Ohio Gadfly Daily

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 third post. The first post can be found here; the second can be found here; the fourth (which also celebrates National Charter Schools Week) can be found here.

As a sci-fi loving nerd growing up in the 70s and 80s, I felt somewhat invisible to classmates and teachers alike. I did well on my schoolwork and caused no trouble, allowing me to fly below most teachers’ radars. They rightfully spent more time with kids who sought their help to catch up and keep up. My small group of like-minded friends stuck together to ward off the bullies and the loneliness of being ignored by everyone else with whom we had little in common.

So you can imagine my surprise when my ninth grade English teacher decided to center a writing lesson on the nerdiest possible subject—the British time-travel TV series “Doctor Who.” It was 1982...


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 second post. The first post can be found here; the third can be found here; the fourth (which also celebrates National Charter Schools Week) can be found here.

I grew up and went to school in a small, blue-collar Ohio town named Plain City. It’s a place where you’ll find dozens of cornfields, can get your produce from a local Amish farm market, and if you try to pass through town on July 15, you’re out of luck because the main roads are closed for the annual Steam Threshers parade (a parade in which hundreds of Ohio farmers show off their tractors and farm equipment through the streets). I’m proud of where I came from, but part of me always wondered if I’d ever leave or if I’d even have the option. But my teachers at Jonathan Alder High School taught me to expect much from myself and instilled in me a passion for learning and writing. Two teachers in particular profoundly...

  1. Chad’s recent blog comparing the education reform paths taken by Florida and Ohio through the lens of NAEP scores became news this week in Cincinnati. Justifiably so, given its quality and depth. Seems like just yesterday that I was picking Chad up at the Columbus airport on his first ever visit to Ohio. And just look at him now: a full-blown Buckeye expert. I suspect it’s my influence that did it really. (WVXU Public Media, Cincinnati, 5/7/18)
  2. Another bill has been introduced related to graduation requirements in Ohio – specifically, to extend the current, “temporary”, lowered, non-academic pathways (or, “hand-holding diplomas” if you will) for two more school years. Here’s hoping it has as much substance as those diplomas it wants to keep handing out. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/7/18)
  3. We have talked extensively about the possibility of the Say Yes to Education program locating in Cleveland. But each news story seems to indicate “one more step” that needs to be done before anything can be decided or actually move forward. The latest: Say Yes wants to know what’s already being done in the CLE to support poor students in school and toward graduation, college, and career.
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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 first post. The second post can be found here; the third can be found here; the fourth (which also celebrates National Charter Schools Week) can be found here.

When you’re working in education policy, it can be easy to forget that, ultimately, teachers not state law have the biggest impact on students. Looking back at my own life, I can think of a half dozen educators that not only taught me an incredible amount but also transformed the way I learned and thought. Teacher appreciation week seems like a perfect time to recognize one of those teachers.

My fourth grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Clinton, Iowa, was Mrs. Sherwood. Donna Sherwood, I had to search for her first name as she’s only ever been Mrs. Sherwood to me, was a tough teacher. She was demanding, and, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure I didn’t make her life easy.

Fourth grade was my first year at Longfellow. I’d moved from a smaller town,...


Last week, the Elyria Chronicle published a piece headlined “Another Lorain Schools hire lacks state certification.” The hire in question is Scott Dieter, who has been selected by CEO David Hardy to serve as the director of early childhood education for Lorain City Schools, which was placed under the auspices of an Academic Distress Commission approximately one year ago.

The problem, as trumpeted by the article, is that Dieter does not have an Ohio license for his position. This apparently has Lorain’s school board president Tony Dimacchia furious. “[Hardy] has hired yet another employee with zero credentials to be an educational leader in our district,” Dimacchia fumed. “It’s amazing that all of a sudden we can hire whomever we want regardless of their educational background or education license or credentials, in any position in a public school.”

Descriptors like “zero credentials” and implications of a questionable education background are likely to make casual readers gasp in horror and wonder what on earth CEO Hardy was thinking. After all, this is the education of children we’re talking about. But is Dimacchia’s declaration accurate?

Well, that depends. In Ohio, there are two different ways to become an ...

  1. Chad Aldis is on hand to discuss the 2018 Ohio gubernatorial primary with The 74 in this piece. At least, an aspect or two of them. (The 74 Million, 5/7/18) Chad’s contributions to this piece—on the education legacy of outgoing governor John Kasich—are more wide ranging, but just as insightful. (IdeaStream Public Media, Cleveland, 5/4/18)
  2. Away from politics and back in the real world, it’s nice to see seniors at the Ponitz Career Center in Dayton getting a look at options for after graduation. Employers, colleges, and branches of the military were all there at the second annual pre-graduation event, and motivational speakers helped boost students’ interest in a fulfilling and productive pathway after high school. Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 5/4/18)
  3. Finally today, an appreciation of the tremendous work of the Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund. The fund has provided needs-based scholarships for students to attend private schools in Toledo and surrounding areas for 20 years. Over $12 million in scholarships have been awarded, with much more to come. Amazing! (Toledo Blade, 5/7/18)

Last month, Paymon Rouhanifard announced that he would be stepping down from his position as the superintendent of Camden Public Schools in New Jersey at the end of the school year. Though leadership changes are nothing new in urban districts like Camden, his decision is newsworthy because of the positive academic results he’s leaving behind.

In a piece for The 74, Laura Waters outlines both the history of the district and the improvements during Rouhanifard’s tenure. These include a high school dropout rate that’s been halved, as well as an impressive collection of hybrid charter/district schools that significantly outperform the district’s traditionally run schools. Although there’s still plenty of work to be done in Camden, these successes should offer new hope for turnaround efforts across the country.

But lessons aren’t exclusive to success. As any younger sibling can attest, we often learn just as much from the mistakes of our older siblings as we do from their achievements. With this thought in mind, I did a deep dive into an array of analyses, reports, and case studies on various district and school turnaround efforts. Some of these efforts—like those in Camden—were relatively successful. Most were not. One thing they...


For charter school supporters, it can be frustrating. There’s always something new in the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) saga. The most recent allegation, by a whistleblower who’d worked for the online giant, is that officials from the school were ordering staff to manipulate student attendance data—after the school had already been ordered to repay $60 million in state funds as a result of a review of student participation by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

At about the same time, Senate President Larry Obhof mused that it might be time for the General Assembly to “take a look” at how the state calculates attendance and funding. “When the legislature’s able to do things or has the responsibility for doing things,” he said, “it should be the legislature, not an administrative agency, that does that.”

President Obhof is right. It’s time for legislative action. Thoughtful policymaking could not only hold online schools accountable for their work but also strengthen the virtual school sector and improve outcomes for students. Here’s a look at a few common sense reforms that the legislature should consider.

Commission a study on performance-based funding

Performance-based funding is an attractive solution that’s been pitched before,...

  1. The Beacon Journal’s editorial board opined following that story from earlier this week about Akron City Schools’ potential for a stratospheric jump in their graduation rate. Forgive me for commenting on an editorial, but it seems to me that they are of two minds on the topic of rigorous graduation requirements. On the one hand, they seem to understand that Ohio’s currently-temporary graduation requirements are so soft as to render this year’s diploma nearly meaningless; on the other hand, reaching that 93 percent number seems to be very attractive. Kind of like they’ve got an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, whispering to them, and no one is quite sure which is which. (Akron Beacon Journal, 5/3/18)
  2. In the market for a computer and looking for a deal on gently-used equipment? The former online school known as ECOT will be selling off its unneeded electronics at auction so as to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. But not right away. Next Wednesday’s previously-scheduled auction—approved by the judge overseeing the school’s shut down—will probably be postponed because the State Auditor wants to preserve data related to his audit of this particular deactivated carousel
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Jim Waters

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.

During the raging debate in recent years about whether Kentucky would join America’s education civilization by allowing charter schools, Ohio’s dismal charter performance became a favorite whipping boy of school-choice opponents.

Less than three years ago, the headline atop a 1,000-word exposé in The Washington Post on the Buckeye State’s charter schools read: “Troubled Ohio charter schools have become a joke -- literally.”

Ohio’s bad charter schools provided piles of fodder for Kentucky’s anti-choice zealots committed to keeping these schools out of the Bluegrass State.

Worse is that Ohio’s failures gave charter-school opponents nationwide a convenient ploy to divert attention away from the decades-long academic failure of many school districts in other states, including Kentucky’s largest in Jefferson County, where parents would leap at the opportunity of enrolling their children in charters – if only they had it.

However, as an old Bob Dylan hit heralds: “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

Confirmation of the truth in Dylan’s lyrics is found in the newly released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results showing dramatic improvement...