Ohio Gadfly Daily

The Ohio General Assembly recently passed and Governor Kasich approved legislation that allows students in the class of 2018 to graduate without demonstrating competency on state exams or meeting career and technical education-related requirements. This means that there won’t be any assurance that those getting diplomas have learned much of anything. At a time when Ohio is trying to get reasonably serious about ending social promotion into fourth grade—via the Third Grade Reading Guarantee—voters and taxpayers should be outraged that it’s again reared its ugly head in connection with the promotion that matters most: exiting from high school into real life.

Why worry about social promotion? Consider an interview with Doug Lemov, the well-known author of Teach Like a Champion and co-founder of the Uncommon Schools charter network. Richard Whitmire recounts Lemov’s experience as a tutor at Indiana University:

One of the football players he tutored was a redshirt freshman who had gone to a high school in the Bronx. “He was a real gentleman, a decent guy in every way, but he was struggling academically. So I said, ‘Why don’t you write a paragraph about yourself,’ which he did. I took one look...

In early June, State Superintendent DeMaria shared with the state school board his recommendations for streamlining Ohio’s student testing regimen. Among the list of proposed cuts is the WorkKeys assessment, a job skills test that measures how well prepared students are for the workforce. Though other proposed cuts received more attention (and have since been finalized), the proposed elimination of WorkKeys has largely been ignored—perhaps because many Ohio policymakers aren’t sure what it is or even who takes it. Let’s take a look.

What is the WorkKeys assessment?

WorkKeys is an ACT-designed system that includes assessments, curriculum, and “skill profiles” for schools to use in building and measuring students’ workplace skills. Superintendent DeMaria specifically recommends the elimination of the assessment, of which there are three sections:

  1. Applied math: a 55-minute assessment with 34 items. This test measures mathematical critical thinking and problem-solving techniques that are commonly used in the workplace, including negative numbers, fractions, decimals, and money and time conversions.
  2. Graphic literacy: a 55-minute assessment with 38 items. This test measures how well an individual can read and interpret common workplace graphics such as diagrams, maps and floor plans, order forms, and flow
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  1. In case you missed it, there was some talk a week or so ago that two new charter schools planned for the 2017-18 school year might not open in Cleveland due to some procedural, paperwork-y type issues. Well, Fordham’s own Kathryn Mullen Upton is here to tell you that hurdles have been cleared and those schools will open as planned. Allons-y! (Ideastream Public Media, Cleveland, 7/7/17)
  2. Depending on when you read these clips, this story may be old news or simply forgotten entirely. The state’s largest online charter school is supposed to pay its first installment of that $60 million dollar finding to the state today. On Friday, the school filed some kind of legal thing to delay that first installment pending the outcome of other court actions. (Gongwer Ohio, 7/7/17)
  3. “There is a perception out there...that report cards can feel punitive at times and that's not really the intent…,” says the Ohio Department of Education. "We're trying to shine a light on performance of students and we're trying to identify when there's some problem areas for improvement, but also try to reward some successes.” That is the reasoning behind an impending change to district
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  1. In case you missed it last week, the General Assembly passed the new two-year state budget and Governor Kasich signed it into law…making a record number of line item vetoes along the way. Jeremy Kelley took a look at 11 of those education-related vetoes and got some big names to help him make sense of the original intent of the language and the effect of the vetoes. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted on an item regarding charter sponsor evaluation rules. The legislature is due back in town tomorrow to possibly override some of those vetoes. Which ones and how likely they are to be overridden are still open questions. (Middletown Journal-News, 7/3/17)
  2. Youngstown City Schools has a new interim superintendent, we discovered yesterday. He is a current district principal, well-regarded it seems, and will stay in the role at least until a permanent supe is found. In case you’re wondering: the previous interim was non-renewed, and the role of the supe in a CEO-style Academic Distress Commission district will apparently be as a communication liaison between the CEO and the elected board. Can’t imagine why they can’t find a permanent occupant. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/3/17) The
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  1. The Dispatch published an interesting piece this weekend discussing the lack of district superintendents who are female and people of color in Ohio. They interview outgoing Reynoldsburg supe Tina Thomas-Manning, an African-American woman, who talks about her difficulties in reaching the position. In the end, the discussion focuses almost solely on women vs. men and the people of color part of the question kind of fades away. I can’t wait to see the D’s analysis of how the numbers shake out for charter school leaders. I’ll just hold my breath while I wait for that one to be published… (Columbus Dispatch, 7/2/17)
  2. Dispatch editors, meanwhile, were opining on the ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and just about every entity of state government. Kinda like trying to hit a moving target. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/2/17)
  3. Editors in Youngstown this weekend were opining on district CEO Krish Mohip at the start of his second year in charge. Seems generally favorable, with some uphill battles yet to come. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/2/17)
  4. Finally today, we have a set of profiles of recent high school graduates from various Stark County High Schools. Each story is individual (even the
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  1. After the departure of its high-profile leader in the recent past, FutureReady Columbus is still trying to get itself ready for the present day. The organization was born as a big ticket, partner-fueled initiative to help Columbus students get the best possible education. While the dollars and the big-name partners still seem to be in place, the unexpected need to do a second leader search has required them to slow their roll and to significantly shrink their focus. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/29/17) A similar organization in Toledo appears to have had a similar trajectory. Take your time, people. I’m sure it’s fine. (Toledo Blade, 6/29/17)
  2. So, what’s up with that ongoing kerfuffle between the state’s largest online school and the Ohio Department of Education? And the State Board of Education? And the court system? And StateAuditor Man!? And the court of public opinion? And the Ohio Attorney General? And several newspapers around the state? Well, I’m glad you asked, but you might not be. You can check out updates on the fast-moving situation from the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/29/17), and the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 6/29/17), and the Plain Dealer (again) for everything you
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Joshua D. Hawley

Apprenticeships are all the rage. President Trump recently announced a doubling of federal funding for apprenticeship programs to $200 million in his next budget. This follows an investment by President Obama of $50 million in the outgoing months of his administration. In fact, this follows a major rewrite of the federal legislation governing job training in 2014. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) calls for a much greater level of coordination among workforce programs.

President Trump correctly noted that the organizational framework surrounding workforce development still needs some work, but this criticism is too simplistic. States have made major strides in recent years to improve the coordination of workforce development, and some have promoted apprenticeships as a part of the effort. The WIOA legislation made a requirement for workforce plans at the state level and some states have plans to expand apprenticeships. Many states have invested state tax revenue in apprenticeships and other mechanisms to strengthen training for youth.

Ohio, for instance, has recently taken critical steps to link apprenticeship programs to young people’s educational experiences. These include: 1) expanding linkages between high schools and state-recognized pre-apprenticeship programs through the College Credit Plus program, 2) developing an optional state...

In early June, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released an updated draft of its ESSA plan for public comment. The department had initially intended to submit its plan earlier this spring, but after heavy pressure, state officials decided to delay submission until September. The most important part of the document is its description of the state’s proposed school accountability and intervention policies. We believe that Ohio’s plan does a good job meeting both federal and state requirements.

Still, Ohio should aim for excellence, if not perfection. Allow me to identify three improvements worthy of consideration before ODE submits its plan to the U.S. Department of Education. These are sections that ODE could likely tweak without running afoul of federal or state law.

Eliminate the Chronic Absenteeism indicator (Title I, Part A: Improving Basic Programs Operated by LEAs—Indicators; lines 428-512)

ODE proposes using Chronic Absenteeism as a new report-card measure to comply with ESSA’s requirement for an indicator of School Quality or Student Success. This is a mistake. While related to student learning, absenteeism is not itself an outcome measure, which should form the basis of school accountability. Attendance should be viewed more akin to an “input”...

This blog originally appeared as an editorial in today’s edition of the Columbus Dispatch.

The Ohio Senate just voted to allow the class of 2018 to receive diplomas without demonstrating proficiency in a single academic subject area. The competence-free graduation option, which came from recommendations made by the State Board of Education under pressure from local school superintendents, would award students a diploma upon meeting just two of eight conditions.

These include softballs like attending school regularly, obtaining a 2.5 senior-year grade-point average or completing community service. Show up, do a nominal number of assignments or a few months of part-time volunteer work, and the diploma is yours. Forget about setting a pitifully low bar; Ohio is about to remove it altogether.

It’s important to remember why, decades ago, Ohio and many other states decided to set competency-based graduation requirements in the first place. Namely, too many local school districts were willing to hand out diplomas that their graduates could not read, to young adults who had made it to 18 with the reading, writing, and math skills of grade-school students. The system had failed them.

The problem was most pernicious for poor and minority students, who were much...

In a provocative headline, a recent Wall Street Journal article proclaimed that “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City.’” The piece profiles Kenton, Ohio, along with several other towns across the nation that have recently suffered population losses, sluggish economies, and surging substance abuse. The sudden interest in communities like Kenton is not surprising, given that President Trump rode a wave of rural and small-town support to the White House.

Long a neglected realm of school reform, rural education is also capturing more attention. Collin Roth and Will Flanders of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty point out that rural students in the Badger State post some of the lowest ACT scores and highest college remediation rates; this mirrors data from Ohio. A recent study from the Rural School and Community Trust notes that nearly half of rural students are low-income (eligible for subsidized meals) and often have limited opportunities to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Meanwhile, a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Education documents the challenges rural schools face recruiting and retaining teachers and securing parental involvement.

Of course, there isn’t a single cure-all that can elevate education in sparsely populated...