Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. As previously noted here, FutureReady Columbus is once again ready for the present after more than a year of dormancy in the past. However, the group is perhaps going to be able to live up to its name a little more easily this time since—due to a change of focus—the future for which they are getting Columbus kids ready is Kindergarten. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/20/18)
  2. Speaking of the future, Edison High School in Milan, Ohio, conducted its third-annual Edge Day last week. It is focused on giving graduating seniors some practical knowledge of life after high school so they are “future ready”, to coin a phrase. Topics included financial tips (it’s OK to put off having a nice house until much later in life), basic car care (don’t drive for more than 50 miles on temporary tires), and safe interaction with law enforcement (be respectful). Milan native Thomas Edison is proud of the graduates of his namesake high school, I’m sure. (Norwalk Reflector, 5/20/18)
  3. Finally, in terms of getting ready for the actual future, here’s an interesting story comparing schools in the Springfield area on their use of technology in the classroom. First up are a
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Education is hard, so we should celebrate success at every opportunity. A sky-high graduation rate, for example, should make us smile from ear to ear. But a recent Akron Beacon Journal (ABJ) report on dramatically higher graduation rates in Akron City Schools should raise serious concerns.

According to the story, Akron school officials calculated last fall that only 54 percent of the class of 2018 was on track to graduate. This estimate was based on how many students had earned or were likely to earn the required number of points on the state’s new and more rigorous end of course (EOC) exams. Given that Akron’s graduation rate was 74 percent the previous year (2017), district officials were understandably worried. Rather than helping students acquire a diploma through shoring up academic weaknesses to pass EOC exams or earn an industry certification, Akron opted to take advantage of the alternative—and much softer--- graduation requirements pitched by the state board and passed earlier in the year by Ohio lawmakers. 

The new requirements are absurdly easy. Students need only meet two of nine metrics, which include non-academic measures such as 93 percent attendance during a student’s senior year and...


Back at the turn of the millennium, we at Fordham published a paper that urged a stronger focus on phonics. Author Louisa Cook Moates wrote: “Reading science is clear: young children need instruction in systematic, synthetic phonics in which they are taught sound-symbol correspondences singly, directly, and explicitly.” The reading wars—the longstanding debate between “whole language” and phonics proponents—has been mostly settled in the U.S. with phonics playing a key role in the federal Reading First program, and having now been embedded in most states’ English language arts standards, including Ohio’s.

Recently, British policymakers also took bold steps to prioritize phonics, i.e., structured instruction that teaches children to “decode” words. Coinciding with an influential 2006 paper known as the “Rose Report,” which recommended phonics as the principal strategy for early literacy, England began requiring its schools to move away from the nation’s “searchlights” model and instead implement phonics-centered instruction for children aged five to seven.

A recent study by Stephen Machin, Sandra McNally, and Martina Viarengo evaluates the impact of this initiative, which also included government aid allowing schools to hire literacy consultants who supported teachers’ transition to...

  1. In case you missed it, Chad Aldis published an op-ed on Ohio’s graduation requirements in the ABJ this week. Why the ABJ? Because, as my dedicated Gadfly Bites subscribers will recall, Akron City Schools recently gave us our first inside look at how the new, (hopefully) temporary, lower, non-academic requirements for the Class of 2018 played out in a large urban school district. Those details begged a response. (Akron Beacon Journal, 5/16/18)
  2. Speaking of opining, editors in Toledo published their thoughts on Toledo City Schools’ plans to convert all high schools to themed academies. They were in favor of the change, especially of Jones’ change to a business theme. (Toledo Blade, 5/18/18)
  3. North Canton Schools’ board and administration are super excited about their new digital school, which this week got the go ahead for next school year. Apparently, they have at least 513,000 reasons to be excited. There is no word on a mascot yet, but may I humbly suggest the Mercenaries? (Canton Repository, 5/16/18)
  4. Here is an update on a year’s worth of effort from the Lorain Community Business Schools Partnership. Folks seem pleased. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 5/16/18) Of more interest,
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By Terry Ryan

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.

Earlier this century, Dayton, Ohio, was a hotbed for charter school growth, largely driven by parents, mostly poor and minority, desperately seeking better options for their children. In 2002, the Council of the Great City Schools captured Dayton’s challenges when it reported that “no urban school system in Ohio has fewer children meeting state proficiency standards…The problem appears to be exacerbated by high teacher absenteeism.”

Throughout the 2000s, Dayton was annually rated by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as a “Top Ten Community by Market Share.” In fact, by the mid-2000s, Dayton had more children per capita enrolled in charters than any city in the country, save for post-hurricane New Orleans.

I was Fordham’s Ohio point person from 2001 to 2013. A big part of my job was to try and responsibly seed the growth of quality charter schools, mostly in Dayton. This meant providing start-up grant support to prospective school operators, identifying individuals and groups we thought could run schools well, organizing technical assistance for schools through partner organizations,...

  1. News was a little scarce out of this week’s meeting of the state board of education, but here’s what we’ve got. The board approved a resolution asking the state legislature to delay the implementation of composite letter grades for schools. (Dayton Daily News, 5/15/18) A board committee recommended narrowing the definition of “dropout recovery school” and boosting the standards to which the remaining such school should be held. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/14/18) However, in less-official business, the board heard from state Senator Peggy Lehner that the legislature is disinclined to extend lower, test-free graduation requirements beyond the Class of 2018. Despite the board’s previous recommendation to the contrary. (Dayton Daily News, 5/15/18)
  2. There is a strange tone of glee in this piece about the ECOT-branded items up for auction. But what can you expect, really. It’s just money, right? (Columbus Dispatch, 5/14/18) Maybe some folks should care more about former ECOT students. Well, these guys do, but only in terms of getting safe harbor from accountability so the former ECOTters who transferred to them won’t “drag down” their academic ratings. How kind. What happens if the ECOTtters bring up your ratings, gang? Does that count?
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  1. The tiny Sandusky school district in northern Ohio is home to a new(ish) charter school within its borders, and at least one person seems pretty steamed. Unfortunately, that person is the one writing about it in the Register. It is amusing to me how much good news is actually contained in this piece while nonetheless being shaded throughout. I should probably say “attempted shade” because most of what passes for bad news is either naïve or flat out wrong. That includes the nature and operation of charter schools, their funding, the “misleading” name of this particular school, the role of high quality teachers, and why such a non-district choice exists in the first place. You know—small stuff. (Sandusky Register, 5/13/18) A similar situation occurs in this piece from the nearby town of Norwalk, but in reverse. What is intended to be a story about how great it is that parents and students in the area have so much school choice is entirely suspect due to the numbers presented. The data related to folks opting in to Norwalk versus Norwalkers opting to go elsewhere seem to me to belie the positive sales job in the quotes. Did the reporter
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NOTE: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Fordham Ohio staffers will be blogging about teachers, principals, and guidance counselors who made a positive difference in their schooling and in their lives. This is the fourth and final post, which does double duty of celebrating National Charter Schools Week as well. The first post can be found here; the second can be found here; and the third here.

Growing up, I attended five different elementary schools. District transportation interruptions, school closings, and family relocations forced me into changing schools at the end of each year. My memories of middle school aren’t much better: They involve metal detectors, fights erupting on cafeteria tables, and teachers reading the Dayton Daily News instead of teaching. Overall, the schools I attended were poorly staffed, overpopulated, and nearly devoid of learning.

By the time I entered high school, I was at a significant disadvantage. My parents and I were skeptical of the district high schools’ ability to adequately equip me with a strong secondary education and effectively prepare me for college, so we selected a charter school instead: the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA).

DECA was founded in 2003 as Ohio’s first...

  1. We start today with two awesome student stories. They are both a little off the beaten path for Gadfly Bites, but were too great to pass up. The first one comes from the sports page: Cin’Quan Haney just graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in physics and is headed to a great job and what seems to be a very bright future indeed. Haney is from Dayton and was a walk-on member of the OSU football team for three years, hence the placement of this story in the sports page. He took the field for only one play in his entire career but gives huge props to the coaches and staff for helping him boost his already-strong academic efforts. In this profile, he also gives huge props to his high school—Chaminade-Julienne—for its role in his personal growth and education. Why is this important? First, because Haney’s life included a full hand of what some folks like to call ACEs—adverse childhood experiences. Those experiences should have, according to those same folks, precluded some or all of Haney’s now-demonstrated success. Those folks are dead wrong. Second, because whatever Cin’Quan Haney needed to succeed in school was either not
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The debate around Ohio’s school report cards continues to simmer. An outspoken critic since last year’s report card release, Representative Mike Duffey recently unveiled House Bill 591. His proposal would replace the state’s current report card framework, which includes A–F school ratings, with a “data dashboard” that displays an array of data—yet provides no school ratings or letter grades whatsoever. Representative Duffey has a few legitimate beefs with school report cards, some of which we agreed with in a paper published last year on improving state report cards. Unfortunately, he targets the state’s A–F grading system for removal without recognizing its strengths, akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Why A–F? Let’s take a look.

Reason 1: It’s intuitive

Virtually all of us received A–F grades during our educational experiences. And for good reason: They remain simple, intuitive tools for communicating academic achievement. The vast majority of high schools and colleges continue to use this traditional grading system, including highly respected central Ohio school districts, such as Bexley, Dublin, Upper Arlington, Westerville, and Worthington. So do first-rate institutions of higher education, like Case Western Reserve, Oberlin, and ...