Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. You may recall a breathless flap earlier this year over third grade reading test scores which were suspected of being mis-graded by a computer. It was hard to miss, seeing as how is it was all over the news. What was not all over the news at any point since then was how the human regrading of those third grade tests turned out. Because, it turns out, fire not as bad as suspected after all. That last bit of information is the most important part of this piece, because the main topic (the fact that some high school test mis-grading by a computer was actually caught and corrected before it was even noticed) is so breathlessly overblown as to be pointless. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/6/18)
  2. Back in the real world, Columbus City Schools will impanel a task force to research the possibility of school closures across the district and to make recommendations to the board by August. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/4/18) Perhaps we have a little preview of what schools will not be on that closure list by way of the city’s 2018 capital budget. In it, $2.5 million (how much now?!) is earmarked for designing sidewalks
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Scrapping regulations that burden schools, have little to do with student learning, and restrict local flexibility and autonomy is a worthy undertaking. Over the past few years, Ohio legislators have taken small but commendable steps in providing regulatory relief for public schools. For example, Senate Bill 3, enacted in December 2016, provides flexibility for high-performing school districts around various staffing regulations. Last month, the Senate passed legislation intended to further pare down regulations. With unanimous support, Senate Bill 216—known as the Ohio Public School Deregulation Act—now heads to the House for consideration. But what’s in this bill? What positive steps does it take? And what provisions should House members take a closer look at?

Let’s start with three solid provisions.

Provides flexibility around teacher licensing. Most Ohio educators are licensed to teach in specific grade spans (PK–3, 4–9, and 7–12) and in certain content areas. Although research has not shown a close link between standard licensing requirements and classroom effectiveness, licensing is viewed by many as a way to ensure minimum criteria around who teaches which courses. But at the same time, licensing also restricts the ability of school leaders to deploy...

  1. Herewith: the new leader (and the revamped mission) of FutureReady Columbus. (Columbus Monthly, 4/2/18)
  2. Speaking of revamping, a guest commentator in Cincinnati opined this week against the legislation which proposes, among other things, to consolidate K-12, higher ed, and workforce development governance in Ohio. I’m sure the other side of the argument will be along any day now in the Enquirer. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/2/18)
  3. A while back, I asked rhetorically whether any cash-strapped school districts actually institute the budget cuts that the state auditor’s office recommends after an audit. Or if they just shut down mid-year and help their students transfer to charter and private schools head immediately to the ballot box for a levy. We might find one anecdotal answer this week when the board of education of Niles City Schools (in state fiscal caution status currently) votes on a budget proposal. Perhaps it depends on just how dire the fiscal situation is. Niles’ situation seems pretty dire, but the l-word is bandied about here too. (Youngstown Vindicator, 4/4/18)
  4. The biggest winners in terms of the largesse that LeBron James and his family foundation have bestowed upon his hometown are of course the
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Like any life transition, preparing for a new job and saying farewell to colleagues and allies offers a bittersweet window of time to reflect. I’m sitting in that window now. Having finished almost a decade in the Ohio K–12 education policy space and my second stint at Fordham Ohio, I’m shifting into the early childhood policy domain.

Here are five essential ingredients for any advocate’s personal tool kit that I’ve been reflecting on and that I’ll be taking with me.

Principles that ground you—deeply

Working in public policy inevitably means you will interface with politics, whether you like it or not. When I began working in education policy at the state level, Obama had just been elected and Arne Duncan was his education secretary. There was a strong bipartisan coalition around charter schools—nationally at least—and I had been living and working in states where charter schools weren’t as partisan or as contentious as they are in the Buckeye State. It was news to me when I arrived back in Ohio and quickly learned that charter schools were almost exclusively supported by Republicans. Moreover, Democrats would be contesting the creation of Teach For America – Ohio, a program I—as a...

  1. I believe there is a headline error in this piece looking at the precarious state of play in Trotwood Schools after several years of poor report cards and attempts to remedy that problem. See if you can spot it. (Dayton Daily News, 4/2/18)
  2. Meanwhile, and on a similar theme, editors in Toledo say: “Fire bad.” (Toledo Blade, 3/30/18)
  3. The only person I can think of who could get away with publishing a serious education-related commentary piece on April Fools Day is the Vindy’s venerable (and irascible) Bertram de Souza. That being said, I will admit I am not sure whether he’s being serious here or not. Anyone else want to read it and take a guess? (Youngstown Vindicator, 4/1/18)
  4. This one is almost certainly not an April Fools Day prank, although certain phrases—“the baseball team goes to watch the school play”—did give me pause. If the community-wide movement to increase student participation in sports in Talawanda Schools is indeed real, let’s hope they get another story published on a different day so as not to potentially confuse folks. (Middletown Journal-News, 4/1/18)
  5. A round-robin series of facilities moves among the City of
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  1. It’s spring break in Dayton City Schools, but that doesn’t mean things are quiet in the district. School bus drivers, who have been working without a contract for the entire school year so far, seem to have reached an impasse with the administration and the board. They voted for a strike notice earlier in the week, which would lead to a walkout on April 10, the second day back from spring break. My guess is that folks will get very little actual break as they try to hammer out an agreement before then. (Dayton Daily News, 3/29/18) Meanwhile, in Sylvania Schools in suburban Toledo, there’s apparently too much busing. Or at least busing that’s too expensive to maintain. A plan to eliminate district transportation to certain private schools—and to offer payment in lieu of transportation—is facing a small but determined opposition from families that would be affected. (Toledo Blade, 3/30/18)
  2. On the other side of the state, a Cincinnati charter school will close at the end of this school year. Its sponsor, Cincinnati City Schools, you may recall lost its ability to sponsor charters because of a poor evaluation by the state. While details here are sketchy,
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  1. Well, well, well. Nothing official here, but it is nice to hear the President of the Ohio Senate say that Ohio’s current participation-trophy graduation requirements should not be extended to the Classes of 2019 and 2020. Without “a good reason”, that is. (Gongwer Ohio, 3/26/18)
  2. It is also nice—though somewhat shocking in its candor—to hear what really went on behind closed doors of the Columbus City Schools’ recently-suspended superintendent search. Hey guys, once you get your new search underway I hear there’s a dude in the Youngstown area looking for a new gig…although I think he might prefer someplace where it snows a lot. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/27/18)
  3. Staying in Columbus for a moment, Dispatch editors opined today on the now-discredited Education Trust evaluation of Ohio’s efforts to target school funding for the benefit of its poorest students. Sorry to inject my own thoughts into a clip about an editorial, but I fear that they are missing the actual point of the revised analysis in their conclusion. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/28/18) Dispatch editors also opined today on the Move to PROSPER program, which we’ve been following with interest here in the Bites for a year or
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Ohio’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan doesn’t include many changes to the state’s current accountability system, but it does make some meaningful adjustments that improve equity within the state. Most notably, it lowers the minimum number for Ohio subgroup sizes, or n-size, from thirty to fifteen students for accountability purposes—a transition the state is implementing gradually and will complete in the 2018–19 school year. Unfortunately, legislation that recently passed the Senate, S.B. 216, would undo the n-size shift before it’s fully implemented. Here’s why that would be a mistake.

N-size and why it matters

Subgroups generally comprise historically disadvantaged populations like black and Latino children and English language learners (ELLs). Ohio’s previous n-size of thirty students meant, for example, that only schools with at least thirty ELLs had to report their performance as a subgroup for state report card purposes. Lowering this threshold to fifteen students is beneficial because it improves transparency and holds schools accountable for meeting the needs of underprivileged students, increasing the likelihood that students will receive the proper supports and interventions they need. Indeed, civil rights groups like Ohio’s Latino community, the NAACP, and disability rights organizations have long urged schools...


STEM education is, by design, integrative. It strives to emulate the real-world work of engineers within a teaching environment. Traditional science and math concepts merge with hands-on design-and-build work using technology, often through “design challenges.” Team dynamics, learning by failure and revision, and analytical thinking all factor in as well. It’s a big lift, but such efforts are vital for schools to attempt as demand for STEM—from parents, employers, the military, and colleges—increases. Traditional education models may not readily adapt to the hands-on demands of STEM, nor can many practitioners turn on a dime to accommodate a tech-heavy pedagogy. A new report from Michigan Technological University sheds light on some of these complexities that teachers face bringing STEM education into their practice.

Authors Emily Dare, Joshua Ellis, and Gillian Roehrig use observation and interview data to assess the first-time STEM integration efforts of teachers in nine physical science classrooms in different, unnamed middle schools in the United States. The researchers posit that a lack of consensus over best practices and a lack of professional development contribute to the difficulties. Both classroom observation and teacher reflection data for these nine case studies of teachers attempting STEM integration with little...

  1. The bill which proposes, among other things, a consolidation of Ohio’s K-12, higher ed, and workforce development governance structures was the topic of dueling op-eds in the Dispatch this weekend. Fordham’s Aaron Churchill provided the case in support of the proposal. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/25/18) The CEO of the Ohio School Boards Association provided the case against the proposal. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/25/18) There’s even a poll you can take to register your own feelings on the matter. How very civic of the editorial page editors of the D.
  2. I think the folks at the Elyria Chronicle were as surprised as I was by the dueling articles on Lorain school board member Yvonne Johnson which ran in the Chronicle and in the Northern Ohio Morning Journal last week. Specifically, why those two articles seemed to present polar opposite views of her positions. So, they asked her about it. The answers are interesting, cogent, and eye-opening. Take a look. (Elyria Chronicle, 3/24/18) Speaking of taking a second look, you remember that national report released last month that said Ohio ranked second in the nation for equitable school funding? The one that was touted hither, yon, and beyond? Yeah,
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