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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...

In Educational Entrepreneurship Today, edited by Frederick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane, a gaggle of authors examines how entrepreneurship can fuel the engine of educational innovation. The authors paint a complex portrait of risk, reward, and regulation.

The book defines educational entrepreneurship as “risk-taking behavior intended to boost school productivity or offer new services in a manner that makes a lasting difference for students.” The authors remind us that the very premise of entrepreneurship is novel within education. Typical initiatives in this realm are-risk averse because failure may harm children. Yet recent years have provided plenty of examples of entrepreneurial effort.

One theme throughout the book is that the structure of organizations and initiatives matter, although the authors differ on what structure is best. Some favor small, precisely targeted programs like the Tiny School Project, which focuses on testing educational ideas on a micro level. Others focus on scaling successful initiatives, such as the KIPP charter network’s growth from a single classroom to over two hundred schools across the country.

Entrepreneurial ventures like Teach For America, TNTP, the Broad Residency, and New Leaders for New Schools have both grown and become pipelines for educational talent to undertake yet more initiatives. The...

A new Mathematica study examines whether school-level value-added measures adequately capture principals’ effectiveness. Many districts hold them accountable for their schools’ academic performance; this study probes that assumption by asking an important question: Does school-level value added actually reflect the principal’s contribution, or does it mostly reflect other school-level influences (such as neighborhood safety) that are outside the principal’s control?

The authors use longitudinal data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to study school and principal effectiveness for grades 4–8 from 2007–08 to 2012–13. They include in the data set principals who have been involved in a leadership transition—meaning that, during the analysis period, they started leading a school they had not led before or were replaced by incoming principals. The authors compare departing principals with successors who assumed their positions during 2009–10 to 2012–13. (Alarmingly, 41 percent of schools serving students between the fourth and eighth grades experienced such leadership changes during the study window.) To disentangle the principal’s contribution to growth from the effect of other school-level factors, they sought to isolate the portion of the principal’s impact that is consistent across time and across different samples of students—i.e., the effects on student achievement that principals persistently demonstrate.

Here’s the bottom line: School-level...

August 16 marked the first day of school for the thousands of children who attend the Dayton Public Schools (DPS). They returned to a district with a new superintendent, but many old problems. Regrettably, Dayton is at the end of a five-year strategic plan that barely moved the needle on the city’s dismal track record for student achievement. In 2014–15, DPS was the lowest-performing of Ohio’s 610 public school districts. That distinction should make Dayton’s citizens cringe.

Superintendent Rhonda Corr—who knows Cleveland well but is new to the Gem City—was given only a one-year contract by the board of education. That’s not enough time to accomplish much beyond figuring out what needs fixing. She’ll need to determine why so few of Dayton’s young people are learning enough to put themselves on track for success in later life.

She may find something nobody has ever spotted before, but previous diagnoses of Dayton’s education woes have uncovered plenty of problems. Some of them are outside the school system’s immediate control, such as the tragic challenge of multi-generational poverty. Others, though, are endemic to the district itself, including a stubborn bureaucracy, eleven different bargaining units, high rates of truancy, and huge numbers of suspensions in the...

A new Education Next article examines the impact of New York City school closures on a variety of student outcomes, including graduation rates, attendance, and academic performance.

Analysts studied twenty-nine high school closures announced between 2003 and 2009, analyzing outcomes for over twenty thousand affected ninth graders in several groups: those who were just beginning their ninth-grade year when closure was announced (called the “phase-out” cohort); those who chose to stay after the closure announcement (the “phase-out” process allowed them to stay until their expected year of graduation); those who transferred elsewhere; and those rising ninth graders who were required to attend a different high school because of closure. The  schools in the treatment group slated for closure were, as you would expect, among the lowest-performing in the city. (Another group of high schools that exhibited both similar poor performance and similar low-achieving students served as the comparison group, although it was not clear why they weren’t slated for closure.)

Analysts first predicted the impact of the closure decision on graduation rates for the “phase-out” cohort. They found small but statistically insignificant differences, concluding that the phase-out process did not negatively impact graduation rates or make a clear impact on credits earned,...

  1. There are five seasons here in central Ohio: winter, spring, summer, back-to-school whining, and fall. Guess which one we’re in now? [OHIO EDUCATION GADFLY PUTS ON SCREECHY VOICE] “The school year is starting toooooooooo early nowadays. What happened to summer you guyyyyyyyys? I remember when I was a kid….” Testing is, of course, to blame. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/8/16) [OHIO EDUCATION GADFLY PUTS ON SCREECHY VOICE AGAIN] “The school day starts tooooooooo early nowadays. Middle schoolers will be on the bus in the dark and sleep through claaaaaaaass. And high schoolers will die driving to schoooooooooooooool!” Going to bed early is, apparently, impossible. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/8/16)
  2. How about a little good news for central Ohio and beyond? 32 graduates of Ohio’s Bright New Leaders program are starting their first year as principals and lead administrators in schools across the state. These are “mid-career professionals” who left their business or administration tracks to train intensively for the last year to become education leaders. Kudos to the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Fisher College of Business and the Ohio State University, and all the other partners who came together to make this project a reality. Great to hear the voices
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  1. It’s Friday. Time to update you on the seemingly-endless kerfuffle between Ohio’s largest online school and the state department of education regarding the school’s ongoing attendance audit. The school delivered 48 boxes of documents to the state yesterday – one day earlier than previously agreed upon. Immediately afterward, representatives of the school noted that they are currently waiting on documents from the state via a public records request. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/4/16) Meanwhile, a second front in the kerfuffle seems to have opened up between the school and state auditor’s office (!?) regarding yet more documents and the vaunted – and snooze-inducing – doctrine of the “agreed upon procedures” audit. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/4/16)
  2. School is right around the corner and folks in Mansfield are getting ready. Especially for their youngest students. Kindergarten camp there sounds like a hoot. I fully concur with the youngster who thinks that “Ten in the Bed” is a picture-book classic. (Mansfield News Journal, 8/3/16)
  3. Speaking of school starting, the brass is being polished to a high shine (or is that the lenses to the 386 cameras?) in the Colossus of Lorain (aka the district’s schmancy new high school). Meanwhile the
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  1. The Dispatch took a look at Fordham’s latest report – a pretty downbeat assessment of Ohio’s online schools. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/2/16)
  2. Speaking of online schools, Ohio’s largest such school was on Monday given a court-ordered deadline of 5:00 pm Tuesday to turn over student log-in information the state has requested in order to complete an attendance audit. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/1/16) The school did not meet that deadline and instead will submit the requested docs – and thousands more besides – on Friday. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/3/16) But lest you think from that Dispatch piece that this was a one-sided process, here is Gongwer to disabuse you. In fact, the impending Friday info-dump was agreed to by both the school and the state, as was the notion of the state dropping its pending lawsuit against the school – the suit from which much of the current legal to-ing and fro-ing sprung. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/2/16)
  3. Lots of news from Youngstown since Monday. First up, editors at the Vindy opined very strongly in favor of the district CEO cutting off funding for the board’s legal efforts to invalidate the Academic Distress Commission and his own position.
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  1. We’ve already told you about the compliance portion of Ohio’s newest charter sponsor evaluation process. That flag requirement is always good for a laugh. But Chad is quoted seriously on the issue here and offers a cogent commentary: “By checking on everything, I think you make everything equally important,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the case.” Well said, boss. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/31/16)
  2. Our own Mike Petrilli is quoted on one aspect of the ESSA legislation. To wit: “It is totally up to states and districts what to do with low-performing schools.” Well said, boss. While this quote is several months old at this point, the topic is fresh as Ohio launches a series of statewide meetings and webinars on various aspects of ESSA accountability and what may or should change in the Buckeye State as a result. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/30/16)
  3. Last week’s one-month update with the Youngstown Schools CEO must have uncovered something that the Vindy hadn’t already known about: a pretty scathing report from the state regarding a litany of noncompliance and regulatory problems in the district’s transportation department. This piece reports the scale of the problems for the first time (ongoing
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  1. Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip reminded them all who’s boss loudly and clearly yesterday in regards to the district’s pending lawsuit against the legislation that brought his position into being. That lawsuit has already cost the district nearly $200,000. Wonder what he’ll decide to do? (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/28/16) Today, at the one-month mark since taking the reins, Mohip says he’s optimistic for positive change in the district, starting from day one of the new school year. That’s intestinal fortitude for you. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/29/16)
  2. Here is more on the topic of open enrollment in Coventry Local Schools. Following the State Auditor’s (!) report on the district’s finances, long-simmering concerns about open enrollment have started to heat up. By the time you get to the part where the superintendent says he “didn’t invent open enrollment”, you can see where this is heading. Nowhere is it noted that the district was in fiscal watch for a whopping 18 years before finally tipping into full-blown fiscal emergency and triggering the auditor’s report. If open enrollment was the whole problem, surely it would have wrecked the district’s finances long before now. It is to be hoped that students who have
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