Ohio Gadfly Daily

It’s no secret that teaching kids how to read is extremely important. Research shows that children who don’t read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. And statistics on the impact of adult illiteracy are staggering: Low literacy costs the U.S. approximately $225 billion each year in crime, non-productivity in the workforce, and lost tax revenue due to unemployment.

The abundance of research on the importance of early literacy is the driving force behind policies like Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Under the guarantee, third graders who are unable to meet a minimum score on the state reading test are retained in third grade (with some exceptions) so they can receive extra support. The effectiveness of this policy depends greatly on the reading instruction that students receive, which in turn depends significantly on how well educators have been prepared to teach foundational reading concepts.

Although there’s no shortage of information about how best to teach reading—the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) released an important set of recommendations in July 2016, for example—teacher preparation programs aren’t necessarily integrating these methods into their...

  1. The list of individuals whose personal wallets the state can tap to claw back funds from the moldering and far-more-extensive-than-you-might-have-though remains of ECOT seems nearly endless when you read this piece. The attorney general (and his successor too, I imagine) is drawing up a list. Fordham’s own Chad Aldis sounds a little skeptical of this approach. I certainly wouldn’t blame him if he were. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/10/18)
  2. The topic of chronic absenteeism in brick and mortar schools is tangentially related to the above, of course. But let’s leave behind the “active learner” nuance and return to the more familiar business of “butts in seats”. New-ish rules about tracking and reporting chronic absenteeism (hours missed vs. full days) have got some schools and districts working hard to intervene before certain butts are out of seats for too long. The most interesting thing here, as usual, is the difference between urban and suburban districts, especially in terms of why kids are absent. (Dayton Daily News, 8/13/18)
  3. Speaking of school districts with a history of attendance tracking problems, here’s a nice profile of the central enrollment center in Columbus City Schools. Looks great, cost a bunch, and took
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Since the inception of Ohio’s charter school program in 1998, gallons of ink have been spilled documenting the missteps of a few charter operators. The most highly scrutinized have been the for-profit operators White Hat Management (R.I.P.), along with Altair Management and IQ Innovations, the companies with whom the felled ECOT contracted.

Unfortunately, the high-profile controversies surrounding these for-profit (and politically active) titans have stoked a narrative that paints all charters as “corporatizers” out to make a buck. With politicians routinely using this storyline to score political points, this notion has been amplified further. Just this week Ohio Democratic Chair David Pepper released a statement calling the state home to a “corrupt for-profit charter school system.”

There is no excuse for either corporate cronyism or government corruption. But these for-profit tall tales fail to tell the whole truth about charter schools. Let’s review the key points.

First, it’s inaccurate to call charter schools for-profits. Just like most museums, libraries, and hospitals, charter schools are organized as nonprofit organizations. In Ohio, all charter schools are officially considered public benefit corporations, which under state law must be a nonprofit entity. Moreover, charter schools are public schools—and, again,...

  1. With so much great news this week, Ohio’s education reporters could be forgiven if they are not sure where to focus their time and effort first. Here is a very brief look at the departure of White Hat Management from the charter school management space in Ohio. (WOSU-FM, Columbus, 8/8/18) Luckily for the overtaxed reporters, Fordham’s Chad Aldis has prodigious capacity to comment on any and all important stuff. He is quoted in the above White Hat piece, and in this Gongwer piece which discusses possible next steps following the Ohio Supreme Court ruling against the remains of ECOT this week. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/9/18)
  2. Why would reporters still be picking apart the moldering corpse of ECOT? Heaven only knows. Especially when they could just step back, declare victory silently in their heads, and let their editors go for broke with the full freedom and poetic license present on the commentary pages. Cases in point, editors in Akron opined in full-throated approval… (Akron Beacon Journal, 8/8/18) …as did editors in Toledo. (Toledo Blade, 8/9/18) Rough indeed.
  3. Speaking of rough, the start of the school year can, apparently, be stressful for kids. “Kids carry a
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Governor Kasich signs HB 87 and SB 216 into law

Last Friday, Governor Kasich signed into law two pieces of legislation that will affect charter schools—HB 87 and SB 216. HB 87 (which was signed with a number of amendments) will make changes to rules around community school audits. SB 216, on the other hand, will revamp Ohio’s teacher evaluation system, tweak teacher licensure provisions, allow districts to administer paper and pencil assessments to third graders, and make a variety of changes related to online charter schools. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools praised the bill in a statement they released last Friday.

Ohio Supreme Court rules on ECOT

More than two years of litigation appears to be coming to an end. On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings and determined that the state acted lawfully when it ordered the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to repay $80 million in tax dollars for unverified enrollment. You can learn more about the court’s decision here.

LeBron James’ I Promise School

LeBron James helped to open a new school in Akron last week that’s drawing deserved praise from across...

  1. Reporter Josh Sweigart is still digging deeply into the difficulties facing Dayton City Schools. Case in point: his look at six factors that contribute to the observed achievement gap between black and white students in the district. He takes a deeply historical approach to his analysis here. (Dayton Daily News, 8/7/18) The difference between that piece and this one – looking at the topic of student health and academic achievement based upon survey responses from schools and districts around Montgomery County – could not be more stark. Forget about cultural bias and food insecurity; these schools are apparently worried their students’ hearts could stop at any moment! (Dayton Daily News, 8/8/18)
  2. The newest academy concept school operated by Toledo City Schools made its debut this week. The Aerospace & Natural Science Academy of Toledo opened in renovated digs at the airport. Sounds generally STEM-my and interesting, but I do wonder whether this much sauce was really required to get kids into the Air Force. Two interesting points in this brief story: First, unlike previous academies we’ve reported on, it seems that all the support for this one is coming from the district itself – $4.5 million was
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Geez. When you take LeBron out of the equation don’t read the sports page, there’s a lot less education news to talk about these days. What is out there is “eclectic”.

  1. Dedicated Gadfly Bites subscribers (my quality quintet!) may recall that despite the massive efforts of CEO Krish Mohip, a recent ODE review of Youngstown City Schools’ progress on its strategic plan showed that the one place reforms have had trouble reaching was the classroom. Specifically, high-quality standards-aligned curriculum and instruction were clearly lacking in almost every building. Mohip and the Academic Distress Commission that employs him are working to fix this glaring problem through professional development, accurate assessment, and data analytics. One assumes they are in a hurry to get this nailed down since school will be starting again soon. (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/4/18)
  2. Speaking of the new school year, here’s a look at Kindergarten readiness among youngsters in Summit County. It is, apparently, not very high and school districts across the county are trying to change that dynamic. It’s been a long time since I had children in Kindergarten, but I am pretty sure the bar is higher than being able to rhyme words and tie
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You’ve probably heard by now that basketball superstar LeBron James opened a school for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Called I Promise School (IPS), it’s a joint effort between the I Promise Network, the LeBron James Family Foundation, and Akron Public Schools. The newly renovated building opened its doors on July 30 to 240 students in third and fourth grade, along with forty-three staff members. Though he’s taking his talents to Los Angeles, King James himself was on hand to dedicate the new school.

Just like students who are part of the I Promise Network that serves more than 1,300 children and their families across the district, IPS students were identified based on their reading achievement data. After identifying students who were a year or two behind grade level, administrators used a lottery to randomly select which children would be offered a spot at the new school. These students will receive free uniforms, transportation within two miles, tuition to the University of Akron when they graduate, a bicycle and helmet, and a variety of other resources. Their families will have access to GED classes, job placement assistance, and a food pantry.

James is being lavished with praise...


While the so-called “word gap” between children from low and high socioeconomic circumstances continues, as it has for decades, to get much attention, researchers are continuing to dig deeper into the quantity and quality of language with which young children interact. There is more to successful language acquisition than just pouring more words into their ears. A new study from a University of Miami (FL) team led by Lynn Perry adds some small-scale evidence to support the primacy of quality over quantity in language interaction, but also adds a twist.

The twist is perhaps the most interesting part. Rather than focusing on the much-studied parent-child interactions at home, Perry and company looked at language interaction for children in a daycare setting, recording and analyzing the quantity and quality of language in five-minute increments during forty-two recording days over a full year. This includes adult-child and peer-peer interactions in both structured and unstructured situations. Using the Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) device, the researchers were able to collect data on the quantity of language expressed by each child, the quantity of language heard, differentiation of adult versus peer language, and language quality as defined by conversational turns between children and...



Ohio House Education Committee chair voices support for charters

This week, Representative Andrew Brenner, Chairman of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee, penned a blog that’s featured on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ website. Rep. Brenner explains why he supports charter public schools and how they provide opportunities for students to reach their potentials.

New LGBTQ-affirming charter school to open in Cleveland

The Albert Einstein Academies of Ohio, a group of charter public schools serving students in Cleveland, is opening a LGBTQ-affirming school in grades 9-12 this fall. Superintendent Dr. Bruce Thomas said the idea for the school was created after he and his team of school leaders saw a clear lack of resources for LGBTQ students in the area. The school will include a comprehensive and inclusive curriculum, mental and physical health resources, and tailored social supports.

Match Charter School shares its curriculum

In an effort called Match Fishtank, Match Charter School (a PreK-12 public school in Boston) is sharing the standards-based curriculum that it has developed and refined over the last 15 years. The goal is to share good baseline curriculum and assessments with...