Ohio Gadfly Daily

One of the animating spirits of the rise of STEM education is the push for innovation—new technologies, new applications, new solutions to intractable problems. But is cultivating that creative ability as common an outcome in students as tech enthusiasts would lead us to believe? A recent study by a team of researchers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) attempted to determine whether a gift for innovative thinking is merely something that prompts students to choose STEM classes, or whether it can be cultivated among those who believe they do not have that gift. The conclusion is that with billions of dollars of investment in STEM, American K–12 education could be putting its eggs in an unstable basket.

The locus of their work was an app-design contest open to all undergraduate students taking classes at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering, whose winners would be determined by a panel of tech entrepreneurs and executives. Prize money was offered for the top three finishers, and the winners need not have progressed as far as a useable electronic prototype in order to compete; judges would be looking at things such as written plans and design mock-ups as seriously as they would...


If you were on vacation earlier this month—lucky you—you may have missed the release of the 2017 NAEP results. On the whole, you didn’t miss much. With NAEP results flat in much of the country, the prevailing narrative is that education progress has stalled. There were some exceptions around the country, like Florida, that continued to make impressive gains. Unfortunately, Ohio wasn’t one of those exceptions, as my colleague Aaron Churchill has explained.

Don’t take my word for it though, here are some data comparing Ohio and Florida’s NAEP performance.[1]

In summary, Florida is now cleaning Ohio’s clock on NAEP. But that wasn’t always the case: Notice how in 2003 Ohio had better NAEP scores in both fourth and eighth grade reading and math for black and low-income students. In 2017, Florida was superior in EVERY one of those categories. Florida’s most disadvantaged students made tremendous gains while Ohio’s languished. The progress hasn’t been limited to historically...

  1. Data from Fordham’s new 2018 edition of Ohio Education by the Numbers is quoted in this piece which discusses a proposed moratorium on imposition of new Academic Distress Commissions in Ohio—no matter how low a district’s performance sinks. Luckily, the Fordham-provided data are accurate, because there is some serious misinformation about ADCs in here. (Elyria Chronicle, 4/28/18)
  2. The biggest piece of misinformation in the above article is the assertion that the state chooses/imposes/installs (select one as your dudgeon level compels you) the CEO. Of course, that duty falls to the Academic Distress Commission members themselves. Speaking of which, after some weeks of chaos in Youngstown, one of the several empty ADC seats has been filled with what sounds like a very solid choice. (Youngstown Vindicator, 4/27/18)
  3. OK. So setting aside the misinformation and the high-quality, dedicated ADC members working away to help improve education for students in Youngstown and Lorain (and, presumably, in any other district which falls under Academic Distress designation), apparently we’re still anti-ADC these days here in Ohio. In that case, let’s take a look at a district long on the cusp of Academic Distress designation—Fordham’s hometown schools in Dayton—and see how things
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  1. A weird and less-coherent-than-usual set of clips to end the week. First up, a middle school track meet was postponed this week after aggressive geese, protecting their nest on the infield near Lane 1, could not be moved. Concerns for student safety prevailed. And in what remote, bucolic outpost of Ohio did this beastliness occur? Right here in the big city of Columbus. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/26/18)
  2. Athletics-related problems of a far more human kind continue to dog Dayton City Schools. A court decision in the district’s favor last month, which affected then-current basketball playoffs for multiple teams in Dayton and elsewhere, was proven to be incorrect as new evidence surfaced this week. There are a lot of allegations flying around, and it will take a long time before everything is settled, but the viability of most (if not all) of the district’s varsity athletics currently hangs in the balance. (Dayton Daily News, 4/26/18)
  3. Speaking of flying allegations, a couple of the newly-announced turnaround principals in Lorain are under scrutiny; and with them, the entirety of the search process. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 4/26/18)
  4. Perhaps Portsmouth High School should rethink their mascot and dump the
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  1. We start today’s clips with some good news—and about the cutest, nerdiest sibling rivalry video you’re likely to see today. Longtime Fordham friends will be familiar with Reynoldsburg High School and Columbus State Community College grad Danya Hamad, something of a prodigy whose accelerated academic path had been made possible in part by utilization of interdistrict open enrollment. Well, right behind her was her equally-precocious brother David, who will shortly receive his own degree from Columbus State, and become the youngest-ever graduate thereof, just beating his sister by three months. Both are headed to big bright futures. (WBNS-TV, Columbus, 4/24/18)
  2. Speaking of interdistrict open enrollment, here is a not-so-good news story about the internal workings of this longstanding school choice option—heavily utilized but often loathed by districts. Liberty Local Schools near Youngstown reportedly sees 250 resident students each year opt to leave the district via open enrollment and to attend school in other neighboring districts. One hundred of those students typically end up in Girard City Schools, “taking” families and money away with them. Liberty’s board this week voted—for the first time ever, it appears—to limit the number of students able to leave for Girard (and Girard
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  1. Regular Ohio Gadfly readers will already be aware of the education positions of the various gubernatorial candidates here in Ohio. But the Dispatch went right to the sources for the info instead of scouring papers like we had to and got some more thorough details by doing so. Here are the stated education positions of the Democrat primary candidates. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/22/18). And here are the stated education positions of the Republican primary candidates. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/22/18)
  2. As you may have noticed in the clips above, most of the gubernatorial candidates of both parties are campaigning on a promise to scale back standardized testing in Ohio. This is presumably so that the Buckeye State’s school children do not end up being “just a number in a chart”. Should one of those candidates win and that winner actually make good on that particular campaign promise, what then might replace testing to determine how kids are doing across the state? How about an “engagement index”? Here is a detailed examination of such an index of self-reported data from students. With it, one can plot the admitted degree of love for learning and admitted student academic challenge on a
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Achievement gaps between poor and minority students and their peers are well documented and persistent. For years, data indicate that these students have generally been making slow but steady progress. But now results from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) cast doubt on whether they remain on an upward trajectory. Nationally, the most recent trends have been flat to downwards for both black and Hispanic students, as well as for those in the bottom 10 percent in achievement.

Does Ohio follow the national trends? In this post, we’ll take a look at the NAEP data for Ohio’s low-income pupils and black students. Though not discussed here, average achievement among Hispanic students also lags behind their peers (their NAEP performance can be seen here). In contrast to Ohio’s state tests, which have changed in recent years, NAEP’s math and reading exams have remained largely consistent and provide a big-picture sense of the direction achievement is moving in Ohio. Keep in mind that NAEP takes “snapshots” of different students every two years; hence, it’s difficult to draw conclusions about what’s causing changes seen in the data. The shift to tablet assessments in 2017 may...

  1. In case you missed it, panic ensued in schools newsrooms across the state on Wednesday when a glitch in the AIR login process required rescheduling tests in a number of school districts. Things were back to normal on Thursday; at least at the schools. One assumes the newsrooms were still on edge. Completely coincidentally, the power went out at my daughter’s school on Wednesday, sending everyone home at 11:30. I am still awaiting the calls to ditch the power grid in favor of squirrels on wheels. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/19/18)
  2. Back in the real world, some North Coast school officials are weighing in on proposed legislation that would scrap Ohio’s award winning school report cards in favor of something that looks like the gauges and dials on the dashboard of a non-award winning 1987 Yugo. Reading the piece in detail, it seems that said officials are more in the camp of “tweak” and not “scrap”. The report cards, that is, not the Yugos. Seriously, those things were junk. (Norwalk Reflector, 4/20/18)
  3. Staying in the real world for a moment, a school building in Cleveland is way under capacity and CMSD has determined that it’s too difficult and
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  1. Can you stand hearing more about A-to-F grading for Ohio’s schools? Me too! This piece posits two factions competing to redesign report cards before the overall A-to-F grading of schools and districts is implemented. One is the General Assembly via HB 591. The other is the State Board of Education via a lot of review panels. Both of these factions are against the idea of a single overall grade and want it stopped before it goes into effect, even if a replacement isn’t at hand by then. Added to the discussion are “outside” perspectives: a former state board member (who also doesn’t seem to care for overall A-to-F grades) and Fordham (whose detailed report card redesign—including overall A-to-F grades—is discussed and quoted here). I can just feel the love. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/17/18)
  2. At last! The Ohio State University has finally closed a deal with Columbus City Schools to buy up a long-vacant former school building. Last we heard, back in November, the two titanic bureaucracies were unable to finalize a deal despite preferential consideration for the university and a bargain-basement price offered to them. At that time, it was said that the labyrinthine nature of decision
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John Kasich is wrapping up his second term as Governor of Ohio and likely his career in public service. In a moment of reflection, he recently quipped, “I've tried to change two institutions during my career. One is the Pentagon and the other is the education system. And I've largely failed on both.”

His influence on military reform is best left to someone else to analyze, but let’s dig into his education record. What follows are a few of the most noteworthy K–12 reform efforts—in no particular order—occurring under his watch and a brief assessment of their likely long-term impact.

Instituting A-to-F school grades

Governor Kasich’s first term included establishing a few significant academic accountability measures, most notably A-to-F school grades intended to make school quality data clearer and more useful for parents and the general public.

Implemented in phases over several years, A-to-F school grades have ruffled more than a few feathers. The pushback has been strongest in suburban areas where schools sometimes receive lower grades than popular perception would suggest they deserve. The complexity of some of the graded measures combined with the sheer volume of grades received by each school cuts against the purpose...