Ohio Gadfly Daily

COLUMBUS (OH) – The Senate Education Committee today amended House Bill 491 to extend previously-relaxed graduation requirements for the class of 2018 to the classes of 2019 and 2020.

“Despite consistent feedback that too many Ohio high school graduates aren’t ready for credit bearing college courses and don’t possess the skills necessary to enter the workforce, the Senate is again rolling back what’s required to receive a high school diploma,” said Chad L. Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “The point of raising the bar in the first place was to help students be prepared when they leave high school. While adults in the education system will rejoice if this change becomes law, students taking an easier path and left without an industry credential or grade level math and English skills will be left to pay the ultimate price.”

Rather than earning a diploma by successfully passing end-of-course exams, achieving remediation-free scores on the ACT or SAT, or attaining an industry credential and demonstrating workforce skills, students in the class of 2019 would be able to graduate by completing tasks from a list which includes a 93 percent senior year attendance...


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Ohio Senate Education Committee is this week taking testimony on House Bill 491 which, as amended, would extend lowered, non-academic graduation requirements to the Classes of 2019 and 2020. Fordham’s Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy provided written testimony in opposition to those changes. That testimony is below.

Thank you, Chair Lehner, Vice Chair Huffman, Ranking Member Sykes, and Senate Education Committee members for the opportunity to provide written testimony on amendments potentially being offered on House Bill 491 related to softening the graduation requirements for future graduating classes.

In 2014, when the legislature adopted the current graduation requirements and raised the expectations for Ohio students to get a diploma, we applauded your resolve and commitment. It was a powerful acknowledgement that too few Ohio students were graduating high school with the skills necessary to be successful in college or to enter the workforce. Fully one third of Ohio students who did enter an Ohio college required remediation before taking credit-bearing courses. And we routinely heard reports of good paying jobs sitting vacant because young people didn’t have the skills that employers needed.

That’s why this body raised graduation requirements. Last year’s graduating class, the Class...

  1. Not much to say today in presenting these pieces. All are attempting to outline what is best for high school students from the perspective of folks in charge of doing just that. School leaders, politicians, business titans, and others. First up, the elected board of Toledo City Schools passed a resolution this week urging the legislature to extend softened graduation requirements for the Classes of 2019 and 2020 at least. A.K.A. The “right thing”, as they put it. (Toledo Blade, 12/5/18)
  2. Next up, business leaders in the Miami Valley say they are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill urgent needs. Their solution is to reach out to students and emphasize the need for soft skills such as “leadership, teamwork, communication, problem solving, work ethic, flexibility and adaptability, and interpersonal skills”. No test-taking ability is required, it seems, but there is also no discussion of ability to read and do math at a high school level either. You know: what those tests generally measure. (Dayton Daily News, 12/5/18)
  3. Hatred of tests is on full display here, as the leaders of Wickliffe City Schools in Northeast Ohio tell us bluntly. These guys have a new plan
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Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece that charged school district officials in various cities with attempting to stall the growth of school choice by refusing to sell vacant properties to charter schools, or to private schools that accept vouchers.

The paper didn’t mention any Ohio cities, but the story is regrettably similar here. In a 2016 survey of principals from high-performing Ohio charters, nearly half of respondents noted that local public school districts are generally uncooperative when it comes to making buildings and facilities available. Many leaders speculated that they were denied buildings specifically because they were viewed as competition. About 60 percent of them believed that enforcing the Ohio statute that requires traditional districts to offer unused buildings to charters would be a “very effective” way to improve the charter sector.

The state law they are referring to requires traditional districts to offer unused school facilities[1] for lease or sale to charter schools, college-preparatory boarding schools, and STEM schools—all schools of choice—before they are able to sell to anyone else. The provision is commonly known as “right of first refusal,” and Ohio’s version requires districts to offer...

  1. Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill had an op-ed in the Beacon-Journal over the weekend. What’s he talking about? Oh nothing much, really. Only about the large-scale failure of many Ohio schools to properly educate their students for future success, and how much worse that’s going to get if Ohio sticks with its plan to make diplomas into participation awards without any relevance to academic ability. (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/1/18)
  2. An interesting piece in the Toledo Blade this weekend goes from the premise that students in district schools appear to be doing “just as well” as students in local charter schools. Data is provided. This is a subtly different take on the topic of comparing schools than you normally see in the big city news outlets in Ohio (although the usual kudos for Toledo School of the Arts apply here of course). That subtlety was not lost on Toledo City Schools superintendent Romules Durant, and he responded to it as you might expect. Fascinating. (Toledo Blade, 12/1/18)
  3. Speaking of charter schools, the Communities in Schools program here in central Ohio, which provides support services for students with everything from food insecurity to college application completion, also serves
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The ongoing debate on what standards (if any) students in the class of 2019 should have to meet in order to receive a diploma has resulted in very little attention being paid to recent recommendations by the Ohio State Board of Education to change graduation requirements for the classes of 2022 and beyond. In response to clamors for a “long term fix” to graduation standards, the state board has proposed requirements based on criteria such as vaguely defined culminating student experiences (CSEs) that align with concepts of personalized learning—a term used throughout the board’s strategic plan and emphasized in the “each child” part of the plan’s title. The board’s ideas are also reflected in a recent Ohio Department of Education statement supporting the proposal: “Students, with their parents and teachers, will choose how they demonstrate their career, college, or life readiness...with options like an internship, capstone project, or culminating student experience.”

Within limits, it’s perfectly fine to tailor classroom instruction to the needs and interests of individual students. But the application of personalized learning to graduation standards is misguided, especially when viewed through the lens of educational equity—an important concept that the state...

  1. We start today with some very nice coverage of yesterday’s Fordham-hosted panel event on the topic of the Janus Supreme Court decision and its possible effects on education in Ohio. Good event with some important and interesting discussion. Full video forthcoming, y’all. (Columbus Dispatch, 11/29/18). Scant hours after our own Chad Aldis finished moderating that discussion, he was off to the Statehouse to testify on the topic of funding for online schools. Here is coverage of yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on E-School Funding, including some quotes from Chad. His full written remarks are here, if you are so inclined. (Gongwer Ohio, 11/29/18) In between, Chad was on the phone with the Enquirer’s Jackie Borchardt, talking about his most favorite of recent subjects: Ohio’s War on Knowing Stuff. Here is her coverage of the state’s current efforts to lower graduation requirements to absolute rock bottom. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/29/18) And while the quotes used in this Canton Rep editorial on same topic came from Chad on another, equally-busy day, they are still as fresh and biting (and correct) as ever. Editors in Canton opined in agreement. Whew! (Canton Repository, 11/30/18)
  2. Here is
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Online charter proves a great fit for Gahanna student

Vanessa McCoy, an Ohio Connections Academy (OCA) graduate, wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the Dispatch recently. McCoy explains why she enrolled in OCA and the flexibility it afforded her.

Enrollment doubles at Sandusky’s only charter school

Monroe Preparatory Academy, Sandusky’s only charter public school, has experienced significant growth since relocating to its current location this spring. According to Erik Thorson, the school administrator, enrollment at the K-6 school has doubled and plans are in the works to add seventh- and eighth-grade classes.

ODE releases charter school sponsor ratings

A couple of weeks ago, the Ohio Department of Education released sponsor ratings for the 2017-2018 school year. The ratings, a function of Ohio’s sponsor evaluation system, categorized more than half of Ohio’s charter sponsors as “effective.” The Dayton Daily News digs into the details and gets reactions to the ratings.

Stop trying to claim charters “steal” money from traditional public schools

Christian Barnard, a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, recently published an op-ed in the Washington Examiner in which he explains that charters don’t “steal”...


Editor’s Note: Chad Aldis was invited to give testimony before the Ohio General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Committee on E-School Funding. These are his written remarks.

Thank you, Co-Chair Lehner, Co-Chair Cupp, and joint committee members for giving me the opportunity to provide testimony on Ohio’s options for how it funds online charter schools.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C. Our Dayton office is also an approved Ohio charter school sponsor.

As many of you know, Fordham has been a staunch supporter of school choice for decades. We believe that every family deserves the right to choose their child’s school; however, we also believe that state and local leaders have a duty to ensure that these options are high-quality. Although the Ohio General Assembly has done a considerable amount of work in the last few years to improve charter school laws, the unique nature of online schools has created a specific set of challenges that are yet to be addressed. Most notably,...

  1. The Dayton Daily News’ look at the most recent evaluation results for Ohio charter school sponsors notes that while most sponsors rated as effective, some folks say that’s “not all good news”. Chad Aldis, quoted here on the topic, is not one of those people. (Dayton Daily News, 11/28/18)
  2. Speaking of charter schools, the only charter school in Sandusky, Ohio, doubled its enrollment in its second year of operation. While the head of the school says “the future’s bright”, the local district supe has some restrained words in response to the news. (Sandusky Register, 11/27/18) And sticking with the topic of school choice for a moment, here is some news on a new school option coming to Athens County next year for kids ages 4 to 8. The putative Solid Ground School is apparently patterned on the Reggio Emilia educational model, but that is only mentioned once and seems to be downplayed in favor of simply “nature school”. It will definitely be a tuition-charging non-public school when it arrives but whether it will be a traditional state-chartered private school or a non-chartered, non-tax supported “08” school is unclear. (Athens News, 11/25/18)
  3. Here’s a thorough look
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