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Coming together in 2017

On this week's podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and Brandon Wright discuss how the nation, and education reformers, can come together in 2017. And Amber Northern begins the new year by counting down the five best Research Minutes of 2016.

John Morris

NOTE: The State Board of Education of Ohio on December 13, 2016 debated whether to change graduation requirements for the Class of 2018 and beyond. Below are the written remarks of John Morris, given before the board.

Members of the Board,

Thank you for giving me a moment to offer testimony on behalf of the construction industry. Members of the industry sent me here to thank you for setting a new higher bar with the class of 2018 graduation requirements. We are excited that this board has supported maintaining high standards for graduating and earning a diploma in the State of Ohio. Members of the construction industry were very pleased when the phase out of the Ohio Graduation Test was announced in favor of multiple end-of-course exams and the opportunity for an industry credential to help a student graduate. We expect this new system to be an improvement over the current system that graduates many without the skills to succeed in college and continuously FAILS to introduce others to the hundreds of thousands of pathways to employment via industry credentials.

For many decades, industries such as construction and manufacturing enjoyed a steady stream of individuals coming directly from "vocational" schools...

  1. Looks like the new year is starting in Youngstown City Schools the same way the old one ended – with a battle of words between the school board and the CEO waged in the pages of the Vindy. (Youngstown Vindicator, 1/3/17)
  2. Meanwhile, the new year means a new CEO-style Academic Distress Commission for Lorain City Schools. In fact, March 7 is the exact date. Here’s a very thorough look at the preparations already underway. If this story is accurate, the “Lorain Plan” feels a lot different than the “Youngstown Plan” to me. (Northern Ohio Morning Journal, 1/1/17)
  3. Editors in Toledo opined this week against a proposed zoning change that would, they say, “attack the autonomy” of charter schools in the Glass City. Yes. You read that right. (Toledo Blade, 1/2/17) In case you’re wondering what the zoning proposal is, you can check out the details here. You can also check out who is spearheading it and why and who thinks it’s a bad idea and why. (Toledo Blade, 12/25/16) Loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers may remember that zoning and review mechanisms were used successfully in 2015 to scuttle a move by another charter school to
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In late 2016, we at the Ohio Gadfly asked for your predictions on the most important education issues of 2017. Here were your prognostications, along with—as you might expect from us at the Gadfly—commentary on how we hope these debates will unfold in the year to come.

Number 5: School accountability

It’s no surprise to see school accountability on our readers’ list of big issues for 2017. In the coming year, Ohio will submit a revised plan for accountability under the new Every Student Succeeds Act. Fortunately, the law doesn’t require the Buckeye State to undertake a major overhaul of its accountability policies. Ohio can and should stay the course on its key policies (with minor adjustments; see number 2 below). For instance, policymakers should maintain the use of a performance index and student growth measures or value added; they should also preserve a transparent A-F grading system. As Ohio’s ESSA plan is reviewed and debated, policymakers must ensure that accountability policies uphold high expectations for all pupils and offer clear information on school quality.  

Number 4: E-schools

With over 30,000 Ohio pupils attending virtual charter schools, the Buckeye State has one of the largest e-school...

Following the lead of our D.C. colleagues, we totted up the most-read articles posted on Ohio Gadfly Daily in 2016.

The Top Five editorial posts are a microcosm of the issues we address regularly in an effort to advance educational excellence in a very real way here in the Buckeye State:

1. House Bill 420: Opting out of accountability by Jamie Davies O’Leary (published January 25)

At the height of the pushback against Common Core-aligned testing in Ohio, HB 420 was born. It would have allowed schools and districts to exempt from certain accountability measures those students whose parents opted them out of taking standardized tests. We cautioned against the inadvertent deterrent effect on testing participation and the erosion of the state’s accountability system.

2. How will ESSA change Ohio’s school report cards? by Jessica Poiner (published June 13)

Ohio’s accountability and report card system was reasonably robust before the advent of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), but as we discussed in detail back in June, the myriad new reporting requirements would engender a number of changes for the Buckeye State to be in compliance with ESSA. Our point-by-point analysis is a must-read for anyone who...

  1. Public radio’s Andy Chow published his year-end education wrap up yesterday. He wrote mainly about charter schools and resurrected an old quote from our own Chad Aldis in regard to the delayed award of federal Charter School Program grant funds. Thanks, Andy! (WVXU-FM, Cincinnati, 12/29/16)
  2. One of the few non-charter-specific items Andy mentioned in his wrap up was the potential change in Ohio’s new graduation requirements mooted near the end of the year. This issue was taken up by the state board of education in its last meeting of the year and was ultimately kicked down the road a bit further by the creation of a study group to look at the issue. In question is whether more stringent end-of-course exam requirements – in force for the Class of 2018 – will result in a “graduation rate apocalypse”. However, in the real world, we have the example of Shelby City Schools, a smallish district in North Central Ohio whose leaders are taking the new requirements seriously and are working hard to identify those students who may not reach the needed points – and putting plans and support in place to make sure they put in the work
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  1. We start with a curious little story from Dayton. It is ostensibly about the reaction of several Dayton-area colleges to a new report predicting a decline in the overall number of high school graduates produced by U.S. schools over the next 20 years (e.g. – erosion of their customer base). Most of the word count is dedicated to that reaction (in short: look for new college students elsewhere and work hard to attract those U.S. students who are around). However, the more interesting question – why there is expected to be such a precipitous decline – is unaddressed here. You, like me, will have to read the latest edition of Knocking on the College Door from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in order to answer that question. To be fair to the DDN, it was 30-some pages into said report before we even got an inkling of the reasons. Weird. (Dayton Daily News, 12/27/16)
  2. As we noted when those ratings first came out, school districts across the state fared particularly poorly on charter sponsor evaluations. One such district, Oregon City Schools in suburban Toledo, is formally appealing its rating in a bid to keep its
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  1. Editors in Youngstown opined yesterday generally in favor of school CEO Krish Mohip’s setting of a 100% graduation target. They opine on a lot of other things too while they’re at it. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/22/16)  And just in case Youngstown-area parents are not heartened by Mohip’s pledge, there is an option for some of you. Valley STEM + ME2 Academy is now accepting applications for rising ninth- and tenth-graders in the area for the 2017-18 school year. As a huge fan of standalone STEM schools, your humble compiler says click or call today. (Youngstown Vindicator, 12/23/16)
  2. State Senator Tom Sawyer opined yesterday on the topic of inter-district open enrollment, intending to drum up public support for a legislative-level review of the program. (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/22/16)
  3. Speaking of school choice, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati announced this week that it will make an additional $2 million per year in tuition assistance available to Catholic school families in need of help, starting with the 2017-18 school year. This includes high schoolers already receiving tuition vouchers via the EdChoice Scholarship program. Nice. (Dayton Daily News, 12/21/16)
  4. We end today with a nice inside look at
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At the end of November, we asked you—our loyal Ohio Gadfly readers—to tell us what you thought were the top education stories for 2016. The choices were numerous and we appreciate all of the responses. In the spirit of “ringing out the old,” we give you the Top 5:

  1. House Bill 2 (HB 2): It is difficult to overstate the importance of this wide-ranging reform of Ohio’s charter school policies, which went into effect in February of this year. Almost immediately, we observed “HB2 effects” rippling throughout the sector, particularly in terms of sponsor decision-making around school closures. Additionally, “sponsor hopping” (in which schools seek out the sponsor of least resistance when anticipating a contract non-renewal) disappeared virtually overnight. Completion of the new, rigorous sponsor evaluations that were strengthened by HB 2 occurred in October (more on these later). Befitting the top placement for this story in 2016, there is much more to say. Stay tuned to the Ohio Education Gadfly for our detailed analysis of the early implementation of HB 2, expected in the New Year.
  2. ECOT vs. ODE: Ohio’s largest online charter school was embroiled in a lawsuit with the Ohio Department of
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  1. Longtime Ohio education curmudgeon Bill Phillis found an outlet through which to express his distaste for a proposed new funding formula introduced in the state legislature last week by the chair of the House Education Committee. Phillis apparently told Patrick O’Donnell his top concern was that ending local funding and allowing all state funding to “follow the child” would make choosing schools too easy for parents and budgeting for districts too hard. There are other reasons given, but I’ll just stop there. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/20/16)
  2. Speaking of school choice, Columbus City Schools is set to initiate all-online registration and management of its intra-district choice program. The district’s PR flack extols the virtues of quick and easy access to info and forms and the like in this brief piece and takes a second to mention that charter school students who live in the city can apply too (how generous). Anyone besides me concerned about who might not have easy access to/facility with the internet re: choosing? (Columbus Dispatch Education Insider, 12/21/16)
  3. Here is a nice piece about two nonprofit organizations which have for years provided out-of-school support for students in Cleveland. It is part of
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