Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Poor pickings today. At least one statewide office holder (and office seeker, full disclosure) thinks that the Columbus City Schools will probably have to restart its superintendent search process since all but one person on the short list has dropped out. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/6/18)
  2. Speaking of dropping out, a third member of the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission has resigned, leaving just two members on the panel. Auspicious. (Youngstown Vindicator, 3/7/18) Following them all out the door may be district CEO Krish Mohip. He is a finalist for the superintendency of Boulder schools in Colorado. See what I mean about poor pickings? (Youngstown Vindicator, 3/7/18)
  1. new statewide online school is launching in Ohio next school year. Great news for families looking for a choice. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/2/18)
  2. Incoming kindergartners in Montgomery County not only did not improve their readiness scores overall in the 2016-17 school year, but those scores actually declined from the previous year. This is “despite efforts” (as the DDN piece puts it) such as the Dayton-wide Preschool Promise program. I wanted to say there was a “multi-million-dollar effort” re: Preschool Promise, but the actual amount of millions was not included in this piece for some reason. What is included is a suggestion that the kindergarten-readiness exam might not be necessary going forward. But given this news, maybe those folks were only joking. (Dayton Daily News, 3/5/18)
  3. Speaking of money, editors in Columbus today opined on the recent Ed Trust report lauding some important aspects of Ohio’s school funding system. And especially as those findings relate to Columbus City Schools. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/5/18)
  4. Two members of Youngstown City Schools’ Academic Distress Commission – including its current chair – resigned last week. You know what that means, right? Exactly! Now there’s only one Benyo brother currently serving
  5. ...
  1. And then there was one. The current superintendent of Akron City Schools let it be known earlier this week that he was removing himself from consideration to become the next superintendent of Columbus City Schools. But thanks for the consideration. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/28/18) No idea what made him change his mind, but if anyone could have, LeBron (and the newly-announced principal of his incipient I Promise school, who is a 20 year veteran of Akron City Schools and most recently was principal of lowly – oops – Schumacher CLC) could. And maybe a documentary camera crew to sweeten the deal. (Akron City Schools press release, 2/27/18)
  2. Everyone seems to agree that districts operating under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission must still have a superintendent in place. But just because they agree doesn’t mean they have to like it. With their former superintendent (finally) leaving for pastures of whatever color they may be, Lorain has decided to go to a “sorta supe” model, with one of the district’s newly-hired chiefs serving in the coveted role of liaison between the CEO and the elected school board. (Elyria Chronicle, 3/2/18) With that settled, CEO David Hardy
  3. ...

Two weeks ago I spent a couple of hours hunched over a cafeteria table, helping one of the eighth grade students I mentor outline her research paper. It brought back some fond memories of my time as a high school English teacher. But it also reminded me of one of the most frustrating aspects of teaching writing: When you’re a full-time educator teaching dozens of students, there is never enough time to provide every single student with the kind of detailed and consistent feedback that will truly transform their writing.

Maybe that’s why I was so thrilled when a few days later I came across the news that The Graide Network (TGN) had successfully raised over $1 million to expand its reach to more schools. For those who are unfamiliar, TGN is an organization that connects K–12 teachers with teaching assistants who grade and provide feedback on student writing through an online platform. Assistants, known as “Graiders,” work remotely and are undergraduate or graduate students who are enrolled in, or preparing to enroll in, teacher preparation programs.

The process works like this: Teachers post detailed information about an assignment, including a rubric and grading instructions, and are matched...


Two weeks ago, several lawmakers introduced legislation that proposes a major restructuring of education governance in Ohio. The crux of House Bill 512 is to foster a more coordinated approach to K–12 and postsecondary education policy, with the governor taking a clearer leadership role. To accomplish this, the bill proposes a new agency that would be led by an appointee of the governor and confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate. Most of the current duties of the Ohio Department of Education would transfer to the new agency, along with those of the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation.

The governing framework proposed in this bill charts a course towards a more coherent, seamless, and unified vision for education—from preschool all the way to the workforce. This change in approach is critical as data show that too many young people in Ohio struggle to make transitions from high school to college or career. Consider the following statistics:

  • College remediation: It’s no secret that too many college-going freshmen require remediation before taking credit-bearing courses. According to the most recent data from the Ohio Department of Higher Education, 31 percent
  • ...

Solving the “thirty-million-word gap” is not as simple as pouring more language into a child’s ears until she catches up with her peers. New research from a team at MIT points to “conversational turns”—defined as an adult utterance followed by a child utterance, or vice versa, with no more than a five-second pause between the two—as the best predictor of scores on standardized tests of vocabulary, grammar, and verbal reasoning. These findings were independent of parental education levels, socioeconomic status (SES), and the amount of language to which children were exposed in the home. The senior researcher on the team described conversational turns as “almost magical” in their ability to build language competence in children.

The study involved thirty-six children between the ages of four and six and their parents. All were native English speakers, and the children were typically developing, with no history of premature birth, neurological disorders, developmental delay, speech/language therapy, or grade repetition. All participants passed a pre-test hearing screening. The children participated in a functional MRI task (fMRI) that monitored neural activity in Broca’s area, the part of the brain most associated with language production and processing. The task involved passively listening to short,...

  1. Editors in Toledo opined in favor of the proposed change in state-level education governance in Ohio. In principle, at least. (Toledo Blade, 2/26/18) So did all the folks who testified at the second hearing on the bill, which occurred in committee yesterday. Some of the legislators on that committee seemed less supportive. For now. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/28/18)
  2. School funding in Ohio got pretty good marks in a national report from Education Trust, released earlier this week. Much to the consternation of several folks who have earned their daily bread for the last 10 years or so insisting that this is not the case. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/27/18)
  3. Poland Local Schools this week received the results of a state audit, outlining some $1.6 million in possible annual savings. Much of that would come from – you guessed it – reductions in staffing. Poland district officials seem as skeptical as you might expect. You know, someone should do a study to see how often districts take the advice to trim staff. (WKBN-TV, Youngstown, 2/27/18) Instead, I predict a new levy for Poland Schools will be the first order of business. Hopefully officials won’t hold cool and popular
  4. ...

In case you missed the headlines, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson recently resigned. Though a few scandals have plagued the district as of late, the one that spurred Wilson’s resignation was personal. He bypassed the citywide school lottery system to enroll his daughter in a high-performing school.

Wilson’s actions must be condemned as a misuse of power and a violation of public trust. He should not have circumvented district policies for his family’s benefit, and his resignation is warranted.

That being said, it’s not hard to understand why he did it. Based on media reports, the school that his daughter initially enrolled in—an arts magnet school—turned out to be a bad fit. Rather than keeping her in a school that didn’t work for her, Wilson did what most parents would do: He searched for a better option. Unfortunately, this meant using his power and connections to transfer his daughter into a high-performing school. Given these facts, it’s clear that he wanted his daughter to attend an academically strong school that was also a good fit for her. 

Wilson’s situation isn’t unique. Whether it’s a low-performing school, a school that isn’t the right fit, or both, tens...

  1. It may or may not surprise you to know that not many school districts in Ohio have a diversity plan when it comes to hiring. Small town Mansfield is not one of those districts. Seems to me that they don’t have much to show for having a plan in place for a year, but district officials seem satisfied. (Mansfield News Journal, 2/23/18)
  2. Things are much more clear cut in Norwalk schools; almost too much so. Both the board and the teachers union in the small northern Ohio town are delighted with their recent contract negotiations. They even use the word “enjoyable” to describe the process. Can you imagine? And what alchemy could have led to this shiny happy outcome? A newly-implemented process called “interest-based bargaining” (isn’t that every kind of bargaining?). “Essentially it emphasizes working toward solutions and takes away conflict from the process,” the journalist explains helpfully. Oh, right. THAT’s what everyone else is doing wrong. (Norwalk Reflector, 2/25/18)
  3. Some of the small town districts in Northeast Ohio seem to be continuing a 30 year lament in regard to school levies. Some say that a 1976 law makes “boom and bust” cycles the norm
  4. ...
  1. Editors in Columbus this week opined – using Fordham as a prominent piece of evidence – in favor of strong and substantive graduation requirements. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/22/18)
  2. The main thrust of this piece, looking at the recent meeting of Lorain’s Community Business Schools Partnership group, is that new turnaround programs in the troubled district will likely start small and grow slowly. But I can’t tell if that mindset exists because the public suggestions they are getting about the ideal process are so timid or because there is fear of a financial catastrophe coming up that could scuttle everything. Either way, though, kind of a downer. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/21/18) But it looks like a credible first step toward change might finally have been taken. But who knows? Five months is a long time and wasn’t he already out the door back in November? (Elyria Chronicle, 2/22/18)
  3. It was announced this week that Kent State University would partner with Akron City Schools to create three new “college and career academies” within Firestone High School to help students move more seamlessly from high school to higher ed. These academies will cover areas such as visual
  4. ...