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Two years ago, I matriculated from one of the most liberal, activist college campuses in the country. In the months leading up to graduation, I fantasized about jumping head-first into a vocation fighting for social justice. I knew that I had a passion for policy and a healthy interest in education issues (my mom is a school teacher). It was as clear to me then as it is now that education is the key to equality of opportunity.

Eager to put my beliefs into action, I landed in the realm of education reform. Over the last few years, I have been fortunate to meet wonks and policy mavens from all walks of life, all of whom hold in their hearts the best interests of students. Having found the perfect union of my interest in education policy and my desire to help make the world a little better, I figured the rest would be smooth sailing. It was not until earlier this year that I noticed the growing chasm that has formed between two reform camps.

Some on the Right (including a few of my colleagues at Fordham) have argued that if the reformers start pandering to liberals, conservatives will feel...

It's been a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad summer for education reform. After many years of bipartisan support, key elements of the reform agenda—higher standards, better teachers, test-based accountability, parental choice—are starved for oxygen in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms. Earlier this month, the NAACP further upset the apple cart with a call for a moratorium on new charter schools. Not to be outdone, a "platform" released by the Movement for Black Lives (a group of organizations organized by Black Lives Matter) issued a scorched-earth condemnation of every aspect of the reform agenda, which it characterized as "a systematic attack…coordinated by an international education privatization agenda, bankrolled by billionaire philanthropists…and aided by the departments of education at the federal, state, and local level."

Response to this series of stunning attacks and political reversals has been muted. The usual groups have told journalists where and how they disagree with the antis. But there's been no outcry of support for the agenda items under attack, and certainly not from any political leaders, prominent columnists, etc.

This week, by marked contrast, the atmosphere inside the edu-bubble was set alight by—wait for it—John Oliver. The British comedian recorded a "takedown" of charter schools that was...

  1. The dulcet tones of our own Chad Aldis are included in this public media report noting that three other online charter schools are staring down the barrel of the same type of attendance audit the state’s largest online school is currently contesting in myriad ways. (WKSU-FM, Kent, 8/29/16)
     
  2. Meanwhile, state senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Youngstown) opined on the need for passage of legislation making Ohio’s online schools more accountable. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/29/16) In related opining news, editors in Akron urge the governor to get involved in the charter sponsors review rules kerfuffle. (Akron Beacon Journal, 8/30/16)
     
  3. Back in the real world, it seems that the threatened teacher strike in Cleveland has been averted. I believe a final vote of the rank and file is still pending, but hopefully will turn out for the positive when it happens. Whew! (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/30/16)
     
  4. The Youngstown School Board held a special meeting on Monday…or did they? (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/30/16) Outside the fiddle section, there are still not enough drivers for the school buses. (Youngstown Vindicator, 8/31/16)
     
  5. In Youngstown suburb news, Howland Schools has implemented an odd sort of busing change this school
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  1. The Dispatch took an interesting look at the demographics of students using the EdChoice Scholarship in Ohio and found a disconnect between the number of eligible black students and the number of black students actually using vouchers. Fordham’s recent report on the performance of voucher recipients is referenced, and lead researcher David Figlio is quoted anew on the issue of possible discrimination. The assertion here is that a barrier for black students exists at the private schools. This may actually be true, but I think new patterns might emerge if the state would actually fully inform all eligible students statewide and maybe even help those families access private schools. But I could be alone in thinking that. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/28/16)
     
  2. Also in the D this weekend, editors opined on the need to press forward on charter school reform in Ohio, quoting Chad along the way. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/28/16)
     
  3. It’s a slow news day, so I’m including this confusing piece on a new bus service being launched in a couple weeks’ time for Elyria High School students. What I think it means: the district doesn’t provide busing for high schoolers and Elyria doesn’t have much in the
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  1. Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP, was in Cleveland this week for an event. The folks at public radio’s Sound of Ideas had Feinberg and Breakthrough Schools’ president John Zitzner as guests that morning, talking about the state of Ohio charter schools. Also along to provide context and history (which he had to do several times) was the Plain Dealer’s education reporter Patrick O’Donnell. Lots of great info, details, and nuance throughout the show. Callers too! An excellent listen, and not just because Fordham is namechecked as a “good sponsor” at around the 25:00 minute mark. (IdeaStream Public Media, Cleveland, 8/24/16)
     
  2. Wednesday was the first day of school for Columbus City Schools. Sounds like it went pretty well. This piece follows Superintendent Dan Good on his whirlwind morning of opening day school visits. At one, he was joined by State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria. At another, he was joined by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown. At yet another (unscheduled) stop, he dealt with the issue of a very young child dropped off without paperwork or contact with staff. That story had a happy ending. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/24/16) It is encouraging to note in that Columbus story that the district employed
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The EdNext poll edition

On this week’s podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and Brandon Wright discussEducation Next’s tenth annual survey. During the research minute, Dara Zeehandelaar examines the challenges of building a diverse teaching workforce.

Amber's Research Minute

Hannah Putman, Michael Hansen, Kate Walsh, and Diana Quintero, “High Hopes and Harsh Realities: The real challenges to building a diverse workforce,” Brookings (August 2016). 

  1. While it seems that the question of “worst-run” state government entity in Ohio has been settled for the time being, maybe “most boring” is up for grabs again? After the Funeral Board went into overload last year, I was pretty sure that the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) had the title locked down. But when they got a chance to look at the state’s charter sponsor review rules this week, the word “boring” went out the window. To wit: said rules were sent back to the Orwellian-sounding “Common Sense Initiative” office (CSI) with a question about their retroactivity. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted calling for a swift review of the rules and a return to JCARR or perhaps an even quicker executive or legislative fix. “If legislators are really concerned about retro-activity, then we should take action to quickly rectify that issue.” (Columbus Dispatch, 8/23/16) Chad is then quoted again today, concerned that there could be far-reaching consequences if the rule review is not swiftly settled and the sponsor reviews not completed. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/24/16) Gongwer covers the same ground and quotes Chad similarly. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/23/16) Chad is of course speaking about the
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  1. Late last week, the Ohio Department of Education announced the first ever recipients of state grants for charter school facilities. Given the stringent quality criteria, we are proud that two schools sponsored by Fordham are among the winners. We look forward to even more greatness from Columbus Collegiate Academy West and DECA Prep. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/19/16) Other coverage of the grants which focuses on local winners but does not mention Fordham or quote Chad can be found in the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 8/20/16) and in the Plain Dealer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/19/16)
     
  2. Editors in Cincinnati were keen to mention Fordham while opining on how to improve schools in Ohio. No, we are not part of the solution. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/22/16) North Coast curmudgeon Marilou Johanek must have been on the same conference call as the Enquirer editors, opining very similarly this weekend. (Toledo Blade, 8/20/16) The target of Ms. Johanek’s ire is concentrated: Ohio’s largest online school. So how did the ongoing legal kerfuffle over paperwork end up on Friday? With a courtroom victory for the school. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/19/16)
     
  3. How’d that door-to-door visit to Youngstown homes go on Friday evening?
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  1. Ohio Auditor Dave Yost (yes, him again) convened the first ever statewide Charter School Summit in Columbus last week. There were workshops and keynotes and heavy hitters; it was great to welcome folks the caliber of Geoffrey Canada and Steve Perry to our city. It was, as the auditor said in his opening remarks, a chance to celebrate great charter schools in Ohio. “Shining stars”, as he called them. Perhaps it is a bit too bad, then, that press coverage of the event was dominated by the auditor’s own opening remarks in which he called for performance-based funding for online charter schools in the state. Coverage of that particular bombshell included Gongwer (Gongwer Ohio, 8/11/16), the Dispatch (Columbus Dispatch, 8/12/16), and two different outlets of public media (IdeaStream Public Media, Cleveland, 8/11/16 and WOSU-FM, Columbus, 8/12/16). All of these pieces included positive reaction to the proposal from our own Chad Aldis. Even over the weekend, editors in Columbus were still thinking about the radical idea, adding their opinion to the mix on Saturday and citing a recent Ohio Gadfly Daily blog post on the topic while opining. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/14/16)
     
  2. Editors in Akron
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The surprising best seller Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis has become something of a cause célèbre on the grounds that it explains the appeal of Donald Trump to the white underclass (from which author J.D. Vance emerged). Writing in the American Conservative, Rod Dreher aptly notes that the book "does for poor white people what Ta-Nehisi Coates's book did for poor black people: give them voice and presence in the public square."

The book should also be required reading among those of us in education policy. It reminds us of the roles that institutions play (and fail to play) in the lives of our young people, and further suggests that education reform cannot be an exclusively race-based movement if its goal is to arrest generational poverty. Poverty is a "family tradition" among Vance's people, white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who were once "day laborers in the Southern slave economy, sharecroppers after that, coal miners after that, and machinists and millworkers during more recent times."

Vance emerges as something of an emissary to elite America from Fishtown, the fictional composite of lower-class white America that Charles Murray described in his 2012 book Coming Apart. This growing segment of American...

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