Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Not much to report today; which is probably fine. The hour-long panel discussion of Lorain’s journey into (and hopefully out of) Academic Distress recorded last week finally aired yesterday on Cleveland public radio’s Sound of Ideas program. Worth a listen. (WCPN-FM, Cleveland, 10/5/17) Meanwhile, Lorain CEO David Hardy is hiring a firm to perform a review of the district’s expenditures – the “culture of our spending,” as he puts it. (Elyria Chronicle, 10/6/17)
  2. Speaking of money, officials at ECOT said mere hours ago that the school’s cash balance will go from plus $17 million to negative $302,000 as early as January and that the school would be forced to close its doors unless the state Supreme Court halts the clawback of funds currently underway due to the results of the school’s attendance audits for the past couple of years. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/6/17)
  3. And since we’ve invested so much in the topic today, let’s conclude by talking about money. Outside of episodes of The Simpsons, interest in nuclear power is waning. As a result, one nuclear plant in Northwest Ohio has been downgraded in value by the Ohio Department of Taxation. The school district in
  4. ...

By expanding access to options including charters, choice advocates hope that more students will reap the benefits of attending high-performing schools. But do all families have charter options in their area? In this study, researchers chart the Ohio landscape and seek to answer two questions: First, where are charter schools located with respect to the poverty and racial demographics of their community? Second, do low-income families have equal access to charter schools?

To answer these questions, researchers Andrew Saultz of the University of Miami and Christopher Yaluma of the Ohio State University (and a Fordham research intern this past summer) collected data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Ohio Department of Education. These data were then used to conduct analyses on the geographic locations of brick-and-mortar charters and the characteristics of their surrounding communities. For the purposes of this study, a family is said to have access to a charter school if they live within a five-mile radius of one.

Unsurprising for those who are familiar with Ohio, the majority of charters are located in large cities like the Big 8 (e.g., Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton). This is almost certainly due to Ohio...

  1. Another outcome of the report card data this year is that three school districts are another step closer to falling into Academic Distress classification due to two years of bad grades. Two of these are near Cleveland, so Patrick O’Donnell took a look at what – if anything – those districts are doing to improve. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/3/17) Speaking of report card data, here is something of a curio. A Blade commentator is both blasting the state report card mechanism and aggressively touting the awesomeness of the Maritime Academy charter school. The problem: some mistaken reporting by the school leader led to a poor outcome on some aspect of the report card (unclear what it is exactly). While I, like the Blade, welcome any opportunity to big up the unique and interesting Maritime Academy, surely the report card issue will be fixed at some point and does little in the short term to harm the sterling reputation the school enjoys among both charter advocates and folks who would normally want to shut down any charter school. (Toledo Blade, 10/2/17)
  2. Back in the real world, the issue of fees charged to some students for use of
  3. ...
Dr. Geno Thomas

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

Lowellville Local Schools in Mahoning County, Ohio, where I am superintendent, has participated in Ohio’s open enrollment program for almost 20 years. Our district enrolls about 600 students annually, about 54 percent of whom attend from outside Lowellville’s district borders through Ohio’s open enrollment option. The program’s impact on our schools and students has been overwhelmingly positive, yet there has been some skepticism about open enrollment across the state. Most of these criticisms seem territorial at heart or seem to stem from a philosophical opposition to choice. Folks might ask, “Why should taxpayers have to pay for students who live outside their district?” or they may wonder about capacity issues, overcrowding, or transportation issues when serving kids outside of their bounds.

But there are other aspects of the program worth knowing about—real benefits for students, families, educators, and communities when districts opt to allow students via open enrollment.

1)      Greater course offerings. In Lowellville, given the manner in which...

On September 15, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) submitted its ESSA plan to the U.S. Department of Education. Ohio’s current accountability system meets most of the stipulations of the new federal law. As a result, Ohio’s federal plan doesn’t make that many changes to state practice.

But there is one under-the-radar ESSA provision that could have a significant impact on Ohio. ESSA explicitly says that when calculating four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, states can only use the percentage of students who earn a regular high school diploma. This diploma is defined as “the standard high school diploma awarded to the preponderance of students in the State that is fully aligned with State standards.” While there’s nothing stopping states from awarding multiple diplomas, the four-year graduation rate that they report to the feds can only be based on a single diploma—whichever one the majority of students earn.

This could have implications for how the state handles graduation for students with special needs, who represent about 15 percent of Ohio students. In a recent presentation to the State Board, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) put it this way:


  1. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: the reach of Aaron Churchill knows no geographic bounds. Here he is commenting on standardized testing in a Pennsylvania news outlet. It appears from this piece that there is no one in all of the Keystone State who supports standardized testing—which is weird—and so the reporter had to go looking far afield for someone to “bless the tests”, as we say around here. But maybe it’s just that no one like that was in the reporter’s contact list. Thank heaven for Aaron’s misspent Pennsylvania youth. (Morning Call, Allentown, PA, 9/30/17)
  2. Speaking of lone voices, data analyst Howard Fleeter appears to be alone in his assessment that Ohio’s school report card data is valuable. At least that’s how it appears in this round up of opinion on report cards from a group of state office holders as compiled by Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/29/17) Oddly enough, the PD has a similar story with a similar tone—albeit with a few less voices in it. This is coverage of a community event held in Shaker Heights last week in which some legislators and state board members talked about report cards. (Cleveland
  3. ...
  1. State supe Paolo DeMaria and veteran analyst Howard Fleeter were featured presenters at this week’s meeting of the House Speaker's Taskforce on Education and Poverty. Truth be told, I didn’t hate what they had to say, especially their focus on schools which are already showing success in closing achievement gaps for students living in poverty. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/28/17)
  2. Kudos to Jeremy Kelley for being the first journalist to look at teacher ratings as part of the recent report card data. Brickbats for the data, which seems somewhat unrealistic. (Dayton Daily News, 9/29/17)
  3. Dear ECOT, I have some questions about your expenditures under the line item ‘advertising’. Give me a call when you get a chance. Sincerely, Auditor Yost (…). P.S. – Please find enclosed several subpoenas and the phone number of the attorney general’s special counsel appointed to help me out on this. TTFN. Dave.” (Columbus Dispatch, 9/27/17) “Dear ECOT (and VCS, but that’s beside the point), still finding some big discrepancies in your attendance audit for last year. Because it wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous year, you may be pleased to find that the enclosed clawback invoice is a much more
  4. ...
  1. I was remiss in not clipping this piece from the massive “CBus Next” education package in the Dispatch last week. It is about “the future of education” and talks a lot about technology – robots, combining science with art and history classes, virtual reality, etc. That well known advocate of MOOCs and online course choice Aaron Churchill is quoted within, which is important. But as a side not: don’t a couple of those schools featured in here sounds really cool? I really think so, but I could be biased. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/22/17)
  2. Speaking of online education, ECOT this week cleared the first hurdle toward its regeneration as a dropout recovery school as the Ohio Department of Educated accepted its report that the majority of its students are in need of a special program for at-risk students. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/26/17)
  3. And speaking of alternatives to the status quo, let’s not forget the original “opt out”: homeschooling, which is still a sizeable slice of the education pie here in Ohio. And it’s gotten more sophisticated too: with “homeschool cooperatives” evolving to provide unique experiences for students and families well beyond the kitchen table. Take a look
  4. ...

You have no doubt seen numerous media stories regarding the recent release of school report card data in Ohio. As supporters of a robust accountability system, we urge you to pay attention to the stories and the ongoing discussion. The success of our public schools (charter and district) in doing the vital work with which they are entrusted must be assessed, reported, and analyzed. Schools which evidence success should be lauded, emulated, and expanded to reach as many students as possible. Schools which struggle in any area should be highlighted and helped to improve if possible.

None of these things can happen without robust data and clear-eyed analysis.

Fordham has worked for many years to be a source of unbiased analysis, research, and commentary on the state’s annual report card data. With Ohio’s most recent data release having occurred in mid-September, we have published the following:

  1. Two separate stories; a similar theme. That theme is the correlation between test scores and race/income as reflected in state report card data. First up, Aaron is quoted on that topic in the Dispatch. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/24/17) Next up, Chad is quoted on that topic at length on statewide public television. (State of Ohio, via Ideastream Public Media, 9/22/17) Well, now that we’re all agreed (thanks to the data that we have at hand), on with the solutions, right?
  2. We interrupt your regularly-scheduled report card data update to bring you this “news”: the Ohio Department of Education isn’t currently planning to change its process for verifying students’ “at-risk” status despite the fact that ECOT will soon be entering into said process. Chad is on hand to suggest that if this is a problem for folks (well duh), the legislature may want to consider inducing a change. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/23/17)
  3. Returning to report card-related pieces, editors in Youngstown this weekend opined upon the district’s still-dismal report card and how that may affect their support for the CEO. Ouch. (Youngstown Vindicator, 9/24/17) You will note that despite their angst (perhaps understandable given that the CEO’s “latitude”
  4. ...