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John A. Dues


John A. Dues is the Chief Learning Officer for United Schools Network in Columbus.

"There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children."

                                                                                                                       -Nelson Mandela

As a society, we are in need of some serious soul searching. There is an urgent need to support and create as many outstanding schools as possible as a part of a larger plan for improving life outcomes in Columbus’s most challenged neighborhoods. In Central Ohio, outcomes for kids that grow up just a few miles from each other can vary immensely. Drive east on Main Street from Miller Avenue in the Near East Side to Capital University in Bexley and in the span of two miles you will get a snapshot of the different worlds that exist within our city. Take that same drive on Central Avenue from Dana Avenue in Franklinton to Grandview and you will have a similar experience. 

Challenges facing our students

Over the last year, there have been a series of articles in the Columbus Dispatch that provide a lens into some of these...

  1. Less than a month until it’s all over and the gubernatorial race in Ohio is trending rather lopsided. Problem is, certain issues that typically arise during a contested race just haven’t gotten a lot of play this time around. Fordham’s Chad Aldis is briefly quoted in this piece, lamenting about the lack of specifics on K-12 education from either side. (Columbus Dispatch)
  2. Oddly enough, state board of education races seem to be getting more play in the media than the gubernatorial race…in certain places. We’ve clipped a few stories about individual district races before, but here’s a nice overview on all of the contested seats on the board. You would have thought that Common Core would have been a bigger issue, but it seems that charter schools are more relevant to most candidates…especially if they are Democrats. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. Big changes are being promised for the education provided to students with special needs in Columbus City Schools, following a pretty earth-shaking admission that the district had routinely followed a “no-fail” policy for students on IEPs, moving young people along whether they passed or not. These changes even include efforts to allow former students to retake
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  1. EdWeek took notice of the KnowYourCharter website rollout in Ohio this week...and of the reaction it generated from Fordham and others. (EdWeek)
  2. Youngstown City Schools’ Academic Distress Commission adopted an updated recovery plan this week. Among the goals, to be achieved by 2017, are a PI score of at least 85 for two consecutive years, a value-added score of a “C” for two years, meeting proficient standards on at least 14 of 22 indicators, and achieving an 80 percent four-year graduation rate. How to achieve these goals? Step one – curb the micromanagement of the district’s board of education. (Youngstown Vindicator)
  3. A follow up on yesterday’s story about the abrupt closing of a private school and daycare in Chillicothe. Parents are hurt, confused, and scrambling. For the most part it sounds as if other private schools, nearby districts, and childcare providers are working well with parents to help them find new schools. Very good journalism here. (Chillicothe Gazette)
  4. It has been said that no one knows the state board of education exists. After reading the survey answers of the three candidates up for election in District 5, I can believe that ignorance is
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In New York City, pro-charter school parents and kids will march at the Families for Excellent Schools rally. “We need to stop stealing the possible,” says Eva Moskowitz in a New York Post op-ed.

“I'm almost certain it didn't mean to, but OCR may have stumbled into the most significant federal charter policy action since the birth of the charter movement two decades ago,” says Michael Petrilli to Politico Pro’s Morning Education.

The Department of Education announced $20 million “for finding, training, and keeping  good turnaround principals”—a worthy venture to beat the lacking-leaders conundrum. But is SIG even worth saving?

Oregon's Department of Education is levying a fine against Portland Public Schools for suspending a disproportionate number of African American special-education students. A tricky subject, but on school discipline, Mike Petrilli doesn’t want school to repeat old mistakes

“For many schools, [Common Core is] not...

  1. The Plain Dealer, with typical deliberation and thoroughness, took a couple of days to check out the new KnowYourCharters website before publishing their take. They suspect that politics may have “crept in” to the project. But seriously, nice Cleveland-centric take on the story with lots of quotes from charter school foes and supporters, including our own Chad and Aaron. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. Here’s an addition to yesterday’s stories about district opposition to state testing requirements, some of which are new this year. This time: the above-average Columbus suburb of Westerville. Complete with calculations of testing time required. (ThisWeek News/Westerville News & Public Opinion)
  3. The USDOE has awarded a grant of $795,000 to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to support its efforts to find, train, and keep good turnaround principals. Congratulations! (EdWeek)
  4. More on the ongoing efforts of a church in Monroe (more than three years so far) to buy a closed high school building from the local district. The latest is a public hearing. It went about how you thought it would. The alternative now being put together is for more taxpayer money to go
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Marc Mannella

As the founder and Executive Director of KIPP Philadelphia Schools, I was surprised to read Dr. Laurence Steinberg’s Flypaper post on how KIPP charter schools approach character development. In response to his portrayal of our character work, I want to offer a KIPP educator’s perspective.

The headline of Dr. Steinberg’s piece asks, “Is character education the answer?” Neither I nor anyone at KIPP believes that teaching character in and of itself is the answer to the challenges faced by our students—85 percent of whom grow up in poverty. But just because character isn’t the answer, doesn’t mean it isn’t part of an answer. We know from several studies that certain character strengths play an important role in increasing students’ academic success. And a growing body of research, like that by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University, indicates that elements related to KIPP character strengths like social intelligence and optimism are ultimately teachable.

When approached thoughtfully and deliberately, teaching character strengths can help students develop the resiliency to overcome life’s obstacles. We’re already seeing that KIPP students graduate college at more than four times the rate of students from the country’s...

This study does exactly what its title promises. Specifically, analysts study two instructional practices in mathematics: (1) engaging students in discourse with the teacher and their peers to make sense of problems and explain answers and (2) using appropriate mathematical vocabulary. Importantly, these practices also reflect the Mathematical Practices of the Common Core math standards, specifically those that require students to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others and those that require students to attend to precision, including the use of appropriate mathematical vocabulary. The study occurs as part of a larger evaluation of Project M2, an advanced math curriculum (i.e., it includes content that typically appears at higher grade levels or content studied in depth with challenging task and problems) covering geometry and measurement in grades K–2. The final sample includes thirty-four K–2 teachers and their 560 students who participated in a field test from 2008–11. Teachers were randomly assigned to the intervention and control groups. The former attended roughly ten days of professional development, after which they were observed weekly and rated on fidelity of implementation to the content and the two instructional strategies of interest. Students were administered the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)...

A new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools assesses the health of the public charter school movement by examining its progression and performance in twenty-five states and Washington, D.C. To qualify, states had to participate in the 2013 CREDO study and have at least 1 percent of public school students served by charters. They ranked the strength of each locale using fifteen indicators in three categories: growth, or the overall number of schools available and students served; innovation, defined as the “use of various innovative practices,” such as an extended school year; and quality, measured in additional days of learning for both reading and math. Washington, D.C. and Louisiana came in first and second, respectively, earning high marks for offering multiple charter school options for families, serving high numbers of economically disadvantaged youth, and showing strong student achievement gains. Nevertheless, the report suggests that both ought to make efforts to secure equitable operational funding. At the other end of the spectrum, Oregon and Nevada occupied the bottom two spots because they serve a low percentage of the state’s population of public school children, and their charters aren’t producing gains in reading and math. For these low...

The Sopranos edition

Common Core reading wars, union endorsements of convicted felons, schools that encourage patriotism, and the health of the charter movement.

Amber's Research Minute

"Examining the Relationship Between Teachers' Instructional Practices and Students' Mathematics Achievement," by Janine M. Firmender, M. Katherine Gavin, and D. Betsy McCoach, Journal of Advanced Academics vol. 25, no. 3 (August 2014).

  1. As you may have heard, the OEA and Innovation Ohio have launched a website ( to ostensibly provide comparison information between charter schools and Ohio’s districts. There’s tons wrong with this picture, of course, but suffice it to say that it’s akin to the Confederation of Wolves launching a website called, to let you know how secure chicken coops are around the state. It definitely isn’t for the purpose of making the coops more secure. But seriously folks, the Dispatch coverage quotes our own Chad Aldis talking about the apples-to-bowling-balls comparison to be had. (Columbus Dispatch). Gongwer’s coverage has other voices raising the same concerns. (Gongwer Ohio) Most other coverage around Ohio is limited to this same piece with only token information and token response. (Willoughby News Herald)
  2. Back in the real world, CEO Eric Gordon gave his annual State of the Schools speech in Cleveland yesterday. Although playing heavily on the story of Sisyphus, he averred that the Cleveland Plan is starting to show signs of success. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  3. Still hanging in the real world, officials in the inner-ring Columbus suburb of Whitehall say that their schools are ready for
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