Ohio Gadfly Daily

Some Ohio lawmakers and educators recently proposed to roll back the state’s social studies exams, which presently include tests in fourth and sixth grade and end-of-course assessments (EOCs) for high-school students in both U.S. history and government. The proposals come from two avenues. As part of its version of the budget bill, the Senate Finance Committee would scrap fourth- and sixth-grade social studies testing. Meanwhile, an assessment review committee convened by state superintendent Paolo DeMaria goes further and jettisons all four social studies exams. (Superintendent DeMaria’s opinion differed from the committee, as he suggested that Ohio drop its fourth grade test and U.S. government EOC while leaving the other two in place.)

In today’s anti-testing climate, it’s not hard to see why policymakers are willing to abandon these exams. Unlike math, reading, and science, testing in social studies is not required under federal law and dropping it would marginally reduce total test burden while also satisfying political demands. Yet before policymakers sacrifice social studies on the anti-testing altar, they should consider the important reasons not to.

Social studies is an essential content area

One of the central missions of education is to prepare citizens and a key part...

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election and his selection of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, a lot of attention has been focused on school choice. Though charters and vouchers have received the lion’s share of attention, there’s another under-the-radar school choice program that impacts thousands of students: interdistrict open enrollment, a policy that permits students to attend school in a district other than the one in which they live.

Though Ohio’s program was one of the nation’s earliest, limited information has been available about who participates and how they perform academically. To shed some light on this important program, we commissioned a report: Interdistrict Open Enrollment in Ohio: Participation and Student Outcomes. On June 6, we hosted an event to present the findings and to learn more about how the policy works in practice.

Opening the event was Dr. Deven Carlson, a professor from the University of Oklahoma and one of the report’s co-authors. Carlson began by overviewing Ohio’s open enrollment program. (His slide deck is available here.)  

Report co-author Deven Carlson presents findings

In regards to...

The best advice my wife and I received on how to manage daily life with newly born twin daughters was from our pediatrician: get them on a schedule. Any schedule that works for you is fine, but it should be the same schedule for both children, and stick to it. It was a great insight from a pro and it has served us well. Our lives have gone far more smoothly than we feared they would all those years ago in the wake of the arrival of two very tiny babies needing constant care and attention.

My girls, circa 2002. Note the socks used for gloves on their tiny hands. Another decision point.

We have continued to treat our kids as a unit in most matters, including their education, which was marked by several decision points on opting into and out of schools. Now, however, as they finish their first year of high school, we are faced, for the first time, with choosing separate options for the girls—and that process has brought some new insights.

First, school choice is not a...

  1. We start today with a feel good story of high schoolers beating the odds to graduate and go on to college. All have earned scholarships for that accomplishment. The main story is of a young Columbus woman who has, indeed, survived war and other hardships. Luckily it is she and her family who are getting the credit, as it sounds like it should be. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/15/17) Next up, a possible feel bad story about narrow slice of high schoolers potentially getting special treatment in regards to sports eligibility, thanks to the Ohio General Assembly. What? I said “possible”. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/15/17) And then there is this really feel really bad story about the continued employment and sometimes-quite-large salaries afforded to folks involved in the data-rigging scandal in Columbus City Schools. Sounds like they, too, have beat some stiff odds. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/15/17)
  2. Please don’t let that previous series of stories bum you out, OK? To balance things out, there’s this: Cruiser Academy, a dropout recovery school in Groveport, will go from charter to “regular” status (semantic analysis stat!) due to the state’s rigorous sponsor evaluation system. At least, I think it’s because of
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Matt Richmond

NOTES: 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.

This piece was first published in a slightly different form on EdBuild’s blog.

On their first day of their first year of school, children from poor families already carry a backpack of challenges that will weigh them down throughout their entire educational career. Compared to more affluent classmates, they begin kindergarten less prepared, have access to less out-of-school support, and ultimately graduate high school at far lower rates as a cumulative result.

In Ohio, low-income students are nearly three times as likely to drop out of school, and even while in school their average proficiency rates are 30% below other students. Dealing with constant road blocks that distract from their education and subsequent opportunities in life — they need schools with the extra resources necessary to help them beat the odds.

But is Ohio — and are other states across the U.S. — doing enough to ensure schools have those resources? EdBuild recently released a brief and interactive tool, Resource Inequality: Shortchanging Students, looking at how effective states are at getting dollars to students living in...

  1. In a surprise to no one, the state board of ed this week voted to order the state’s largest online school to repay something like $60 million in regard to the ongoing kerfuffle between the state and the school over its recent attendance audit. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/12/17) In a surprise to no one, school districts around the state have their hands out to get as much of that $60 million as they can. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/12/17) In a surprise to no one, this ain’t over yet. Lawyers for the school have filed a legal challenge to the decision and the way in which it was reached. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/13/17)
  2. In other state board of education news, the state supe made his pitch to them for cutting state testing. To, perhaps, the surprise of some. (Dayton Daily News, 6/12/17) In a surprise to no one, Butler County school district leaders agree with the pitch. In an additional non-surprise, they characterize it as a “start”, a “beginning”, and a “first step”. (Dayton Daily News, 6/12/17) Also not surprising: Patrick O’Donnell’s thoughtful and analytical take on the supe’s test-cut pitch. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/13/17)
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When I was growing up, “fake news” was the black-and-white photograph of the infamous bat child. Staring back at me in the supermarket check-out line, it was easy to spot—the line demarcating fiction from reality was as recognizable as the red and yellow tabloid headlines. Nowadays, fake news, defined by Wikipedia as “written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention,” is rampant, flourishing in social media like algae in warm lake water. It’s also harder to pinpoint, having taken on so many esoteric forms beyond the blatantly untrue or “good-old fashioned viral emails” of years past. (You know it’s bad when the ignorance of yesteryear brings on nostalgia.)

Today’s fake news is insidious and creeping—like an invasive weed posing as a hearty, colorful garden plant before wilting and seeding itself in the wind to multiply its damage. The most dangerous form isn’t the outright lie. It’s the distortion of fact, the misrepresentation, the half-truth. News isn’t all that’s “fake” nowadays. Too many public policy proposals also...

Greg R. Lawson

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.

The Buckeye Institute in Ohio recently released Education Savings Accounts: Expanding Education Options for Ohio, a report co-authored with the Heritage Foundation’s school choice expert Lindsey Burke, which explains how Education Savings Accounts (ESA) will build upon Ohio’s already successful voucher and scholarship programs. Adopting a robust ESA program would propel Ohio’s outdated public education system into the 21st century, and make it nimble enough to navigate the needs of today’s students.

ESAs take the next step toward putting parents in charge of their child’s education. In envisioning education in the 21st century, parents—not bureaucrats—are primarily responsible for meeting the educational needs of students. And ESAs will help Ohio realize that vision.

For more than a century, an “Industrial Age” model of mass learning and limited flexibility has dominated the public education paradigm. This model too often ignores the individual needs, differences, skills, and interests of the children it purports to instruct. By embracing a more flexible and personalized approach to learning, ESAs will help Ohio transition into the new “Information Age”—empowering...

In case you missed it, Fordham released a new report last week: a first-of-its-kind analysis of the districts and the students utilizing open enrollment across district boundaries in the Buckeye State, focusing on which districts did and did not open their borders and on the academic outcomes of students who take advantage of the opportunity.

Interest in the findings was widespread and a sample of the local, state and national media coverage includes:

  • The Columbus Dispatch – which has previously covered local school residency and attendance issues
  • The blog of The 74 Million – including an interview with Fordham Ohio’s research guru Aaron Churchill
  • The blog of Chalkbeat – including a national perspective on the issue
  • Statehouse news site Gongwer Ohio – who covered the report and the release event held in Columbus

If you weren’t able to join us for that release event and the important panel discussion included therein – which included the perspective of urban and suburban district leaders as well as a vital parent perspective – please visit Fordham’s YouTube channel or click on the image below to see the full video.


  1. I don’t usually clip blog posts, but this seemed fairly significant. The learned Dr. Matt Ladner – senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute – took notice of our Ohio open enrollment report and added his thoughts to the discussion via Jay Greene’s blog. It’s an interesting take based on his knowledge of education reform history and informed by his own past research. Worth a look, even if you haven’t read our report yet. (Jay P. Greene’s blog, 6/12/17)
  2. Sticking with the school choice theme, it was announced this weekend that a new charter school will be coming to Sheffield, near Lorain, starting next school year. Repeat: it will be opening near Lorain. Near enough to drive. Academically-distressed Lorain City Schools. Or maybe take a bus. Yes, THAT Lorain. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 6/11/17)
  3. Finally today, a new report on the State of Preschool in the CLE shows that efforts to increase the number of 3 and 4 year olds in high quality preschool seats fell short of goals after three years of work. There’s some nuance there and the data are not all gloomy, but this stat at the very end of the
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