Ohio Gadfly Daily

Like the roller-coasters at Cedar Point, the past year had its highs and lows. Amazon didn’t pick Columbus for HQ2 (bummer), and GM says it’s shutting down a plant in Northeast Ohio (double bummer). LeBron left, again, this time for sunny California. But up in Cleveland, Baker Mayfield has the Browns winning; the Columbus Crew is staying put; and Cincinnati made the New York Times’ list of “places to go.” And hey, even the state has money socked away in its rainy day fund.

It was also a topsy-turvy year for education in the Buckeye State. The year started with a thud—the sound of the collapse of ECOT, once Ohio’s largest e-school. But later in July, trumpets heralded the opening of a sparkling new school in Akron supported by King James himself. Meanwhile, at the statehouse, various education policies waned and waxed. For instance, Ohio lawmakers dumped the state’s clunky teacher evaluation system known as OTES, while putting competency-based funding for e-schools squarely on the radar. The year also saw debates over proposals to consolidate state education and workforce agencies, to suspend Ohio’s academic distress commissions, and to...


Some have said that we’ve reached the end of education policy, but that seems to be far from the case in Ohio. In fact, next year is shaping up to be a pretty busy one—so busy that I had to expand our annual predictions for the year’s top issues from five to six. With a new governor and a budget cycle on the horizon, there’s sure to be plenty to discuss. Here’s a look—for good or ill—at what will likely make headlines in 2019.

6. Testing

As long as there are still state- and federally-mandated tests, and as long as the results of those tests are used to inform parents via grading schools and districts, testing will be a hot topic. Although debates on the topic cooled somewhat in 2018, next year could bring renewed fervor thanks to incoming governor-elect Mike DeWine. His campaign platform explicitly mentioned reducing the number of tests that students are required to take, as well as providing parents and teachers with more meaningful and timely results (something we’ve also suggested). Any reduction is likely going to be minimal, however, because most of the standardized tests students take are required by...


We’re back with a wrap up of education stories from the end of 2018 (published between 12/22 and 12/31)! These are listed in chronological order (mainly) rather than arranged to tell a story as per usual. Apologies for my appalling lack of effort. New Year, New Resolve. I Promise.

  1. Students at the I Promise School in Akron got a pretty nice Christmas present on the last day before their holiday break: A newly-renovated gym at the community center down the street. (Not sure if it’s just for the students or if the larger community gets to use it too.) They also got to do the Hokey-Pokey with Mama James. Happy Holidays, kids! (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/22/18)
  2. Lots of schools in Ohio, however, got a lump of coal for Christmas, in the form of a new report on student absenteeism from the Ohio chapter of the Children’s Defense Fund. Among the findings: about one in every six students in Ohio were chronically absent last school year, and the incidence is much higher in the state’s large urban districts. (Gongwer Ohio, 12/26/18)
  3. Renters no more. Dayton Early College Academy completed an end-of-the-year purchase of the
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  1. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece expressing hope that a “long term solution” on graduation requirements will come to pass via legislative action in 2019. What the piece conveniently forgets to mention is that the more rigorous, end-of-course-exam-based graduation requirements that were thwarted via legislation in 2018 were a long term solution. But hey—peace of mind is just as good as an education, right? (Gongwer Ohio, 12/20/18)
  2. Some fascinating tidbits in this piece reporting on the latest Community Business Partnership meeting in Lorain held earlier in the week. The headline and much of the article discusses the possibility of Lorain schools converting to charter schools—everyone is against it, it would seem. But there are lots of little details about actual important stuff: like the number one stated priority to “improve standards driven education”, the data included on the new “Big Board” (a rating system that includes academics, efforts and behavior for all Lorain schools) which shows that priority number one is not exactly on the rails yet (the highest performer on a scale of 1 to 4 is an elementary school with a 2.63—don’t even ask about the lowest performer), and that the district’s
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This is the final Ohio Charter News Weekly of 2018. We'll pick back up on January 5, 2019. Happy holidays!


Pathway to Success: Profile of Toledo School for the Arts

Fordham released the latest in its Pathway to Success series this week. It features Toledo School for the Arts, one of Ohio’s oldest charter schools that was forged from concerns about the state of arts education. This profile shows how one specialized charter school has been able to tap into students’ interests, focusing and inspiring them to cultivate their talents. You can find the profile here. If you’d like for Fordham to feature your school or a student’s story in an upcoming report, contact Madison Yoder.

Auditor recommends changes to e-school funding

Last week, the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office released a report that details flaws that it sees in how Ohio funds e-schools and offers solutions for how the state should move forward. Some recommendations include: Clarifying how e-schools will be evaluated under the current system; exploring best practices for e-school funding, including performance-based funding; considering whether the Education Department’s duties should be divided or restructured; and more.


  1. Full access has apparently been granted for Ohio’s 2018 graduation statistics; at least to Jeremy Kelley. While there is the usual mixed bag of data reporting weirdness, the stats that seem legit raise more questions, I think, than they answer. Interestingly, the questions seem to be different from district to district in just the few that Jeremy profiles here. More access, more data, and more analysis is clearly called for before anyone jumps to any conclusions. (Dayton Daily News, 12/19/18)
  2. Speaking of leaping to conclusions, I have done just that in regard to the relationship between the elected board of Lorain City Schools and its current Academic Distress Commission-centric administration. There is lots of evidence to go on, however, provided by the three school board members quoted very frankly in this piece. Read it and see if you feel the same. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 12/17/18

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We here at Fordham are obsessed with data, in case you didn’t know. Never more so than at the end of the year when we look to see which of our many blog posts were most successful at catching the attention of you, our readers.

We have crunched the numbers and consulted the experts, and here are your top five most-read blogs of 2018:

5. Does Ohio need a revolution in school funding? (Aaron Churchill)

Whether the need for a revolution was there or not, readers were interested in the topic of school finance following the publication of this piece in early February. The basis for the analysis was House Bill 102, introduced in the state legislature in 2017. We have long believed that Ohio’s method of school funding is unnecessarily complicated and unfair, particularly to schools of choice. Aaron examined the proposed system under HB 102 and noted its “simplicity, transparency, and predictability,” as a well its focus on “statewide equity.” While the bill has not been enacted, it’s clear that interest in a funding overhaul has not gone away. We are glad you agree.

4. Ohio’s preliminary test results look pretty good (Jessica Poiner)...

One of the key tenets of the American Dream is the opportunity for children to grow up to earn more than their parents. Although millions of Americans aspire to get ahead, there are considerable challenges—such as poverty and racial barriers—that can get in the way. For the approximately 60 million people living in rural America, a prevalence of additional obstacles like declining populations, limited job options, and the opioid epidemic make it even harder. 

To identify solutions to these unique challenges, the National 4-H Council and The Bridgespan Group collaborated to release a field report highlighting rural communities that are leading the way in social mobility. The report is based on four main sources of information: 1) interviews with experts from the public, private, and social sectors; 2) site visits to nineteen towns in ten rural counties that included focus groups with over one hundred youth and over 120 nonprofit, business, and civic leaders; 3) county level analysis of demographic, economic, and outcomes data that was used to hypothesize about upward mobility trends; and 4) discussions and focus groups with local leaders in an additional six rural counties in four states to field test initial findings.

Results from...

  1. We start today with an oldie-but-goodie: Fordham’s 2017 open enrollment report is namechecked in this piece on the blog of The 74, looking at the various disparities evident on either side of the somewhat artificial borders between school districts. (The 74 Million, 12/16/18)
  2. OSU professor, education researcher, and Fordham friend Vladimir Kogan posted this op-ed in which he posits at least one way that the elected board of Columbus City Schools could get its act together and do right by at least one segment of its student body. (Columbus Underground, 12/14/18)
  3. Our developing theme today seems to be about how much the adult-centric education system acts in the best interest of students. Here are two more examples. Lakota Local Schools in Butler County is launching “Lakota Cyber Academy”. No, it’s not an online charter school. In fact, it seems like a fairly standard classroom-based program, with the aim of helping high school students learn about and gain credentials in the hot field of cybersecurity. A local company (desperate for new recruits, it seems) is taking the lead in developing the curriculum, will support the district’s efforts financially, and will provide lots of internships for interested
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  1. Fordham is namechecked in today’s Dispatch editorial offering some forward-looking advice on the graduation requirements discussion sure to dog us into 2019. (Columbus Dispatch, 12/14/18) School leaders in Clark County, however, are ecstatic about the extension of non-academic graduation pathways for 2019 and 2020. (Springfield News-Sun, 12/14/18)
  2. On his way out the door, Ohio’s rock-n-roll State Auditor is playing a couple of his oldies but goodies. First up, his office this week released a report recommending a close look into whether the Ohio Department of Education's duties regarding e-schools should be restructured. Who could ever get tired of that one? (Gongwer Ohio, 12/13/18) For an encore, it’s that perennial classic “Cash-strapped school district should eliminate excess staffing in order to avoid going into the red”. I’m assuming the good folks at Cuyahoga Falls City School District would prefer he stick to “Free Bird”. (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/13/18)
  3. As you can see in the preceding clip, I referred to Cuyahoga Falls by its full and official designation as a City School District. In Ohio, there are also Local School Districts and Exempted Village School Districts. What’s the difference? While it’s got a lot to
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