Ohio Gadfly Daily

In a paper titled Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement, the Ohio Department of Education recently wrote that districts have “a limited understanding of how to build early literacy in young children.” This is manifestly troubling, as so much in life hinges on reading fluency—and it’s not as if there were a dearth of quality research on how kids learn to read. This is, in fact, one of the most thoroughly analyzed parts of schooling. (Fordham’s new literacy lifelines offer concise practical advice based in research.)

If this what-is-known and how-to-do-it knowledge isn’t well-lodged in the minds of district leaders and practitioners in Ohio schools, something needs to change. One can go back to Jeanne Chall’s 1967 book or the report in 2000 from the National Reading Panel. But a more recent and accessible review is a fine paper by Anne Castles, Kathleen Rastle, and Kate Nation. In what they call a “comprehensive tutorial review on the science of learning to read,” the authors review the major research findings and offer insight on how evidence can inform practice. The paper is organized around three general phases of literacy development, which they define as: (1) cracking...


Weighted student funding, also known as student-based budgeting (SBB), is a funding mechanism that aims to allocate school resources more equitably. Rather than having districts fund schools based on staffing and resource needs, SBB requires districts to provide a base amount to each school for each student and then adds supplemental funding based on student characteristics such as poverty, disability, limited English proficiency, or academic proficiency. Transitioning to a SBB model doesn’t necessarily give schools more money—it just changes how school leaders are able to use allocated money. (For more information on SBB, see here, here and here.)

Two of the biggest differences between SBB and traditional school funding formulas are flexibility and transparency. In districts that use a traditional funding model, school leaders have limited knowledge about how central offices choose to dole out funds and almost zero control over how to spend the funds they receive. School leaders in districts that use SBB models, on the other hand, can easily determine how funds are awarded and have more autonomy to direct their schools’ funds toward student needs. 

To promote SBB, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act authorized a pilot program for districts interested in this...

  1. As you may have seen in media outlets both social and not, Monday’s opening of the I Promise School in Akron was quite the event. Here’s a sample of some coverage from the hometown paper but there’s plenty more where that came from should you want it. Hopefully the documentary camera crew was there on Day Two, because it seems no other media outlet (social or otherwise) was present. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/30/18)
  2. Yesterday, however, editors in Canton did opine on the golden opportunity presented by both Akron’s I Promise and Canton’s own AIM Academy, both on Day Two of operation. Yes, they mean an opportunity for students to succeed. (Canton Repository, 7/31/18)
  3. Not to be outdone by the NBA, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns this week announced a new effort to assist students in Lorain City Schools who may have trouble affording uniforms. The support this year will allow for deeply discounted “Titan Pride Packages” of clothing. The goal is to eventually raise enough support to provide those packages free of charge to every Lorain student. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 7/31/18) The Browns’ purchasing office might want to hold off on that initial order for
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Since 2007, Ohio’s minimum wage has climbed from $6.85 per hour to the current rate of $8.30. Earlier this year, state Democratic leaders introduced a bill that would further accelerate minimum wage increases to $15.00 per hour by 2025. Though unlikely to pass this year, the legislation is part of a national debate about what constitutes a “living wage” for employees who may be trying to make ends meet for their families. My intention is not to jump into the rancorous discourse around wage floors for grown-ups. But it is worth examining how escalating minimum wages might affect work opportunities for teenagers. In my view, if we want to promote more teenage employment, Ohio policymakers should consider setting a youth minimum wage that differs from that of adults.

Figure 1 shows some national data on teenage employment trends. There’s been a dramatic decline in the employment of sixteen- to nineteen-year-olds over the past forty years. In 1980, almost 60 percent of young people in this age range held part- or full-time jobs; that number has since fallen to just 35 percent. This drop in teenage employment diverges from the general working-age population trend, which has remained steady over...

  1. Fordham’s own Mike Petrilli and Amber Northern have an editorial published in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer, discussing the findings of the recent Charter School Deserts report and urging changes in Ohio law that could address those issues here in the Buckeye State. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/30/18)
  2. One of the law changes championed by my bosses in their op-ed above is access to state facilities funding for charter schools in Ohio. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but I personally think it will be a cold day in Hell, California, before that happens. I will submit this piece from Columbus as Exhibit A to support my downbeat assertion. It simultaneously besmirches the current funding sources charters must utilize, belittles a local charter for “not looking like a school”, and casts aspersions because the operators dared to try and make a non-purpose-built building (which most charters cannot do) look and function more like a school. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/29/18)
  3. Meanwhile, school leaders from various districts, Catholic, and Christian schools in Stark County were approached by the Repository to tell readers why they are so awesome and what they are doing to remain awesome and maybe even to get more awesome in the
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OhDELA testing new approach to online learning

The Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy (OhDELA) is now working with ACCEL Schools. The charter school’s new operator, ACCEL CEO Ron Packard, recently announced his plans for improving OhDELA’s performance using a “new approach to online learning.” Some of the changes include requiring more in-person meetings between students and teachers, doing less advertising to ensure they’re recruiting students who are truly well-suited for online classes, and more.

It’s time to be pragmatic about online charter schools

Last month, the General Assembly passed two pieces of legislation (SB 216 and HB 87) that, among other things, seek to address some of the issues that have plagued online charter schools in Ohio. But an important measure (from HB 707—a bill that didn’t pass) that would have required ODE to adopt rules allowing online charter schools to disenroll students for not “actively participating in learning opportunities” didn’t pass. Fordham’s Chad Aldis believes Ohio needs to revisit this recommendation—he explains why here.

IDEA schools success story

This week, Idea Public Schools’ superintendent Joann Gama is celebrating: All 849 seniors from her charter schools graduated this...

  1. As we have discussed previously, Madison Local Schools near Mansfield has been engaged in a monthslong kerfuffle with a number of district parents over implementation of a new STEM curriculum in elementary and middle schools. This week, the board voted unanimously to implement the curriculum as a “mandatory elective” for just one year to start, and with a “contingency plan” in place to assuage parental fears. Assuring these folks that STEM is not an indoctrination program created by aliens from Alpha Centauri appears to be full time work for the supe and her board going forward. (Mansfield News Journal, 7/25/18)
  2. Speaking of trepidation, it sounds like some very important folks are saying “maybe” to the Say Yes to Education program’s adoption in Cleveland. “Unless accompanied by deeper reform of the education system as a whole, and of the inequality underlying it, even the most ambitious, innovative and sustained efforts will have, at best, modest results.” This is part of the conclusion reached by researchers from Brookings whose recent report takes a look at several Say Yes cities as extended case studies. Issues such as existing resources, data collection and availability, and racial equality all are areas of
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Online charter schools have been front-page material in every major Ohio newspaper for the past two years. The coverage, largely focused on the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), has featured the very public funding dispute between ECOT and the Ohio Department of Education, a host of legal proceedings, the school’s mid-year closure and subsequent displacement of 12,000 students, and the political rush from both parties to take credit or assess blame for the entire situation.

Last month, the General Assembly passed two pieces of legislation (Senate Bill 216 and House Bill 87) that, among other things, seek to address some of the issues that have plagued online charters in Ohio. A quick overview of the changes can be found in this summary of education-related legislation for the first half of 2018. The online charter provisions, while generally recognized as being positive, also drew criticism for not going far enough. This is likely because another piece of legislation—House Bill 707, which was introduced in mid-June by Republican Representatives Reineke and Faber—had even stronger accountability provisions, many of which came from recommendations made by Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost.


  1. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but summer will be over sooner than you think. Don’t blame me; blame LeBron James. Because his new I Promise School in Akron opens next week! I’m sure the documentary camera crew will be there for LeBron’s big day, which is apropos, given this piece talking about the high tech media lab which the new school will contain, thanks to generous support. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/23/18)
  2. Akron may have LeBron and his foundation, but not to be outdone, Youngstown has former Buckeye Maurice Clarett. Specifically, it has The Red Zone, a behavioral health agency founded by Clarett that works to support students facing “tremendous personal obstacles that inhibit them from doing well in school”. A new report indicates that whatever The Red Zone is doing, it has helped raise some GPAs for Y’town students. Interesting. (WFMJ-TV, Youngstown, 7/23/18)
  3. However, Akron City Schools has another big player on its team as well—Bridgestone. This week, it was announced that the tire giant will be the sponsor of the new Academy of Applied Engineering and Technology at East High School. With their support and $200,000 contribution, the
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A couple of years ago, I had the honor of interviewing for a vacancy on my local school board. Working at an education think tank, especially one that supports school choice, leads many to assume I’m not supportive of traditional public schools. They are mistaken. My three kids have all attended their neighborhood schools, and my school district is a critical part of my community. So serving on the board seemed like an amazing opportunity to give back to that community and learn more about the challenges school boards face.

I didn’t anticipate receiving, and ultimately didn’t get, the position, but the interview process was positive and educational. Being a school board member is clearly hard work. Most members have full-time jobs, but they still spend a significant amount of time participating in and preparing for full board and committee meetings, attending other community-related obligations, and representing the board at school-sponsored events. And that’s only part of the work. Members also play an important role in contract negotiations and spearheading efforts to pass school levies—and do it all for shockingly little pay. School board service is not for the faint of heart.

My short-lived candidacy, and day job as an...