Ohio Gadfly Daily

K–12 education in America is making greater and greater use of digital resources. Schools are using them for ease (group collaboration via Google Docs), expense (electronic textbooks and curricular materials are cheap and easily distributed), and convenience (group chats and electronic grade reporting make necessary communication quick and uniform). Additionally, the workplaces into which graduates will emerge run on digital devices—even in more traditional fields such as medicine and manufacturing.

It is easy for those of us old enough to have memories of yesterday’s analogue world to minimize this evolution. We adapted to email easily enough and were quick to trade our pagers for flip phones, after all. But the more that non-electronic alternatives bow out and the more our world is run by digital natives, we ignore inequitable access to technology at the peril of our young people. A new brief from ACT, Inc. shines some interesting light on the status of technology access among today’s students.

A group of ACT researchers surveyed a random sample of 7,233 American students who took the ACT as part of its national administration in April 2017. Students were asked a series of questions about the availability and use of electronics at...

  1. Quick show of hands: How many of you are as tired of talking about graduation requirements as I am? Luckily for Ohio’s students, Chad’s hand is placed firmly on the table. He is quoted here on the topic of keeping strong graduation requirements in place in Ohio. He is literally the only one. Again. What on earth is happening here? (Dayton Daily News, 9/20/18)
  2. Folks in Dayton—schools, businesses, the city—are said here to be in “lockstep” in their desire to raise Dayton City Schools from the achievement basement. There are not a lot of details here yet, but Godspeed, y’all. (Dayton Daily News, 9/20/18)
  3. There was a lot going on at the State Auditor’s office this week, it seems. If this piece is accurate, the auditor’s presentation on the history (and potential future) of his Ohio Performance Team was part nag, part brag, and part theater. I love it! What I don’t love is the possibility that 93 percent of school districts might be spending more than they take in within the next five years. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/19/18)
  4. The new Columbus City Schools supe—unanimously chosen by the board yesterday—is a familiar face. Kudos
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Ohio school report cards released

The Ohio Department of Education last week released much-anticipated school and district report cards. For the first time in six years, report cards included an overall grade. Here is an analysis of Ohio’s Urban 8 cities, comparing charter performance to that of district schools across several measures. While the data are dispiriting overall, some bright spots emerge especially among charter schools. Additionally, the Dayton Daily News provided an analysis of area charter school report cards. Kudos to several high performing charter schools in the Miami Valley.


Federal education funding for FY 2019 moves forward; includes boost for CSP

Last week, U.S. House and Senate members reached agreement on the education portion of a FY 2019 spending bill. Among other important features, the bill would provide $440 million for the Charter School Program (CSP), the highest-ever funding level in the program’s history. A good summary of the CSP and other provisions comes from EdWeek. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate; the House currently faces a September 30 deadline to vote. In a timely release, the National Charter School Resource Center is out with a new...


As part of the XQ Institute’s continued efforts to reinvent American high schools to better align with the modern world, it recently released High School and the Future of Work, a guide for state policymakers that outlines how they can encourage meaningful change in their states.

The bulk of the guide is devoted to outlining specific recommendations for encouraging innovation. These recommendations fall into three major categories: empowering local communities, making diplomas meaningful, and getting teachers the tools they need. Although Ohio has already implemented a few of the recommended strategies, there are others that policymakers have not yet advocated for but should. Let’s take a look.

Empowering local communities

In order for real innovation to occur, policymakers can’t just foist changes onto local schools. Reform must either be led by local communities or done in collaboration with them. That’s why XQ recommends that states use pilot programs to test out innovative new approaches in schools that are ready and willing to participate. In Ohio, one such example is the competency-based education pilot, which was created as part of a previous state budget. Five sites were chosen to implement the pilot for three academic years,...

  1. The state board of education met this week, and two big topics were on the front burner. First up: graduation requirements. Board members are said here to be considering a “menu of options” for changes to those requirements. Seems to me that it’s a menu like this that got Taco Bell voted Best Mexican restaurant in America. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted within, seeming to have that same queasy feeling. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/18/18) Speaking of same, Jeremy Kelley has used a testy Twitter exchange as the basis of his piece looking at the difference between Fordham’s position on graduation requirements and State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria’s position. Classy. (Dayton Daily News, 9/19/18) Seems that the General Assembly may have a couple of objections to the menu items on offer as well. Maybe if it comes down to a chalupa or nothing, though… (Gongwer Ohio, 9/18/18) The other big topic was state report cards. Board members aired their various complaints this week. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/17/18)
  2. As we noted on Monday, schools and districts seem to have a limited set of responses to their report cards. Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon – in his
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Setting a high standard and then backing away from it the way Ohio policymakers have done repeatedly over the last few years is not wise governance. It leaves schools and students in a constant state of flux, makes it difficult for schools and parents to evaluate progress, and communicates a lack of faith in the state’s students, teachers, and schools.

The development of a strategic plan for education offered policymakers a clear opportunity to get something right after years of getting it wrong—a chance to propose rigorous and data-driven academic goals and then actually stick to them. Unfortunately, that opportunity passed by unseized. Rather than propose an ambitious goal, the plan does the opposite. It proposes something so vague and easily achievable that policymakers won’t need to back down because schools and students won’t have any trouble achieving it. Take a look:

Ohio will increase annually the percentage of its high school graduates who, one year after graduation, are:

  • Enrolled and succeeding in a post-high school learning experience, including an adult career-technical education program, an apprenticeship and/or a two-year or four-year college program;
  • Serving in a military branch;
  • ...

Last Thursday, Ohio released annual school report cards that offer parents and communities an objective review of the academic performance of its roughly 600 districts and 3,500 public schools. Much of the focus has understandably been on the “bottom line,” as this year’s reports included for the first time overall A through F grades that combine the many separate elements of the report card, much like GPAs do for students. In cities like Dayton and Columbus, the bottom-line F’s assigned to their school systems naturally made for depressing headlines.

Nobody should ignore or excuse the district-level results, as they speak volumes about the leadership and governance of those school systems—and about the often-challenging demographics of the children who fill them. But it’s also important to dive deeper and look at campus-level data. After all, children attend schools where education is actually delivered. It’s doubly important in Ohio’s major cities, as children have many school options—including public charters and district-operated schools—that vary widely in their report-card ratings. These differences are important for families to see and understand, as they should influence parents’ decisions about where to enroll their children. They’re also critical for civic and philanthropic leaders wishing to...

  1. Media analysis of school report cards continued apace over the weekend and into today. First up, the usual thorough look at non-district schools’ data courtesy of Jeremy Kelley. Our own Aaron Churchill is quoted and two of Fordham’s sponsored charter schools are namechecked here. Kudos to Jeremy again this year for including the local STEM school’s report card data as well. (Dayton Daily News, 9/17/18)
  2. It is interesting to note in the above story how the analysis has turned quickly from just overall grades to some of the other report card measures –most specifically, test scores. Ditto for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. According to Patrick O’Donnell: “Cleveland students improved their test scores and narrowed the gap between them and the state average” this year. Some pretty darned good news, it seems, despite the relative lowness of those numbers overall. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/14/18)
  3. Of course, if the test scores numbers are not good news, we have a couple of standard responses. First up is the “inadvertent data error” charge. (Richland Source, 9/13/18) Or maybe it’s the “our kids are more than test scores” argument. With a side of apples and oranges. (Zanesville Times-Recorder,
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  1. We start today with the last preview piece ahead of the release of state report card data, published late on Tuesday. Fordham is namechecked and Aaron is quoted in this story, specifically regarding the depth and accuracy of Ohio’s report cards. (Dayton Daily News, 9/12/18)
  2. The report card data was released yesterday morning and initial coverage followed quickly after. These first wave reports are mainly about the overall grade that schools and districts received—the first time in six years that a comprehensive letter grade has been given as the new report card protocols were phased in. The following clips all include quotes from Chad; his main point generally that this year is a “return to normalcy” in data and reporting after the extended phase-in period. You can find coverage in the Enquirer… (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/13/18) …and in the PD… (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/13/18) …and in Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/13/18)
  3. Aaron had been quoted in the initial Dispatch coverage yesterday—discussing the performance of central Ohio suburban districts—but the revised version omits him. Can’t imagine why. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/18)
  4. Here is some coverage of state report cards from which Fordham was absent right from
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What’s slowing down the growth of charter schools?

Charter school growth in Ohio and around the country has slowed. Amy Wilkins, Senior Vice President of Advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, recently joined Todd Feinburg on his radio show to talk about why and the important role that charters play in the public education ecosystem. Listen here.  

DeWine’s plan for education and charter schools

Last week, Mike DeWine, Republican candidate for governor, released his education agenda. Although it didn’t focus on charter schools, he has pledged to hold online schools more accountable by establishing a pay-for-performance model that requires students to show competency on end-of-course exams before an online school receives all of its state aid. You can read his full plan here.

Cordray’s plan for education and charter schools

This week, Richard Cordray, Democratic candidate for governor, unveiled his plan for education. He would (among other things) directly fund all charter schools with state funds, permit only nonprofit charter operators, and apply all regulations that apply to traditional public schools to charter schools. Click here to read the full plan.

Charter school effects on district...