Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Our own Chad Aldis, an expert in charter school policy if the press it to be believed, is quoted in this new piece regarding pending legislation designed to “return” money clawed back from charter schools to the district schools from which it was “taken”. Sorry for the overuse of quotation marks, but it can’t be helped in this context. School funding is hard. Sadly, Chad’s remarks on the substance of the bills in question only come after an intricate and lengthy discussion of bill language plagiarization, which you will be forgiven for concluding is actually the most important thing here. (WYTV, Youngstown, 8/15/17) Speaking of claw backs, in a completely unrelated story (probably), another online school bit the dust (probably) less than a week before school starts this year. Their school year is currently on hold due to financial stability concerns in the face of those aforementioned claw backs. Kudos to everyone involved. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/14/17)
  2. Meanwhile, Youngstown CEO Krish Mohip abruptly ended a consulting gig with a district vendor after questions of propriety were broached by the Vindy. (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/16/17) In a completely unrelated story (probably), the Youngstown ADC has agreed to ask
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July and August might otherwise be sleepy months best reserved for recovering from Ohio’s biennial budget process, lounging beachside, and avoiding one’s smartphone and computer. The downtime also creates space to reflect. In the world of education policy, there is much to ruminate about, especially when it comes to the words and actions of our state leaders and the impact their decisions will have on Ohio students.

One such group of decisions makers is the State Board of Education, a nineteen-member board of partially elected, partially appointed leaders whose stated vision is: “For all Ohio students to graduate from the PK-12 education system with the knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary to successfully continue their education and/or be workforce ready and successfully participate in the global economy as productive citizens.”

Unfortunately, board members’ vacillations in recent months on foundational elements like testing, accountability, standards—even the basic belief that schools can make a real difference in helping students—seem to undermine that vision. The board most visibly took up the mantel of mediocrity this spring during the state’s debate over what should constitute appropriate graduation requirements. In April, members adopted recommendations (later adopted by the legislature and passed into law) that set Ohio...

  1. As all my loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers know, your humble clips compiler is consistent in believing that, aside from you, very few others take this little news clips lark seriously (and that both of you should probably find additional hobbies; just sayin’). It is in that spirit of humility that I say truly that I’m sure this had nothing to do with me and my lengthy ramble at the start of Friday’s clips and instead had everything to do with thorough journalism. To wit: Jim Siegel was able to find all of the other online schools to which State Auditor Dave Yost’s (…) new guidance, issued last week, currently applies. Interestingly, he gives a good update on how those schools have handled the results of their attendance audits, but how they’re planning to comply with the new guidance remains a mystery. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/12/17)
  2. As noted in the above piece, at least two online charter schools to which State Auditor Dave Yost’s (…) new guidance currently applies have simply closed their doors in reaction to the monetary “claw back” required of them due to the results of their attendance audits. Here is a more detailed story on
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  1. In case you missed it, State Auditor Dave Yost (…) issued some guidance this week. What’s the big deal, I hear you ask. Doesn’t he do that literally every week? Well, probably. But this is rather special guidance with some potentially far-reaching effects for charter schools across the state for years to come. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/9/17) Of course, you might not get that impression if you read the foregoing Dispatch piece, or indeed this version of the story from the PD. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/9/17) The D and the PD and the Blade are focused solely on how this guidance affects Ohio’s largest online charter school, which, as both of my dedicated Gadfly Bites subscribers know, is currently involved a kerfuffle with seemingly every facet of state government over matters of contract law and the results of an attendance audit. Of course, said school’s sponsor is located in Toledo, so kudos to the Blade for the local angle at least. (Toledo Blade, 8/9/17) Not even the analytical and thorough folks at Gongwer could think of the name of any other charter school – online or otherwise – to which this guidance currently applies. But I am assured
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John Mullaney

NOTES: John Mullaney is the Executive Director of the Nord Family Foundation. Both authors were part of the Straight A Fund advisory board in FY 14-15.

This piece originally appeared in a slightly different form in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

In 2013, Governor Kasich and Ohio legislators enacted the Straight A Fund, one of the nation’s largest statewide competitive grant programs for K-12 education. The idea sprang from philanthropic foundations across Ohio who saw this as an opportunity to have the state co-invest in truly innovative approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. A 2009 report Beyond Tinkering was presented to the legislature with specific recommendations to initiate such a fund. With $250 million in state funding over fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015, Straight A awarded sixty-one grants in amounts ranging from about $200,000 to $15 million. The fund was intended to spark innovative thinking and practices with the goal of boosting student achievement and reducing costs.

Yet after an initial burst of excitement, enthusiasm for Straight A waned. Collaborators from the philanthropic sector expressed concerns about the legislative emphasis on cost-savings, which some felt eclipsed the focus on innovation and achievement. In FY 2016-17, state lawmakers...

But we do. Really.

  1. The dynamic duo of John Mullaney, executive director of the Nord Family Foundation and Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill opine in the PD today on the topic of the state’s late, lamented Straight A Innovation Fund grant program. Both were members of the program’s grant advisory board. Interesting read, if I do say so myself. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/9/17) Meanwhile, Fordham was reportedly one side of a “night and day” comparison of the quality of two charter school sponsors in Cleveland. I think I know which was which, but it probably depends on your perspective. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/8/17)
  2. Last night’s Dayton City Schools board meeting seemed to be taken up primarily with the administration’s update on how teacher contract negotiations have been going. Oh, and the revelation that teachers probably wouldn’t be paid this Friday if they went on strike. Triple dog dare? You decide. (Dayton Daily News, 8/8/17) Negotiations were set to resume this morning in Dayton, with high hopes for successful resolution without a strike. So we’ll file this piece – 10 things that will happen if Dayton’s teachers strike – under “hopefully just speculative fiction”. (Dayton Daily News,
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The big squeeze continues. Ohio’s charter sector shrinks again as reforms enacted in 2012 and 2015 are fully implemented. The Buckeye State will see a record-low number of new charter schools open this fall, a slow-down that persists for the third year in a row. Meanwhile, twenty-two schools shut at the end of the 2016-17 school year, the fourth highest number in Ohio’s almost twenty-year charter history. A handful of law changes essentially have accomplished what decades of “self-policing” among authorizers could not: Authorizers have been forced to act more judiciously when determining who should be allowed to start a school and what it takes to keep a school open.

While we are encouraged to see that Ohio’s charter sector has become more quality focused, contraction of the sector alone won’t deliver great options for kids who desperately need them. These numbers point to a worrisome lack of capacity in the state around launching new schools and replicating high-quality models—a situation that warrants attention and action. Let’s take a quick look at the data.


Twelve of the twenty-two charter schools that closed their doors this June were overseen by traditional public school districts. This provides further evidence that...

Last month, several urban Ohio school districts began sounding alarms over Ohio’s third-grade reading guarantee—a policy put in place several years ago that requires students who don’t reach reading proficiency by the end of grade three to be held back—fearful that a much larger number of their third graders won’t meet the requirements for promotion. The policy was put in place for good reasons; research shows that students who can’t read by third grade often fall behind in other skills, like writing, and are at a high risk of failure for the rest of their schooling careers. In addition, another brand-new research study found that retaining students can boost their high school readiness years later.

Here’s what’s happening: Students who fall short on Ohio’s state reading test can take and pass “alternative” assessments from national test vendors (e.g., NWEA MAP and Terra Nova) that in the past have been arguably easier than state tests (judging by the large number of students being promoted based upon passage of alternative tests). However, those test vendors recently set higher targets—and now an increasing number of students are missing the alternate bar. Yet rather than taking responsibility for Ohio’s youngest students’ dismal...

Somewhere between the right and the left – between the un-nuanced mantras of personal responsibility and big government – lie most of the problems related to poverty, as well as most of the solutions. So said Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in his opening remarks at a Columbus Metropolitan Club event in Columbus last week. He framed the discussion titled “On Poverty” by noting that putting both problems and possible solutions at the extreme end of either political ideology ignores reality and stymies understanding and effective action. Any successful effort to address poverty required individuals to leave their extreme positions and to meet somewhere between. Fordham was proud to co-sponsor the event with the hope that Vance’s new and increasingly important take on the topic would find room at the table for education issues as well.

And education quickly became key to the personal stories shared during the panel portion of the event. Vance referenced the now-familiar story of his own difficult upbringing in Middletown, Ohio, as detailed in his New York Times bestselling memoir. Cynthia Dungey, Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), was co-panelist, and her personal story provided both counterpoint and amplification of...

  1. Contract talks in Dayton resume today with some distance still between the two sides. Folks seem upbeat but it will be a long day today and probably Wednesday too, the only other scheduled bargaining day. In between – a school board meeting. Now THAT should be interesting either way. (Dayton Daily News, 8/6/17)
  2. Speaking of teachers, there are changes in the works for the state’s resident educator training program – a mentoring/support/development program for new teachers which escaped the budgetary chopping block a month or so ago. Kudos to the Ohio Department of Education for understanding that improvements were needed. Let’s hope that the results of said changes are properly analyzed down the road so as to make sure they are actual improvements. Your humble clips compiler has someone in mind for the gig should anyone be interested in a referral. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/4/17)
  3. The “disappointed” president of the Lorain school board has filed an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink data request with a bunch of folks involved in the selection process for the new district CEO. You can read about the request generally in the Morning Journal. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 8/4/17) You can read a from-the-horse’s-mouth
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