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Reformers always face backlash, no matter the realm. People and institutions, structures and routines, budgets and staffing arrangements—all are tailored for the status quo. Indeed, they define the status quo, and myriad interests are then enmeshed in keeping things the way they’ve always been. Plenty of people are undone by change, even the prospect of it, and plenty more find it hard to imagine something different from what they’re accustomed to.

The reformer’s job is to overcome all that in pursuit of some greater good. That impulse arises from the belief—and, one hopes, from ample evidence—that the status quo is failing in various ways to deliver the necessary results. But part of the pushback from aficionados of the status quo is a stout insistence that today’s results are actually fine, that the reformer is wrong to say that the status quo is failing, and that changing the present arrangement could well produce a worse result.

That’s been the story of education reform and its resisters as long as I’ve been around—dating back, at least, to the denial of Coleman’s findings in the sixties and seventies, the denunciation of A Nation at Risk in the eighties, and the recent insistence that adopting the Common Core...

  1. The state has asked the judge to lift his stay on the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, to at least allow the four seated members to meet and begin work, even if the fifth member is still in question. “Without immediate intervention from this court, [the children of Youngstown] have no hope that anything will be different in the coming school year,” wrote the state’s representatives. No word as to whether they asked “pretty please” or not. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/12/16)
  2. We told you last week about the fancy new Lorain High School currently under construction – how local pastors love it, how it won’t have metal detectors (not because they’re not necessarily warranted, but because “knuckleheads” can fairly easily get past them), and how it will have a crap ton of space dedicated to the local community college for dual enrollment courses. But this last item could mean the end of the 10-year-old “Lorain Early College Program”, dedicated to getting first-generation students into college. At a minimum, the existing program will have to change. Some folks are unhappy about this turn of events. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/11/16)
  3. And finally this week: Beef School. Line forms
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  1. Here are some things we learned during this week’s state board of education meeting. Ohio’s learning standards are still in the process of being revised. Said the dude from ODE: "We're looking for revisions, not a debate on whether you like standards-based education.” Not everyone got that memo, it seems. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/9/16) The next permanent state supe is still in process of being selected. A lack of consensus among board members on things like the qualifications required of applicants and pay level could hold up said process for a long time. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/9/16) ODE is still figuring out how to handle school report cards in the face of parents opting their children out of testing. Looks like they are going to be giving schools two different grades – one with untested students getting “zeroes” and one with untested students not being counted at all. Nothing could go wrong with that, could it? (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/9/16)
  2. Meanwhile, editors in Cleveland PD opine with a vote of no-confidence in the Ohio Department of Education with regard to charter schools. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/9/16)
  3. We all know the old SchoolHouse Rock tune about how
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  1. We told you last year of the saga of a group of homeowners here in central Ohio who petitioned successfully to have their homes rezoned from one school district to another. Turns out it doesn’t take a group, but such a rezoning process can commence with even just one property owner making the request. Such is the situation now, with homeowner, sending district and state board of ed all OK with the move. Small potential hiccup: the receiving district doesn’t seem keen on it. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/6/16)
  2. School district officials in Athens County discussed their K-3 literacy grades on the recent partial report cards. Most officials interviewed went into some serious and interesting detail as to why they think their grades – all of them – were so bad. (Athens Messenger, 2/7/16)
  3. Perhaps more and better pre-K would help K-3 literacy scores in Athens County. Editors in Akron think that could work, as they opine in favor of a “big leap” in such funding statewide. (Akron Beacon Journal, 2/7/16)
  4. Speaking of early education, here’s news of a possible expansion of the SPARK program into Ross County. We’ve told you about SPARK before (stands
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  1. We told you earlier this week – as dispassionately as your humble compiler was able – about the proposal to reconfigure a large number of Dayton City Schools buildings in order to combat “major academic and discipline problems” among the districts’ 7th and 8th graders. Passions, however, are rising among Daytonians in regard to the changes. (Dayton Daily News, 2/3/16)
  2. One of the passionate defenses of the status quo in the story above is that if you mess with the grade configurations, kids will leave for the charter school down the street, which is noted to be very high performing. But perhaps that problem is less pressing than the good folks of Dayton think. The D reported yesterday that the Ohio Department of Education has revised both the number of poor performing charter schools (upward, from 6 to 57) and the number of high performing charter schools (down, from 93 to 59) reported to the USDOE in regard to that stalled $71M grant that was all up in the news a couple of months ago. The department said the revision is due to new rating criteria put in place since the original grant application. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/4/16)
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This progress report from Education Superhighway, a nonprofit aimed at upgrading Internet access for America’s public schools, is worth the acronym dictionary you’ll need to decipher it. Researchers examine data from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-rate program (a federal initiative that defrays the cost of internet in schools) and deliver much good news about connectivity status for the average K–12 classroom. From 2013 to 2015, twenty million more students were connected to high-speed broadband (that which meets the FCC’s minimum Internet access goals), representing 77 percent of all districts. This is up from 30 percent of districts in 2013. Even though 21.3 million students nationwide still miss the FCC’s mark, lacking the connectivity necessary to fully reap the rewards of digital learning, the report declares that “those left behind are not disproportionately rural or poor.” In 2013, the most affluent districts were three times as likely as low-income ones to meet FCC goals; by 2015, “the E-rate program [had] effectively leveled the playing field.” If nothing else, that’s a whopping success.

In Ohio the news is mixed: Three out of four school districts are adequately prepared for digital learning in terms of broadband speed. The report commends...

report last month from the “Making Caring Common” project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education calls on elite colleges and universities to “send different messages” to high school students and parents about what matters—and, more importantly, what will gain admission—to America’s most hallowed higher education institutions. “Today’s culture sends young people messages that emphasize personal success rather than concern for others and the common good,” laments the report, entitled Turning the Tide. To combat this rising swell of student stress and self-regard, the college admissions process should motivate high schoolers to “contribute to others and their communities in more authentic and meaningful ways.”

Top admissions and financial aid officials at several dozen elite American colleges and universities have eagerly endorsed the report’s recommendations, which include encouraging “collective action that takes on community challenges” and looking for evidence of “authentic, meaningful experiences with diversity” when admissions decisions are made. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni praised the report, which he claims “nails the way in which society in general—and children in particular—are badly served by the status quo.”

It’s a bit much, frankly. I’m not quite convinced by the sudden alarm over the “undue academic performance pressure” placed on our children, nor am...

  1. The Washington Post took a look at the Youngstown Plan from its own perspective. “It all began in June, 2015…” (Washington Post, 2/1/16) Here is another perspective on the state of play in Youngstown’s elected school board. Closer, and more current. (Youngstown Vindicator, 2/1/16)
  2. Here is an update on EdChoice voucher applications for the 2016-17 school year, using a mix of rhetoric. That headline alone should come with a whiplash warning. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/2/16)
  3. Charter schools are the educational equivalent of Sharknado, says this guest commentator in the MJ’s Another Viewpoint series. Now, about the first viewpoint… (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 2/2/16)
  4. High school teachers in Toledo City Schools, concerned about dropout rates, are trying a brand new, never-before-utilized dropout prevention strategy. It’s labor intensive for them and requires a ton of effort, but will be great if it works. Without any precedents at all, this is forging new ground. Good luck to all! (Toledo Blade, 1/31/16)
  5. Dayton City Schools is thinking along the same lines, but with 7th and 8th graders being the point of concern. Students in those grades have the highest suspension rates, says the supe, and
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“The Proper Perspective” is a discussion between Jamie Davies O’Leary, senior Ohio policy analyst for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Stephen Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio. Interested in many of the same data points and research questions, they decided to share some of this exchange more publicly, helping both to illuminate trends in Ohio public education and formulate policy recommendations through their insights. This is the second edition of the series. The first can be found here.


Ohio’s K–3 literacy scores: Is the third-grade reading guarantee living up to its promise?

The first round of school report card data came out in January (expect the second batch February 25), shedding light on (among other things) how schools are doing in K–3 literacy. (Note that ninety-six schools have appealed their K–3 literacy grades, and data is under review for another seven schools, so take all of this with a cairn of salt.)

This year’s report cards are the first to include a letter grade for K–3 literacy, a metric that measures the improvement that schools and districts have made in moving...

  1. Another notice for last week’s Quality in Adversity report. The good folks at Gongwer have taken a pretty thorough look at our latest report. Thanks guys; appreciate you zeroing in the important issues. (Gongwer Ohio, 1/29/16)
  2. Our own Aaron Churchill is colorfully quoted in this teaser piece on the topic of charter school funding. The stunt of districts “billing” the state for funding “lost” for students who leave for charters is getting attention from media now, so you know it’s a real thing. The real story is behind the pay wall at DDN (including a reference to the Quality in Adversity report findings); you get zilch in the way of details from the teaser. (Dayton Daily News, 1/31/16)
  3. Parsing of the limited school report card data continues in the Ohio media. Aaron is quoted in this piece looking at Central Ohio charters vs. districts. Aaron’s comments are good, but seem to mean bubkis to the argument being made. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/1/16)
  4. A new study from Case Western Reserve University indicates that “attending preschool helps make children in Cleveland about 20 percent more ready for kindergarten,” and that “Cleveland kids have a 29 percent
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