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Dear Santa,

On behalf of a host of certified experts, policy wonks, busybodies and know-it-alls: All I would like for Christmas this year is your help in getting people to do what we know is best for them rather than what they want to do.

I know, I know, there are all those old clichés about a free society and the “pursuit of happiness.” But why do those stubborn kids and parents refuse to understand that we know better than they do what will bring them happiness? OK, maybe not perfect happiness, but we certainly know what’s good for them.

Consider Michelle Obama. She went to Princeton, for Pete’s sake, and Harvard Law School. I think she even passed the bar exam. She’s a real expert on so many things. She definitely knows what’s good for kids. After all, she has two of her own. And she has some sort of garden at the White House where they grow stuff that she says is healthy to eat. Surely she knows better than kids and parents and cafeteria ladies and Aramark what students ought to eat for lunch. After all, she persuaded the president of the United States...

1. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks here at Fordham Ohio’s policy HQ. Yesterday, we held a public event to herald the release of the new report from Bellwether Education Partners, outlining 10 policy recommendations to improve the quality of Ohio’s charter school sector, something that is sorely needed. Here is a selection of coverage as it stands now. More will likely follow in the coming days:

  1. Bellwether Education Partners today released a new report detailing ten policy recommendations to help improve the quality of Ohio’s charter school sector. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece from the Big D. As partners in the report, we are hopeful for much more attention to the report in coming days and weeks. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Fordham’s Aaron Churchill was busy on the airwaves yesterday, talking about Common Core on two radio shows. The second hasn’t been archived yet, but yesterday’s first appearance was on the Ron Ponder Show on WHBC in Canton, where Aaron appeared in between segments on standards and testing with the superintendent of Canton City Schools. You can hear the WHBC audio by clicking here. (WHBC-AM, Canton)
  3. Going back to the subject of charter schools for a second, here’s a story about a dream that refuses to die…even though it probably should. A Pittsburgh-area man is trying for the fifth time to launch a charter school in his Pennsylvania hometown. Why do we in Ohio care about this story? Don’t we have charter problems of our own going back many years? Yes, we do. And he was one of them, as founder
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First Lady Michelle Obama said Friday that we need to accelerate efforts to extend education to girls in all communities. Worldwide, 62 million girls do not attend school, and in some countries, less than 10 percent move on to secondary school for reasons such as high tuition or material costs, early and forced marriage, and lack of safety measures while commuting to and from school.

The Hechinger Report sat down with Mississippi principal Shannon Eubanks to discuss state leaders’ recent rebuke of the Common Core State Standards. Eubanks, along with teachers and district leaders, worry that repealing Common Core midway through the school year will cause chaos for teachers, who have spent two years implementing the new standards. Common Core is designed to close the gaps between high- and low-achieving students, but abandoning the standards this late in the game would leave many kids behind.

The push to increase the nutritional value of cafeteria fare has had a major negative side effect: Students aren’t eating the healthier food. In an attempt to make healthier food more palatable, some districts are hiring...

  1. The folks at Gongwer covered CREDO’s latest report looking at the quality (or lack thereof) in charter schools in Ohio. Probably took them a week to get to it as they were exhausted after the marathon of lame duck legislating last week. Chad is quoted. (Gongwer Ohio)
  2. The Ohio Department of Education submitted their budget request for the next biennium last week. Among other things, they have requested funding for another round of Straight-A Grants. Says the state superintendent: "The early successes and outcomes of this grant program require that we continue these efforts… Encouraging schools to pursue sustainable, innovative, local ideas will help transform and modernize Ohio's education system." Nice. (Gongwer Ohio)
  3. It has been said that the real success of Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee will become apparent if and when last year’s “all-hands-on-deck” efforts to help students read on grade level is repeated as a matter of course in multiple years. Columbus City Schools appears to be confident they can do this, and they have even expanded their reading academy outreach to include math as well. Here’s hoping for excellent success in both areas for those families. (Columbus Dispatch)
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Though the heavily publicized Rolling Stone story of rape and scandal at the University of Virginia has seemingly fallen apart amid accusations of shoddy reporting and fabrication, the school continues to search for ways to curb the universal college culture of binge drinking. While it takes more than social adjustment to stop determined sexual predators, experts agree that irresponsible substance abuse greatly contributes to the number of sexual assaults on campuses.

With officials from city halls all the way to the White House banging the drum for universal pre-K, Chalkbeat examines the varied definitions of that term. In some jurisdictions, the “universal” part is actually restricted to low-income families; in others, the costs of the program aren’t fully covered. “If [politicians] started out trying to create a universal program and came up short,” one observer notes, “they don’t want to stop calling it universal.”

The FCC expanded the E-Rate program that provides high-speed Internet for schools and libraries, disbursing an additional $1.5 billion in funding. The initiative...

  1. Marion journalist Michelle Rotuno-Johnson finished her week back in third grade, but seemed only to get into the nuts and bolts of Common Core implementation on the last day. You can check out all the entries from the week now. NOTE: She, like many others, seems a bit obsessed with the amount of tests being taken by her third grade buddies. But while she does note that MAPS testing is optional for schools, she should also have spelled out that the OAA/PARCC double-shot is a one-year-only consequence of the transition to PARCC. And that PARCC doesn’t count this time around. (Marion Star)
  2. I’m going to go out on a limb to predict that the four-district consolidated high school idea kicking around Geauga County at the moment will eventually go down the same path to neglectful oblivion as the two-district merger mooted earlier this year. But not until after some fireworks. (Willoughby News Herald)
  3. Former state school board member and current Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims took his Men of Color initiative into Dayton City Schools this week. 100 volunteers visited schools to help provide role models to high school students and to inspire young men
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The reform-minded John King is leaving his current post as New York’s Education Commissioner in order to accept a position in the Department of Education. While his tenure in the state has received plaudits from some in the pro-charter movement, King’s departure is sure to please union officials who called for his resignation last spring. He’s also the latest in a series of reformers to leave top spots in their states, as Fordham’s own Andy Smarick observed today.

In a unanimous vote, state Board of Education officials in West Virginia approved a trial plan to introduce more flexible instructional time in a select number of schools. Selected schools will still be required to have 180 school days, but the schools will be able to choose how long each school day is and employ out-of-classroom teaching, such as online learning, on a snow day. At the time of this writing, there was no news yet on whether the state’s children had threatened to hold their breath until they turned blue in protest.

Outraging first ladies and delighting children across the...

  1. CREDO’s latest report looking at charter school quality (or lack thereof) in Ohio got a bit more play yesterday. Public radio in Northeast Ohio ran a piece on the report itself, including parts of an interview conducted at our Tuesday press conference in Columbus. (IdeaStream Public Media) Meanwhile, the PD covered yesterday’s City Club of Cleveland event in which CREDO’s Macke Raymond discussed her findings in depth, and they noted Fordham’s connection to the report. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) You can check out the full video of the event here.
  2. The 130th General Assembly is drawing to a close here in Ohio, with lots of backslapping and fond farewells…and a raft of lame duck legislation. The current legislative assault on Common Core in Ohio may have at last run out of time after a last-ditch effort to amend it to another bill was ruled “out of order” at the 11th hour yesterday. Stick a fork in repeal, it’s done...for now. (Newark Advocate)
  3. Back in the real world, here’s a great guest commentary piece from two longtime math teachers in Northeast Ohio opining on the topic of how Common Core could help solve what they
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Editor's note: This post originally appeared in slightly different form on the Commentary website.

Given the volatility and sensitivity of “racial profiling” these days, heightened by recent developments in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland and by brand new law-enforcement “guidelines” from the Justice Department, one could be tempted to thank the National Education Association for its recent effort, in league with a bunch of other organizations, to develop curricular materials by which schools and teachers can instruct their students on this issue.

One should, however, resist that temptation. It turns out that, once again, the NEA and its fellow travelers are presenting a one-sided, propagandistic view of an exceptionally complicated issue that elicits strong, conflicting views among adults; that carries competing values and subtleties beyond the ken of most school kids; and that probably doesn’t belong in the K–12 curriculum at all.

My mind immediately rolled back almost three decades, to the days when the Cold War was very much with us, when nuclear weapons were a passionate concern, when unilateral disarmament was earnestly propounded by some mostly well-meaning but deeply misguided Americans—and when the NEA plunged into the fray with appalling curricular guidance for U.S. schools.

Here’s part...