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College may not be for all, but it is the chosen path of nearly fifty thousand Ohio high school grads. Unfortunately, almost one-third of Ohio’s college goers are unprepared for the academic rigor of post-secondary coursework. To better ensure that all incoming students are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in university courses, all Ohio public colleges and universities require their least prepared students to enroll in remedial, non-credit-bearing classes (primarily in math and English).

Remediation is a burden on college students and taxpayers who pay twice. First they shell out to the K–12 system. Then they pay additional taxes toward the state’s higher education system, this time for the cost of coursework that should have been completed prior to entering college (and for which students earn no college credit). The remediation costs further emphasize the importance of every student arriving on campus prepared.

Perhaps the bigger problem with remedial education is that it doesn’t work very well. In Ohio, just 51 percent of freshmen requiring remediation at a flagship university—and 38 percent of those in remedial classes at a non-flagship school—go on to complete entry-level college courses within two academic years....

  1. Our own Chad Aldis was a member of the panel discussing charter schools at the Columbus Metropolitan Club forum on Wednesday of this week. First coverage of the event was from a business/politics news aggregator in New Zealand! No, Chad doesn’t have that kind of juice, but StateAuditor! Man (leader of the panel) does. (Foreign Affairs Publisher, NZ, 9/15/16) For event coverage closer to home, check out Gongwer. (Gongwer Ohio, 9/14/16) If no-holds-barred full video is more your style, look no further than here. (Columbus Metropolitan Club YouTube channel, 9/14/16)
  2. Earlier the same day, the US Department of Education finally released the $71 million Charter School Program grant that Ohio won many months ago. As you’ll no doubt recall, the release of the funds was put on hold when questions arose in regard to the application. As a result of those questions – and the answers provided by the state – Ohio’s grant award was declared “high risk” and a number of new conditions were placed upon it. Chad and others tell you all about it in the following pieces from the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 9/15/16), the Beacon Journal (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/14/16) and
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School failure is no longer the United States’ most pressing educational problem—mediocrity is. Both Trump and Clinton could do a lot of good by changing the tone of the education reform debate—and backing it up with a few discrete changes in policy. Specifically, they could shift the conversation from “failure” and focus it instead on “excellence.”

This is particularly the case for Trump, who found himself in hot water recently for saying to African Americans, “You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed.” Understandably, much of the black community took offense to his inaccurate assertions on poverty and employment. But his claim about schools is problematic too.

For sure, we’re used to hearing that, and some of us are used to saying it. Indeed, many schools serving African Americans (and Latinos and low-income students) haven’t been very good. Some are still failing. But the truth is that they have gotten better over the past two decades—a lot better. The typical African American fourth grader is reading and doing math two grade levels ahead of where the previous generation was back in the 1990s. That’s enormous progress.


  1. The State Auditor (that guy!) released a financial performance audit of Cincinnati City Schools earlier this week. He’s got a recommendation or two to help the district save $11 million. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted helpfully as encouraging the district to do so. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 9/10/16)
  2. The Florida NAACP and teachers unions have challenged Florida’s voucher programs in court. The ongoing case is covered pretty thoroughly in this piece from The 74. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a prime mover in Florida’s voucher programs before coming to Ohio and is quoted in this interesting and detailed piece. (The 74 Million blog, 9/13/16)
  3. Speaking of court cases, the ongoing kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the state department of education over the parameters and definitions of an attendance audit has made it to court with a couple days of testimony so far this week. You can check out Day One details here… (Columbus Dispatch, 9/12/16) …and here (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/12/16, with video!). Day Two coverage is here. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/16)
  4. Back in the real world, Columbus City Schools’ board of education may decide next week to sell off as many
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  1. As one might have expected, the kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the department of education over an attendance audit did not remain contained between those two entities. Other online schools seem to be experiencing attendance tracking issues when checked, many of which are enumerated in this piece. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/11/16)
  2. The state board of education is meeting this week. One item on members’ agenda: discussion of proposed new rules for gifted education in Ohio. Here’s a piece that purports to showcase the debate over said rules but seems to me to present only one side of the argument in interviews. But I might have missed something. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/11/16)
  3. The payment method for College Credit Plus (that’s early college courses for credit while students are still in high school) gets a look-see in today’s Dispatch. Opinion is decidedly mixed among those interviewed. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/12/16) Meanwhile, Denison University in Granville with help from the I Know I Can college access organization, announced it will give four-year tuition-only scholarships to 20 Columbus City Schools graduates each year for the foreseeable future. Recipients will be chosen based on academic record, extracurricular achievements, essays
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  1. In case you missed it, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump visited Cleveland yesterday and spoke at a charter school in the city. The candidate’s remarks were mainly about education plans and promises should we elect him to the top office. This is really the only coverage I could find that stuck to the education theme. But if that’s what it takes to bring the Beacon Journal’s ace inkhound Doug “Dog” Livingston back onto these clips, then so be it! Welcome back, buddy! We missed your brass and sass. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/9/16). Doug’s been out of the education reporting game for a while, covering politics (bleurgh) for the ABJ instead, so he probably hasn’t had an opportunity to read Fordham’s recent downbeat report on Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program. These folks have read it, and framed the candidate’s call for expanded vouchers with it…like a shroud. First, the Standard Examiner out of Ogden, Utah. (Standard Examiner, 9/8/16). Second, the Villages Suntimes News out of Dog knows where. (Villages Suntimes, 9/8/16). As per usual, the candidate didn’t exactly stick to one theme, and a couple of his national security-related comments took over the Dispatch’s coverage. But the
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The big summer stories edition

On this week’s podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and Brandon Wright discuss this summer’s ten biggest education stories. During the research minute, Amber Northern examines the effects of paying teachers for performance.

Amber's Research Minute

Alison Wellington, Hanley Chiang, Kristin Heallgren, Cecilia Speroni, Mariesa Herrmann, and Paul Burkander, "Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Implementation and Impacts of Pay-for-Performance After Three Years," Mathematica (August 2016).

The big news to emerge from the forty-eighth annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools is that when a public school has been failing for a number of years, Americans would prefer to try to fix it by a six-to-one margin rather than to close it. More than any other finding in the poll, PDK says this result “exemplifies the divide between the reform agenda of the past sixteen years and the actual desires of the American public.” I’m not completely convinced. If school choice of any kind weren’t so utterly foreign to the experience of an overwhelming majority of Americans (nearly three out of four of us have no public school of choice available whatsoever), I’d be more surprised by the result. You’d likely get a similar ratio if you polled 1,221 adult Americans, as PDK has, and asked, “Given the option, would you like to have your home’s leaky roof and faulty wiring repaired? Or would you prefer to have your home condemned?” Without some clear sense of the alternative, you’d likely opt to stay put too. But let me not quibble too strenuously. The finding is noteworthy enough and surely says something about the disconnect...

A new report uncovers some good news about narrowing socioeconomic gaps in kindergarten readiness.

It compares the early life experiences of incoming kindergarteners in 1998 with those in 2010 using two large, nationally representative data sets called the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS). The data include survey information from a child’s parents and his/her teachers, as well as results from assessments of skills administered multiple times during kindergarten and elementary school.

Analysts examine, among other things, various readiness gaps at the tenth and ninetieth percentiles of the income distribution. For the most part, the data showed many encouraging signs: Across the board, analysts found that both high- and low-income young children in the 2010 cohort were exposed to more books and reading in the home than their 1998 peers. They also had more access to educational games on computers, and they engaged with their parents more both inside and outside the home.

These developments took shape despite the fact that other negative shifts in family characteristics have occurred in the twelve years between samples. Among families at the tenth percentile, the likelihood that a mother was married at the time of a child’s birth dropped five percentage points; fathers in...

Jonathan Butcher

Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice

Those debating reforms to American education should remember this memorial to Sir Christopher Wren, architect of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wren is buried inside his masterpiece with no marking other than the inscription: If you seek a monument, look around.

Some education reform advocates are starting to wonder whether the long battle to increase parental choice in schooling (among other things) is really making a difference, particularly in light of the growing criticism of public charter schools. Despite recent victories giving students more opportunities in education, Robert Pondiscio recently accused reformers of “cowardice”—of having lost their will to fight.

Yet in states around the country, families and advocates still struggle on students’ behalf. Parental choice in education has seen great successes, and stories of students’ changed lives and parents’ acts of courage are all around us.

Let’s start in Washington State. In 2015, a successful union lawsuit shut down the state’s new charter school law. Prior to the ruling, unionized Seattle teachers went on strike just as the school year began, leaving charter schools the only public schools in the city open for business. District schools forced students to stay home, disrupting their...