1. The topic of Academic Distress Commissions was on the table at yesterday’s meeting of the state board of education. I have been tinkering with the wording of the headline to the PD’s coverage of the discussion just a smidge. See what you think: “State school district takeovers bring too many challenges to work…” vs. “State school district takeovers are being challenged too much to work as intended…”. The first one is credited to state supe Paolo DeMaria and is an accurate representation of what he testified to yesterday. I prefer the second one, of course, but only because I say it all the time. I am the only one saying it, I imagine, and it’ll be a cold day on Klom before anyone’s quoting me in a real headline. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/12/19) Here is coverage of the same testimony from closer to the home base of one of the districts currently operating under the aegis of an Academic Distress Commission. It comes complete with a quote for us to parse: “I think the sheer effort required to try to overcome the natural acrimony and dissension that’s created by House Bill 70 has created the conditions where even the best-intentioned individuals are challenged to try to make progress,” [DeMaria] said. “I think the plans, and frankly in Youngstown in particular, had a lot going for it, but I think as the realities of implementation began to set in became really challenging to make the change that’s required. Because that’s what I think a lot of people forget — change is part of it … but if it’s change, we all know the best way to actually help change be created and successfully implemented is to work together; and if you simply can’t engineer by virtue of the obstacles that are created that kind of collaboration, then you’re not likely to achieve success.” But instead of parsing it in detail (“How tedious!” I can hear all six of you shouting), I will instead tell you about my literary habits: I have been reading the autobiography “The Education of Eva Moskowitz” lately. It is excellent. In it, among other things, the founder of the Harlem Success Academy charter schools tells of her battles with those well-known staunch defenders of the status quo: the United Federation of Teachers. Moskowitz recounts numerous instances where UFT—surely also a set of “best-intentioned individuals”—whipped up protest and spread rumors and asked questions and ginned up support against HSA, then got plenty of media coverage of this “chaos” whether it was actually real or not, and then helped provide city council and state legislators with great ideas to quell that chaos. All of which would end up maintaining the status quo or at least knee-capping HSA fairly effectively if passed. Good book. Wish it were fiction. (Elyria Chronicle, 3/13/19) In probably-unrelated news, I hear that the guy who developed the time-out for unruly toddlers is sticking by its usefulness and positive effects on behavior.
  2. Here is a little more on the state board’s discussion over new graduation requirements. (Dayton Daily News, 3/11/19) The board voted 14-1 to recommend the legislature adopt the expanded non-academic graduation pathways (with their shiny veneer of bureaucratic compliance) forever more. (Columbus Dispatch, 3/12/19)
  3. You may have noticed, in this week’s stories about the state board’s delightful deliberations, referenced to a new non-profit organization advocating for education quality and school choice from the perspective of Ohio’s business community. Nice. Here is a bit more detail about Ohio Excels. (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, 3/12/19)
  4. Speaking of school choice, here is the ostensibly heartwarming tale of a school district in Richland County whose reps speak rhapsodically about a new collaboration they have entered into with a service provider for students with autism in order to better serve those students. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But the constant talk in this piece by district reps about “our money” and “keeping it here” and how “we’re not competing for kids and money anymore” gives me the creeps and a weary sense of déjà vu. YMMV. (Richland Source, 3/13/19)
  5. In a couple of other Capital Square tidbits: The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on E-School Funding held what I believe is its final meeting this week. Leaders say that they have “several key decisions to make” before they submit a final report. (Gongwer Ohio, 3/11/19) From the “better late than never” department (actual quote, folks): the state board this week heard arguments from the traditional district school establishment monolith regarding some school transportation rules up for discussion. Did I mention that I’m reading Eva Moskowitz’s autobiography? So good. So…relatable. (Gongwer Ohio, 3/11/19)
  6. All my loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers (Hi, Peter. Seriously, dude: thanks for reading!) will likely recognize that I am on the Cynicism Express today. How else to explain why I am about to rubbish the vaunted institution of the Parent Teacher Organization? Dayton City Schools this week announced an effort to create a sort of UrPTO whose job is ostensibly to create a bunch more little PTOs in schools across the district. The theme this week, then, is self-replicating bureaucracy. Perhaps that’s why I’m cranky. Or because I figure that the ultimate job of the UrPTO will be to keep the little PTOs in line when the mother ship signals. (Dayton Daily News, 3/13/19)

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Jeff Murray comes to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute from a five-year stint at School Choice Ohio. At SCO, Jeff was involved with getting the word out to parents around the state about school voucher availability - directing postcard campaigns, call centers, and advertising campaigns over the last few years. Tens of thousands of parents across Ohio received the news…

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