Ohio Gadfly Daily

Last year, the state legislature followed a recommendation made by the State Board of Education and created a series of alternative graduation requirements for the class of 2018. These alternatives were far too easy and allowed schools to graduate students who were not career and college ready.

A few of the alternatives were particularly bad. For instance, one requirement allowed students to graduate if they had an attendance rate of 93 percent during their twelfth grade year. In the district where I teach, I know that even though many students would show up late and leave early, adults wouldn’t mark them absent out of fear of eliminating the attendance graduation alternative. It’s bad enough that data weren’t tracked reliably. But missing what amounts to thirteen days a year also doesn’t add up to creating a career- or college-ready student. Instead, it rewards students for doing something that we should already be expecting them to do.

Another example is the requirement that allowed students to graduate if they completed a capstone project during twelfth grade. I watched students in my district complete this requirement by writing book reports or writing papers about what they wanted to be when they grow up....

  1. Columbus City Schools is in the money, it appears. What’s the secret formula that has led to this great news? More revenue than expected and greater savings than expected. Simple. The teachers union president seems unhappy at this news, but don’t worry, chum. I’m sure the board is spending as fast as it can to take care of the excess. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/9/18) Here’s a surefire burn of at least $300K that Columbus might think about: Akron City Schools has built a health clinic exclusively for district staff and their dependents. That supplements the other exclusive clinic already in operation which was deemed to be less centrally-located than is generally needed. (Akron Beacon Journal, 10/9/18) Or how about this? Dayton City Schools, which appears to be rolling in dough as we have noted a lot recently, is poised to spend nearly $600,000 on advertising in the next two years. It is, among other things, meant to increase enrollment. I’m not sure what exactly the message will be, but I do know you can buy a lot of lipstick for half a mill. (Dayton Daily News, 10/9/18)
  2. Speaking of money (when aren’t we, I ask you again),
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  1. The topic of the week appears to be “state takeovers of school districts”. Or, if you’re less into incendiary terminology: Academic Distress designation for long-struggling districts, and all that goes along with it. First up, a roundtable of Plain Dealer editorial board members weighs up the case against a “state takeover” of East Cleveland City Schools. They seem divided, the way I read it, but with terms like “stealth heist” thrown in there, the rhetorical deck appears pretty well stacked.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/5/18) The Path Forward for Dayton City Schools may or may not be via an Academic Distress Commission. The clock is ticking and so the Dayton Daily News sent a reporter to Youngstown to see what might be ahead of them on that path. A lot of words here, mostly discussing the path behind them for some reason. (Dayton Daily News, 10/7/18) And how is the public perception of the Academic Distress Commission in Youngstown currently? Well, the guest speaker at the local NAACP chapter’s Freedom Fund banquet over the weekend seemed to want things both ways. He acknowledged the importance of students leaving school with the education they need to be successful, but
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NOTE: On September 14, 2018, Chad Aldis was invited to provide testimony to the Ohio Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The meeting, held in Cleveland, examined civil rights as it relates to education funding in Ohio. The big question in front of the committee was “whether the state’s school funding system contributes to a disparate impact on educational outcomes for student groups protected under federal law.” The following is a summary of Chad’s remarks compiled from his notes.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s long-term focus on school quality and student achievement makes us very appreciative of the work of this advisory committee. Any aspect of the education system that could be contributing to the racial achievement gap must be identified and corrected.

Today, I’ll provide information in a variety of areas that are likely to be relevant to the analysis this committee will conduct, including student achievement, funding data, the relationship between funding and academic achievement, and data related to charter schools. Finally, I’ll identify a few areas where Ohio can improve its funding system and offer a few final thoughts.

Achievement gap data

Using data from the 2016–17 school year, compiled by the...


Editor’s Note: As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is the third in our series, under the umbrella of supporting great educators. You can access all of the entries in the series to date here.

Proposal: Form an independent review committee at ODE that evaluates the quality of curricular textbooks and materials. These evaluations would help to inform districts’ purchasing and instructional decisions, but districts would not be required to adopt or implement any particular curriculum, textbook, or learning material.

Background: Smart, hardworking teachers are a critical part of the school-quality equation, but so too are the curricula deployed in their classrooms. Studies from California, Florida, and Indiana all indicate that curricular decisions—referring to the textbooks and materials that schools deploy—make a difference in student learning. These studies also find that high-quality materials seldom cost more than mediocre ones, suggesting that curricular reform could be a cost-efficient way to boost learning. However, surveys find that educators often struggle...



Lorain charter school works to engage families

Horizon Science Academy, a charter public school in Lorain, hosted their annual Kindergarten Parent Partnership Breakfast last week. Parents got to hear from a State Board of Education member and attend an interactive presentation led by school leaders. Many parents look forward to this annual breakfast, where they can learn about Horizon's education goals and successes and build relationships with staff.

How to get innovative with federal Charter Schools Program dollars

The U.S. Senate recently passed a spending bill that includes $440 million for CSP, an increase of $40 million. CSP funds are indispensable for states looking to grow their sectors. Fordham’s Jessica Poiner argues here that advocates, charter networks, and state leaders would be smart to consider creating new and innovative charter high schools, instead of just replicating the usual suspects.

NAPCS receives grant to establish the Charter School Facilities Center

Last week, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) was awarded a $2.4 million grant over three years to establish the Charter School Facilities Center (CSFC), the first-ever entity solely dedicated to helping charter schools access better and more affordable facilities...

  1. Slim pickings for clips today. But at least one of them involves Fordham, so score! That is an op-ed written by Fordham President Mike Petrilli, which appeared in the Dispatch yesterday. What’s he on about? The timely topic of grade inflation and its long term consequences for students. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/4/18)
  2. Did you know that Ohio has a goal of having 65% of working-age adults with a degree or credential attainment? The deadline for achieving this goal is 2025, which means that focus must be on both K-12 and on adult education efforts. The latter got a boost this week with the announcement of a $2.1 million grant from the Gates Foundation to four Ohio-based entities already working together to achieve the goal. These include the state’s community colleges and four-year institutions. Efforts include clearly structuring courses of study for all majors, aligning "gateway" math and English courses to majors, implementing corequisite remediation programs at scale, and targeting efforts at poor students, students of color, and first-generation postsecondary enrollees. Nice! (Gongwer Ohio, 10/4/18)
  3. And just to show my loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers (all six of you!) how far I am willing to go to bring you
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From the outside, Heather’s daughter was doing just fine at her suburban district school. “Teagan picked up concepts quickly and was one of her teachers’ favorite students,” said Heather. It was no surprise then, that she was identified as gifted.

While Teagan was excelling academically, she was having other challenges. “The older she got, the more anxiety she had about school,” said Heather. Teagan loved the academic side of school but found herself becoming increasingly isolated, especially at lunch and recess. Still, she found a close group of friends and was managing her way through elementary school, even if she was not being challenged to her full potential.

Things were very different for her younger brother, Cael. Even in preschool, it was clear that he was profoundly gifted. “When he got excited by a topic, he went really deep into it. Way beyond what you would see in a typical four-year- old,” said Heather. Given his love of learning, he was looking forward to Kindergarten, but school was a struggle for him from day one.

Cael was well above grade level in the subjects he found interesting. Yet it was nearly impossible to engage him in other subjects, and he...


The demand side of voucher programs is often studied, as are student outcomes. Far less analyzed is the supply side of the equation—why private schools do or don’t participate in publicly funded voucher programs. A recent analysis released by the Cato Institute looks to redress that balance. Unfortunately, the effort founders due to the limitations of the study design.

Researchers Corey DeAngelis and Blake Hoarty sensibly theorize that when the costs of participation (increased regulation imposed on schools by the state) outweigh the benefits of greater enrollment and more revenue, private schools will opt not to participate. That is, they’ll refuse to accept voucher students. The researchers further theorize that lower-quality schools will have more incentive to participate due to the need for funding and will more readily accept regulation in order to gain the additional funding. If true, this would tend to reduce access to high quality educational options rather than expanding access.

DeAngelis and Hoarty reviewed two voucher programs: the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) and Ohio’s Educational Choice Scholarship Program (EdChoice). These were chosen because they are two of three such programs with the highest regulatory burden upon them, according to a Fordham-sponsored report published in...

  1. There was a rare show of solidarity in Lorain this week. What brought the CEO, the Academic Distress Commission, and the elected school board together in the same room with city and county officials as well as parents, students, and community members? Discussion of student safety at Lorain High School. Which is all good. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 10/2/18) This event was also covered in the Elyria Chronicle. Intriguingly, in both pieces district CEO David Hardy and at least one parent took pains to criticize the local media for their coverage of safety-related incidents in Lorain, especially to the exclusion of “all the good going on” in the schools. But where have we heard this before? Oh right! Those two LHS seniors who were quoted in the Journal two weeks ago said it too. Fascinating. (Elyria Chronicle, 10/2/18)
  2. Speaking of school districts operating under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission, East Cleveland City Schools remains desperate to not join that list. Aside from, you know, the lawsuit, they are working up some serious umbrage while picking nits on the district’s most recent report card. To wit: “We walked 193 students across the stage between our
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