national report released last month that said Ohio ranked second in the nation for equitable school funding? The one that was touted hither, yon, and beyond? Yeah,
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  1. The bill which proposes to, among other things, consolidate the state’s K-12, higher ed, and workforce development governance apparatus is still the talk of the state for some reason. Lots of folks in Northeast Ohio are opposed for some reason. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted herein in support of the bill. Thank goodness. (MyTownNEO, 3/21/18) The reason I say thank goodness for Chad is not only because he’s my boss and he expects such statements, but also because he may soon be the only person making any sense at all in discussion of this bill. Case in point is this piece where a group representing Ohio restaurateurs took the podium this week to complain about some testing and credentialing change that happened a while back and with which they don’t agree. For some reason. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/21/18)
  2. There will be no “balanced calendar” in Youngstown City Schools next year. CEO Krish Mohip deemed the year-round schedule to be too much change too quickly for parents, students, and staff. (Youngstown Vindicator, 3/22/18) Of course, there may be no CEO Krish Mohip in Youngstown next year either, which could lead to some change. Mohip is a finalist
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  1. The General Assembly’s Joint Education Oversight Committee is back in action this week (!) after a three month hiatus. This week’s meeting under a new chair will reevaluate priorities and sound out some issues to pursue for the future. Hope they can think of some good ones. (Gongwer Ohio, 3/19/18) Meanwhile, state supe Paolo DeMaria is traveling around the state kicking the tires on a draft five-year strategic plan with the help of the public, including students. (Canton Repository, 3/20/18)
  2. Speaking of plans, here is more concrete detail (sorry about that pun) on proposed changes to Elyria Schools’ construction plan. Looks like plans for two promised K-4 schools are being shelved in order to keep costs in line. Folks are steamed by the perceived bait-and-switch, but here’s hoping that calm and realistic deliberations will prevail. (Elyria Chronicle, 3/20/18)
  3. In school board news: Lorain City Schools’ Board of Education found time in its no-doubt jam-packed meeting agenda earlier this week to take a vote of no confidence in the district’s CEO. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 3/19/18) Dayton City Schools’ Board of Education, as expected, voted to make the interim district supe the permanent supe.
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Ohio policymakers are currently wrestling with a slew of issues related to transitions from high school to college or career. Among the major topics of debate is the state’s dual-enrollment program—known as College Credit Plus—that allows advanced students an opportunity to take university-level courses while in high school. Dual enrollment, done well, is a fine way to expand opportunities for high achievers, as are Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses and early-college high schools.

What if Ohio also made a more concerted effort to graduate high-achieving students early? Why not encourage students who are ready and willing to head off to college to do just that—rather than asking them to stick it out in high school?

These questions crossed my mind while reading a witty essay by Neerav Kingsland. Reflecting on his own educational experience, Kingsland believes he would have been better off doing other, more productive things during his late high school years. I can relate: In retrospect, going off to college early might’ve been better than suffering through a case of “senioritis.”

To encourage more college-ready students to consider the early graduation route, Ohio legislators could create a scholarship program, something a few other states have...