Ohio Gadfly Daily

  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
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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
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  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
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Back in October, the Gates Foundation announced a new strategy for their education efforts. Going forward, the organization plans to focus much of its attention—and monetary investment—on networks of schools that will develop locally-driven solutions to improve student achievement. The foundation already issued its first Request for Proposals, along with some guidance based on feedback from various organizations with prior experience improving postsecondary outcomes for students.

Although this grant opportunity is for school networks and not policymakers, there are still plenty of important lessons that lawmakers can learn from the guidance that Gates released to its applicants. And candidates up for election in November should also consider it as they finalize their education platforms.

Here’s a look at three key ideas:

Focus on equity

The Gates Foundation wants applicant responses to “demonstrate a clear commitment to equity.” This is of course important because every single child matters and deserves an excellent education.

For state lawmakers, supporting school choice is a great way to accomplish this. Education is often referred to as the great equalizer, but for millions of children in the United States equal educational opportunities are just a pipe dream. Because of their household incomes and neighborhoods,...


Over the past year, Ohio lawmakers have been mulling revisions to the state’s teacher evaluation policies. The leading proposal, put forth in similar provisions in Senate Bill 240 and Senate Bill 216, would replace the state’s current evaluation framework, known as the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), with a framework sketched out by the Educator Standards Board (ESB).

If passed, the new evaluation system would continue to require annual teacher evaluations (with some exceptions); protocols calling for at least two thirty-minute observations; and ratings assigned along four categories. The major difference between OTES and the ESB recommendations is how they incorporate student performance data in teachers’ evaluations. Controversially, OTES prescribes certain weights that student growth measures must receive in the rating system. However, ESB proposes that “high quality data” be embedded as “sources of evidence” that evaluators can use to justify their ratings along various dimensions of Ohio’s performance rubric.[1] While an updated rubric has yet to be unveiled, it would likely follow a national pattern that is now weakening the use of student data in teacher ratings.  

Replacing OTES with the ESB approach may...


The Ohio House of Representatives just proposed to restructure oversight of K–12 public education by shifting much of the state Board of Education’s power to the governor through a newly formed cabinet-level position.

This would be a serious overhaul, so it’s no surprise that it’s garnering strong reactions. I’m sensitive about reducing the role of a publicly elected board—in no small part because I ran for a seat on it two years ago.

Supporters of the change argue that the board’s current hybrid governance structure—wherein the pubic elects eleven members and the governor appoints eight—is ineffective; they think the governor should be responsible for the direction of education policy and held accountable by voters accordingly. Critics of the proposal contend that reducing the authority of the partially elected board would subvert the will of the voters and replace it with “party politics,” the last thing they want for K–12 public education.

Democracy is rightly one of America’s core principles. But, as Robert Kennedy, Jr. said “Democracy is messy. And it’s hard.” Indeed, running for the state education board laid bare some of its imperfections—and not just because I lost. Elections are sometimes portrayed as ideal forms of...

  1. In the news from Lorain, it appears to be two steps forward as five new administrative positions are filled… (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/19/18) …and one step backward as the board president goes fishing for information about stuff. (Elyria Chronicle, 2/21/18) Hey Lorainians! How about a charter school instead? Constellation Schools would like to have a word if for some reason you’re interested. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/20/18)
  2. Enrollment in West Muskingum Schools has been steadily declining for a decade. Open enrollment availability in the rural-ish part of Ohio is partially to blame, say officials, but so also is a declining birth rate in the area. Very perceptive of them, I must say. As a result, teacher positions will likely be eliminated and a new levy placed on the ballot soon. And yes, 7 positions eliminated will result in savings of over $600,000 per year, according to this piece. (Zanesville Times Recorder, 2/17/18)
  3. Speaking of declining enrollment, a taskforce looking at underutilization in Dayton City Schools was said to be speeding up its work—conducting the last of its formal meetings this week, and, seemingly, backing away from more than a couple of consolidations
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If a renewed focus on curriculum as a driver of improvements in K–12 education is in the cards, then a recent study from University of Oregon and Georgia Southern University scientists is good news indeed. It shows that four well-designed online science modules increased student achievement across all student subgroups, and especially for English as a second language (ESL) students and students with disabilities.

The study, a randomized controlled trial with over 2,300 middle school students and their teachers in thirteen schools in Oregon and Georgia, was conducted over three school years between 2014 and 2017. Each year, students in the treatment group completed one module—described as “enhanced online textbooks.” The modules covered life science, Earth and space science, and physical science; were aligned with Next Generation Science Standards; and included teacher professional development regarding their effective use prior to the start of each school year. Pacing was left up to the teachers, although the minimum duration reported was ten weeks. Control group teachers taught these topics “as usual”—i.e., in class without online content. Students in both groups completed pre-tests and post-tests around the specific content of each module.

The researchers found that students in both groups...


In the waning days of January, the Ohio Department of Higher Education gained approval from the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review for two new regulations regarding College Credit Plus (CCP) that will take effect during the quickly approaching summer term of the 2018-19 school year. Here’s a brief look at two of the most significant changes.

Course restrictions

One of the new rules divides available college courses into two categories: Level I and Level II courses. Level I is defined as any of the following:

  • A transferable course, which is defined in detail within the rules
  • A course in computer science, information technology, anatomy, physiology, or foreign language that is not eligible to be a transferable course
  • A technical certificate course, which the rules define as a course that is part of an organized program for a technical certificate offered by a public institution
  • A course included in a model pathway, which are developed by each secondary school in accordance with state law
  • A course designed to teach study skills and other skills for academic and career success to first-year college students
  • An internship
  • Any other course approved by the chancellor

Level II courses...