Additional Topics

  1. Starting the new year with a bang, the Big D’s got a front page story on charter schools in Ohio, noting that a very small number of new schools opened in 2014. Our own Aaron Churchill and ODE’s John Charlton both attribute this to diligence by the department. Not sure the journalist agrees. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Charter schools are on the minds of the editorial board in Cleveland as well. Today’s editorial repeats the call for action to reform the state’s charter school sector, citing the recent CREDO and Bellwether reports, and Fordham’s central efforts in pushing reform. Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  3. Not content to stop at an editorial, the PD’s political prognostication also covers charter school law reform, noting CREDO/Bellwether/Fordham while betting that charter law reform will be one of Governor Kasich’s top 5 priorities in 2015. I predict that that is correct. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  4. Fascinating story about “ESC shopping” among districts in Geauga County. Ledgemont Schools – in fiscal distress – were required to shop around for a new Education Service Center looking strictly at cost. Others have already decided to stay put, but several are shopping around. What they are
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  1. The Auditor of State released an audit of one of Ohio’s largest online schools. There were some findings regarding inappropriate travel reimbursement. Two staffers have already reimbursed the school. Why is this news? It’s not. But that doesn’t stop the Big D’s Education Insider team from wringing it for all its worth, with a heaping helping of unnecessary smarm. (Columbus Dispatch) The more matter-of-fact version can be found in Gongwer. Meanwhile, in a small school district near Springfield, actual crime appears to have occurred. Do take note of how the local press is handling that story, which has been developing for a week or so. (Springfield News Sun)
  2. Speaking of money, here’s something that any number of schools (district, charter, STEM, private, whatever) might want to take note of. The board of Granville Schools recently passed a resolution establishing “cash balance guidelines” for the district that set a cash reserve target of no less than 10 percent of annual revenue. Any time balances go below that level for two consecutive months, the treasurer must prepare a report as to why and include options for cuts to offset. Nice. (Newark Advocate)
  3. I have now twice
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Perhaps the highest praise you can heap on another writer’s work is to acknowledge a tinge of professional jealousy. You read a blog post, column, or piece of reporting and think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.” Here are some of the pieces—about Common Core and education at large—I wish I’d written in 2014.

Tim Shanahan of the University of Illinois at Chicago has long been indispensible on literacy—and never more so than in the era of Common Core. In November, he waded into the “close reading” thicket with a pair of clear-eyed posts on the importance of prior knowledge in reading. The second of Tim’s two-part post offered particularly useful guidance for teachers on dealing with knowledge deficits when teaching reading comprehension. A third installment is promised and hopefully coming soon. 

As long as I’m casting a jealous eye at posts about reading: I also wish I’d written this one, by my Fordham colleague Kathleen Porter-Magee, on how reading standards mislead teachers. I’ve said more or less the same thing for years, but Kathleen said it far better.

Math educator Barry Garelick is no fan of the Common Core. I simply...

  1. Who’s a holiday curmudgeon, then? The Superintendent of Federal Hocking Schools, that’s who. Check out his pessimistic guest commentary on charter school law fixes today. It all comes down to money for him. Of course the irony is lost that money is just what district school folks argue makes all the difference for them: “their money” is “stolen” by charter schools, which equates to the low performance rates in districts where charter schools are located (not, I think, in tiny Federal Hocking though). The argument is that with more money, those public districts will flourish, ignoring the fact that charter schools operate with far less funds than most districts. So why wouldn’t more money solve charter schools’ performance problems too? All of these issues will clearly be front and center in 2015. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. Generous souls will call this story “wonky”. Less-generous ones will call it snooze-worthy. For my part, I find it an interesting look at what happens after all the bright lights and hubbub of lawmaking are over. New rules were discussed this week regarding mandated changes to Ohio’s College Credit Plus program. The lawmaking efforts focused on expansion of
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  1. It took a little while, but editors in Toledo have weighed in on the topic of charter school law reform. They are all for it, not surprisingly, but skeptical of political will. Fordham and Stanford are namechecked. (Toledo Blade)
  2. Speaking of editorials, the Repository strongly encourages legislators to forget about Common Core repeal in next General Assembly. Can't argue with that. (Canton Repository)
  3. Speaking of Common Core, here’s a nice piece from suburban Cleveland news outlet West Life. The piece is new, although the event it covers happened last month. Char Shryock, director of curriculum and instruction for high-flying Bay Village Schools (and a tireless supporter of Common Core across the state), gave a presentation on Ohio’s New Learning Standards in which she laid out (probably for the 200th time) the benefits of the standards, which include Common Core standards in math and English language arts. She also discussed the new tests which go along with the new standards – very much an issue that will be relevant in the new year. She spelled out that PARCC, the testing consortium to which Ohio belongs, had input from teachers, including many from Ohio. “PARRC is not
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  1. The Dispatch today published an op ed by our own Chad Aldis, reinforcing the call for a common-sense overhaul of Ohio’s charter school law. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Editors in Akron today published their own editorial on the same subject. They are a bit more pessimistic about both recommendations and determination on the part of Ohio’s elected leaders than Chad is, but they seem generally supportive of the Fordham-sponsored research that has led up to the overhaul effort. Nice. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  3. I mentioned that yesterday’s StateImpact story on the “American Graduate” project seemed to be missing something. Specifically, it seemed to lack any tie-in to real efforts going on in Cleveland to help students with difficult family and life circumstances to stay in school and graduate. Thus I was hopeful that this follow-up story talking more deeply about the specific struggles faced by several of the college students on the Cleveland panel would help to provide more insight. I was wrong. Sorry folks: “Just Don’t Not Achieve, No Matter What” is not a helpful message for kids in the real world. (StateImpact Ohio)
  4. We’ll end on a bit of good news. We told you several
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Jack Schneider

Editor's note: This post is the sixth entry of a multi-part series of interviews featuring Fordham's own Andy Smarick and Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at Holy Cross. It originally appeared in a slightly different form at Education Week's K-12 Schools: Beyond the Rhetoric blog. Earlier entries can be found hereherehere, hereand here.

Schneider: In our previous post, you implied—through one of your fictional stories—that research could be used in the courts to establish particular policy positions, and I'd like to follow up on that.

I'm perpetually frustrated by the fact that, for every complex issue, there is competing research to cite. It's a real dilemma for which I don't really see a solution. Maybe we can talk through this a bit.

Smarick: I actually see the vast majority of research as complementary, not competing. 

Studies on the same subject often ask different questions, use different data sets, and have different methodologies. So if you only read the titles, you might think two reports are in conflict; but once you get into the details, you see that they paint a fuller picture of some issue when taken together. Let me give you just one very...

  1. As we approach the end of the year, expect a lot of “looking back” articles from reporters across the state. Usually there’s not a lot new in these pieces – making life difficult for clipsters like myself – but here’s an interesting one. The former chair of the academic distress commission overseeing Youngstown City Schools looks back on her time in the (very) hot seat and on what’s happened in the six months since she left the commission. Not much has changed for the district academically – for which the former chair seems to blame the “shifting target” of success indicators – but the commission itself has taken some serious steps to curb the influence of the Board of Education since she left. Fascinating, and a bit sad. (Youngstown Vindicator)
  2. The president and CEO of Innovation Ohio has a guest commentary in the Blade today, ostensibly rebutting the pro-charter school commentary from the president of the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools published two weeks ago. But honestly, after the last two weeks of high-quality data, specific recommendations, media attention, and political support for real change in Ohio’s charter sector, this piece just comes off as tired,
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It’s the end of another great year in education-reform punditry. What was on the mind of Fordham experts and guest bloggers this year? Common Core for sure, from teaching literacy to the coming assessments; but also the fate of unions, no-excuses charters, career and technical education, differentiated instruction, and more.

Presenting your favorite (Fordham) things (in 2014), according to your clicks:

Flypaper (and Ohio Gadfly Daily)

10. Vergara, Harris, and the fate of the teachers unions
By Andy Smarick

9. Boston’s high-quality charters make no excuses
By Michael Goldstein

8. Turning the tables on the vocational ed debate
By Emily Hanford

7. A few reflections on the Common Core Wars
By Michael Petrilli

6. Education reform in 2014
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

5. The opt-out outrage
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

4. It pays to increase your word power
By Robert Pondiscio

3. Is differentiated instruction a hollow promise?
By Chester E. Finn, Jr.

2. Lies, damned lies, and the Common Core
By Michael Petrilli

1. Teachers, the Common Core, and the freedom to teach
by Jessica Poiner

Common Core Watch