Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. The state board of education met this week, and two big topics were on the front burner. First up: graduation requirements. Board members are said here to be considering a “menu of options” for changes to those requirements. Seems to me that it’s a menu like this that got Taco Bell voted Best Mexican restaurant in America. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted within, seeming to have that same queasy feeling. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/18/18) Speaking of same, Jeremy Kelley has used a testy Twitter exchange as the basis of his piece looking at the difference between Fordham’s position on graduation requirements and State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria’s position. Classy. (Dayton Daily News, 9/19/18) Seems that the General Assembly may have a couple of objections to the menu items on offer as well. Maybe if it comes down to a chalupa or nothing, though… (Gongwer Ohio, 9/18/18) The other big topic was state report cards. Board members aired their various complaints this week. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/17/18)
  2. As we noted on Monday, schools and districts seem to have a limited set of responses to their report cards. Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon – in his
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Setting a high standard and then backing away from it the way Ohio policymakers have done repeatedly over the last few years is not wise governance. It leaves schools and students in a constant state of flux, makes it difficult for schools and parents to evaluate progress, and communicates a lack of faith in the state’s students, teachers, and schools.

The development of a strategic plan for education offered policymakers a clear opportunity to get something right after years of getting it wrong—a chance to propose rigorous and data-driven academic goals and then actually stick to them. Unfortunately, that opportunity passed by unseized. Rather than propose an ambitious goal, the plan does the opposite. It proposes something so vague and easily achievable that policymakers won’t need to back down because schools and students won’t have any trouble achieving it. Take a look:

Ohio will increase annually the percentage of its high school graduates who, one year after graduation, are:

  • Enrolled and succeeding in a post-high school learning experience, including an adult career-technical education program, an apprenticeship and/or a two-year or four-year college program;
  • Serving in a military branch;
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Last Thursday, Ohio released annual school report cards that offer parents and communities an objective review of the academic performance of its roughly 600 districts and 3,500 public schools. Much of the focus has understandably been on the “bottom line,” as this year’s reports included for the first time overall A through F grades that combine the many separate elements of the report card, much like GPAs do for students. In cities like Dayton and Columbus, the bottom-line F’s assigned to their school systems naturally made for depressing headlines.

Nobody should ignore or excuse the district-level results, as they speak volumes about the leadership and governance of those school systems—and about the often-challenging demographics of the children who fill them. But it’s also important to dive deeper and look at campus-level data. After all, children attend schools where education is actually delivered. It’s doubly important in Ohio’s major cities, as children have many school options—including public charters and district-operated schools—that vary widely in their report-card ratings. These differences are important for families to see and understand, as they should influence parents’ decisions about where to enroll their children. They’re also critical for civic and philanthropic leaders wishing to...

  1. Media analysis of school report cards continued apace over the weekend and into today. First up, the usual thorough look at non-district schools’ data courtesy of Jeremy Kelley. Our own Aaron Churchill is quoted and two of Fordham’s sponsored charter schools are namechecked here. Kudos to Jeremy again this year for including the local STEM school’s report card data as well. (Dayton Daily News, 9/17/18)
  2. It is interesting to note in the above story how the analysis has turned quickly from just overall grades to some of the other report card measures –most specifically, test scores. Ditto for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. According to Patrick O’Donnell: “Cleveland students improved their test scores and narrowed the gap between them and the state average” this year. Some pretty darned good news, it seems, despite the relative lowness of those numbers overall. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/14/18)
  3. Of course, if the test scores numbers are not good news, we have a couple of standard responses. First up is the “inadvertent data error” charge. (Richland Source, 9/13/18) Or maybe it’s the “our kids are more than test scores” argument. With a side of apples and oranges. (Zanesville Times-Recorder,
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  1. We start today with the last preview piece ahead of the release of state report card data, published late on Tuesday. Fordham is namechecked and Aaron is quoted in this story, specifically regarding the depth and accuracy of Ohio’s report cards. (Dayton Daily News, 9/12/18)
  2. The report card data was released yesterday morning and initial coverage followed quickly after. These first wave reports are mainly about the overall grade that schools and districts received—the first time in six years that a comprehensive letter grade has been given as the new report card protocols were phased in. The following clips all include quotes from Chad; his main point generally that this year is a “return to normalcy” in data and reporting after the extended phase-in period. You can find coverage in the Enquirer… (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/13/18) …and in the PD… (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/13/18) …and in Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/13/18)
  3. Aaron had been quoted in the initial Dispatch coverage yesterday—discussing the performance of central Ohio suburban districts—but the revised version omits him. Can’t imagine why. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/18)
  4. Here is some coverage of state report cards from which Fordham was absent right from
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What’s slowing down the growth of charter schools?

Charter school growth in Ohio and around the country has slowed. Amy Wilkins, Senior Vice President of Advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, recently joined Todd Feinburg on his radio show to talk about why and the important role that charters play in the public education ecosystem. Listen here.  

DeWine’s plan for education and charter schools

Last week, Mike DeWine, Republican candidate for governor, released his education agenda. Although it didn’t focus on charter schools, he has pledged to hold online schools more accountable by establishing a pay-for-performance model that requires students to show competency on end-of-course exams before an online school receives all of its state aid. You can read his full plan here.

Cordray’s plan for education and charter schools

This week, Richard Cordray, Democratic candidate for governor, unveiled his plan for education. He would (among other things) directly fund all charter schools with state funds, permit only nonprofit charter operators, and apply all regulations that apply to traditional public schools to charter schools. Click here to read the full plan.

Charter school effects on district...


Today, the Ohio Department of Education released school report cards based on data from the 2017-18 school year. For two decades, Ohio’s report cards have offered an important annual check on the performance of school districts and public schools that serve 1.6 million K-12 students. Starting with the 2012-13 school year, Ohio has gradually implemented a new A to F report-card framework, and this year’s iteration marks the completion of this transition by instituting a summative grade for both schools and districts.  

“For many years, Ohio provided an overall district and school rating,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “But with the shift to more rigorous standards and assessments, the state suspended the overall designation at the end of the 2011-12 school year. This year marks a return to normalcy, as Ohio now offers an overall grade that combines its disparate report-card elements.”

“Issuing a single prominent rating, much like an overall GPA, will provide families and communities a summary of a school’s overall level of academic achievement,” Aldis continued. “At the same time, the continued availability of component grades ensures important indicators of a school’s strengths and weaknesses...

  1. The Senate President weighed in again this week on the topic of graduation requirements. He wants a long-term, permanent proposal to consider, it seems, and remains uninterested in extending temporary options. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/10/18)
  2. It apparently took three reporters to craft this piece looking at various aspects of school report cards, imminently to be released. (Akron Beacon Journal, 6/11/18) A variation of this piece was also published in the Columbus Dispatch.
  3. I don’t usually clip blogs or press releases around here, but credit where credit is due: The Ohio Arts Council this week announced the launch of an online data widget that very thoroughly presents the state of arts education in Ohio’s public schools. And I mean every public school. It is a fascinating look, filterable by county, city, and district and it includes data on charter and STEM schools too. If you want to bypass the blog, you can access the widget itself here. I think this is proof positive that reports of the death of arts education have been exaggerated. (Ohio Arts Council blog, 9/10/18)
  4. The Ohio Mayors Alliance threw a shindig in Columbus this week. Lots of bigwigs
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  1. A quiet weekend in clips, but what we do have is all on the same topic: report cards. The Plain Dealer is looking toward the release of state report cards later this week. There is a lot of focus on the three districts on the brink of an academic distress designation—one is cautiously optimistic, the other two seem resigned to their fate. Chad Aldis is on hand as the sole voice in support of overall school grades, to make their debut on report cards at long last this year. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/10/18)
  2. Same anticipation is afoot in the Mahoning Valley. Most of the word count is reserved for Youngstown CEO Krish Mohip, who is expecting to see some good outcomes on growth measures for his district. The rest of the districts interviewed here seem to be expecting status quo. (Youngstown Vindicator, 9/9/18)
  3. Finally, state legislators have their eyes peeled for those report cards as well. The chairs of the education committees in both House and Senate assert that report card data will influence any future discussion of changing the state’s graduation requirements that occur in their respective chambers this fall. Can’t wait. Link
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In the final days of August, the Ohio Department (ODE) of Education and the State Board of Education released their five-year strategic plan for education. It includes a state-level vision, a goal focused on high school graduates, four learning domains, ten priority strategies, and three core principles.

The bulk of the plan is a breakdown of the ten strategies that ODE and SBOE plan to use to achieve their declared goal. Although each of these strategies is worth studying in depth, there are three in particular—those that are aimed at improving standards, assessments, and accountability—that deserve a close look:

Strategy 4: Identify clear learning standards and guidelines that reflect all four equal learning domains.

Strategy 5: Move toward a varied system of assessments to appropriately gauge the four equal learning domains and allow students to demonstrate competency and mastery in ways beyond state standardized tests.

Strategy 6: Refine the state’s accountability system to be a fairer, more meaningful process that reflects all four equal learning domains.

Each of these strategies contains a reference to the “four equal learning domains:”

The key word, certainly implied...