Ohio Gadfly Daily

As the days grew shorter and 2015 drew to a close, my colleagues gave you a recap of the big education stories that impacted the Buckeye State last year. With the new year upon us, it’s time to turn our gaze forward, polish the trusty crystal ball, and make some predictions about what will happen in the next twelve months.

But first, a few disclaimers. While I may possess some superhuman powers, it remains to be seen whether the power of prognostication is one of them. Check back in December to either gloat or pay homage to my soothsaying. Moreover, these are predictions, not necessarily what I want to happen. So keep calm and keep reading.

1. 2016 Elections mean not much of substance will actually happen

Election years always tend to tamp down the amount of legislation that winds its way through the General Assembly. This year, that tendency should be even more pronounced as Ohio’s own John Kasich battles for a spot on the Republican presidential ticket. This means no mid-biennium review bill and precious little action on education policy during 2016. It will likely be the quietest year...

Ohio has exemplary charter schools – beacons of quality that are helping students reach their full potential. Who are these high flyers and what can we learn from them? How can Ohio replicate, expand, and support great charters in every part of the state? Fordham partnered with Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett of the FDR Group to survey the leaders of these exemplary schools to capture their thoughts on charter policy, hear what makes their schools tick, and learn what we can do to make sure that good schools flourish and expand.

Quality in Adversity: Lessons from Ohio’s best charter schools will be released on Wednesday, January 27, 2016, in conjunction with this event. A fitting way to celebrate National School Choice Week!


Ann Duffett, Ph.D., the FDR Group


Andrew Boy, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, United Schools Network

Hannah D. Powell, Executive Director, KIPP Columbus

David Taylor, Chief Academic Officer, Dayton Early College Academy


Steve Farkas, the FDR Group


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Coffee and pastries will be available

Program begins at 8:30 am

Program concludes at 9:45 am




  1. The first pieces of Ohio’s state report cards – which will be incomplete anyway due to “safe harbor” requirements – are due this week, many months late thanks to the switch to PARCC tests last year. The remainder of what information we do get will arrive late in February. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/10/16)
  2. No news on the Youngstown Plan this weekend – the definition of “teacher” remains unsettled and therefore the entire Academic Distress Commission mechanism remains stalled.  But in Lorain City Schools, the only other Ohio district currently under the old-style Academic Distress Commission, they have a different conundrum around a definition. They know that they don’t want the “Youngstown Plan” to become the “Lorain Plan”, and they know that a clock is ticking on them to make that happen. But why exactly do they oppose the Youngstown Plan? Because the district supe defines the plan as the death knell for the public common school in Lorain (i.e. a problem for adults) and not as an effort to actually fix the schools there (i.e. a problem for kids). While the article is ostensibly about some efforts to avoid a new-style ADC in Lorain via business, community,
  3. ...

Truancy has long been a problem in schools across the nation. Because of its myriad causes, the economic and educational cost, and unhelpfully harsh policies, it continues to be a broad and complicated problem. In Ohio, school officials have been trying to support chronically absent students for years. Unfortunately, despite good intentions and several attempts, the state’s attendance issues still haven’t been resolved—and much of that can be attributed to Ohio’s problematic legal provisions regarding truancy. Persistent difficulties in data collection and reporting keep the true size and nature of the problem unknowable, and an outdated punitive mentality makes designing productive solutions close to impossible.

For a closer look at the issue, consider the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). During the 2013–14 school year, Cleveland’s 89.1 percent attendance rate was the lowest of all Big 8 urban districts. That rate has been flat for quite a few years.[1] An 89 percent might not seem so bad—it would indicate a B grade on a test. But attendance percentages are different than grades; in a district the size of Cleveland, an 89 percent attendance rate means that thousands of kids...

  1. Chad is quoted in this PD piece on the new charter sponsor evaluation framework coming online soon here in Ohio. Not soon enough to be able to avoid two years’ worth of evaluations basically happening at the same time. This unusual, regrettable, and currently unavoidable situation gives the usual suspects even more scope to complain. Not Chad, though. He is his normal pragmatic self, although his usual sunny optimism is put to the test. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/7/16)
  2. Chad’s sunny optimism is also tested in this piece, where he is quoted discussing the newly-released Quality Counts report. Ohio’s numbers are fairly grim, especially in terms of the achievement gap between students on either end of the income scale. “Recent reforms” are held out as a valuable tool in helping shrink said gap going forward. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/7/16)
  3. OK, I think “sunny optimism” is pretty well absent from this piece. Chad is one of a number of stakeholders quoted in regard to HB 420 – intended to “protect” schools’ report card grades if they have a large number of parents opting their children out of standardized testing. "We have to count all the students in a
  4. ...

As Ohio goes, so goes the nation—at least when it comes to the 2016 Quality Counts ranking. Called to Account is the twentieth edition of Education Week’s annual ranking of states based on a bevy of (somewhat random) indicators. Each year’s rankings are accompanied by a thematic commentary on American education—effectively a backdrop of national trends, events, or priorities against which to view state data. This year’s theme is accountability, and researchers examined trends in achievement and poverty-based gaps according to NAEP.

The latest scorecard for the Buckeye State is nearly impossible to differentiate from the national one. Ohio’s overall letter grade (C) and individual grades on the report’s three main indicators—the Chance-for-Success Index (C-plus), K–12 Achievement Index (C-minus), and school finance analysis (C)—match national grades right down to the pluses and minuses.

Ohio falls in the middle of the pack nationally on all counts, though not all grades are especially insightful. For instance, a state earns a perfect score on the “spending index” if all of its districts spend above the U.S. average, yet we know that more spending does not always translate to better outcomes. Still, it’s worth noting Ohio’s rankings relative to peers and areas of possible...

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 594,000 children live in poverty throughout the state of Ohio. Assuming a family of four, these Buckeye youngsters come from households with an annual income of less than $25,000—truly disadvantaged families. It’s no secret that children such as these are behind the proverbial eight-ball in life; as recent research demonstrates, it’s a longshot that kids who grow up poor will climb into the upper-middle class as adults—and Ohio’s low-income children face some of the longest odds nationally.

It has long been recognized that the best antidote to this vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty is an extraordinary education. Still, even today, tens of thousands of low-income Buckeye students are way off track in school—in an academic Siberia—and almost certainly not on the path to adult success. In fact, according to early results from last year’s PARCC tests, roughly 15 percent of students from poor urban areas are meeting career- and college-ready benchmarks, while the percentages reach 50 and 60 percent in the suburbs.

What can we do? One possible avenue for advancement is to create public finance policies that devote more dollars to the education of low-income students. In technical...

In early December, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its 2015 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, which examines the laws and regulations governing state teacher policy. NCTQ evaluated states in five policy areas, each of which contained sub-goals such as delivering well-prepared teachers, expanding the teaching pool, and identifying effective teachers. States were evaluated on each dimension and given a grade for each policy area. The five policy area grades were then rolled into one state grade.

In terms of overall grades, Ohio did fairly well, earning a B-minus. (The top-performing state was Florida with a B+, while the lowest performer was Montana with an F.) Ohio received the same grade in 2013, but earlier overall grades (a C-plus in 2011 and a D-plus in 2009) were far less impressive, and the results point to general improvement. The Buckeye State earned its highest area grade, a solid B, in expanding the teacher pool through efforts to increase teaching opportunities with flexible and rigorous pathways. But the state earned its lowest grade (a C-minus) for delivering well-prepared teachers—mostly due to its failure to require prospective elementary, secondary science, secondary social studies, and special education teachers to pass rigorous content...

  1. I’m not sure when it became de rigeur for school choice supporters generally and charter school advocates specifically to lead with charter school bashing in any discussion of charters in Ohio, but that does seem to be the new norm. Luckily for these noobs, charter school opponents have seeded tons of references in the past for use today. Feel free to copy/paste. Case in point, this piece from the 74 Million blog – in which our own Chad Aldis is quoted – talking about the Buckeye State’s new sponsor evaluation system and how it relates to larger charter reforms enacted in 2015. The author seems less than optimistic about the potential success of said reforms. Luckily, Chad is sunny and positive as always. (The 74 Million blog, 1/4/16)
  2. So, what’s going on with the legal wrangling holding up the first meeting of the new Academic Distress Commission in Youngstown? Not much. Well, more like legal maneuverings which look to the rest of us like “not much”. Who has/doesn’t have standing to object, why can’t the commission just meet while these things are being hammered out, and the old chestnut what is the definition of “teacher”. All these
  3. ...

A recent Akron Beacon Journal headline grabbed my attention, and not in a good way: “Ohio tells federal investigators that charter schools are getting better, but evidence isn’t convincing.” It’s among the latest in a string of news stories about Ohio’s win of a federal $71 million Charter School Program (CSP) grant—and, more distressingly, its possible loss of said grant.

The article uses the current federal investigation of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) as the hook (“Oh look! An article about that $71 million grant—I wonder what the status is.”), then launches into a discussion about the audit results from high-profile blow-up Next Frontier Academy and Ohio’s alleged inability to track misspent dollars. Another editorial from ABJ with an equally cynical title (“Ohio and its legacy of careless charter schools”) better explains the apparent linkage between the two topics: “Because of the shabby record-keeping, auditors could not reach firm conclusions about school enrollment and finances. Thus, conveniently enough, the Next Frontier story could not be included in the information sent to federal investigators. Next Frontier wasn’t alone, the records of other charter schools in similar disarray. That left the state in position to offer a rosier...