1. I think the mission of the Elyria YWCA got hijacked by tantruming toddlers somehow. A serious discussion about “creating community” in the face of challenges devolved into the same old meritless whining about Ohio’s academic distress paradigm as it is being stirred up by the same old folks from Lorain. But, let’s go with this for a moment, because I find it instructive. I have suggested that I believe the fierce emotional response to ADCs by these folks has two motivations. The first is the loss of their power, which is the most obvious. The second, less clear, is the concerted effort to eliminate ALL forms of test-based accountability in Ohio’s schools. The ADCs, the academic distress designation which triggers them, the report cards on which the designation is based, and the tests which underpin the most important aspects of academic quality as measured on report cards. While not generally spoken aloud, just occasionally echoes of that broader effort are heard above the shrill, immediate din. A voice new to the outsized ADC outcry gives such an echo here. The current superintendent of Sandusky City Schools identified for his receptive audience at the YWCA event what are termed the “impediments to equity and race-related challenges” in Ohio. Big, important stuff, right? And here’s the list: academic distress commissions, Ohio school district report cards, transparency regarding calculating “value added” scores on the report cards, and authentic and integrated leadership training for urban superintendents. A good part of that list sounds familiar to me. (The News-Herald, 4/29/19) In an unusual move, one of the bills which would end Ohio’s current academic distress paradigm was voted out of its House committee late last night. What was unusual? The bill wasn’t even scheduled to have a vote. And yet it did. That’s OK though. I’m sure those well-known sticklers for legislative squeakable cleanliness will have something to say about it. You know who I mean. (Gongwer Ohio, 4/30/19)
  2. Speaking of cleanliness, here is an update on the “absorption” of Toledo’s only Spanish-language school (a charter) by an 800 pound gorilla (Toledo City Schools). We get some more details on the fascinating process, most of which are just not reconcilable with how chartering and district school creation actually work. And while all of it is still being publicly portrayed as a hunky dory, partner-y win for everyone, we do have a bit of evidence to the contrary. If you ask me, that is. First up, the new Escuela SMART will be a district magnet school. Which means that, unlike charter schools which are open to all interested comers, some direct gatekeeping mechanism will be used by the district to choose which students do and do not attend the new school despite its nominally borderless nature. Any teacher from the charter school who wishes to be considered for employment in the district has to become a member of the teachers union, of course. And interestingly, the building to be purchased to house the new Escuela SMART is the former home of a district-sponsored dropout-recovery charter school which was closed last year in order to offer those students “other alternatives” more directly in the district’s purview. (I assume that means that Lucas County taxpayers will being paying for that building for at last the third time, but it is unclear at this point whether that part is true.) Lest you think I am exaggerating or even making up the animus I perceive, I would direct your attention to the Toledo City Schools’ testimony on HB 154 (the ADC bill referenced above) in which the district rep asserts (for no discernable reason other than a self-serving pat on the back) that a local charter school “has opted to close in order for us to support their students and staff in their inventive curriculum.” Yep. Sounds like one for the price of three to me, which is also funny because the Toledo rep was also touting the district’s deep pockets too, also for no discernable reason. (Toledo Blade, 4/29/19) It is probably deeply ironic to follow the previous clip with this brief notice that Dayton Early College Academy, a charter school sponsored by Fordham, made the list of top high schools in Ohio per the annual U.S. News rankings. It is awesome, of course, and everyone at DECA should be extremely proud of their accomplishment. But it is ironic in that DECA, which started out as a program of Dayton City Schools, opted many years ago to become a charter school to better serve its students. And ironic because I imagine there are a lot of folks who would love for DECA to “opt” for a similar “deal” as that of Escuela SMART. (Dayton Daily News, 4/30/19) 
  3. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A bunch of elected school board members go into the woods… No, seriously. The elected board members of Columbus City Schools went to a frankly creepy-sounding district facility out in the woods for a retreat this week (surely there are large parts of the former ECOT HQ building that y’all haven’t explored yet which would have worked for the purpose of isolation) and had their own mini-Festivus. Many grievances were aired, reporters were exhorted not to say the board was in “disarray”, and two new members laid down some blunt wisdom. Despite the behind-the-woodshed nature of this meeting, I’m sure all of it will soon be forgotten and everything will be business as usual again before we know it. Lucky us. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/30/19) In the more urbane wilds of downtown Dayton, a similar disaster unfolded when Dayton City Schools’ elected board members attempted to give some marching orders to their superintendent and treasurer. Instead of a forest, the members got lost in the thickets of the Ohio Revised Code and years of legal precedent which convinced them that they were not actually empowered to do what they intended to do for a number of reasons. But it’s OK, because the supe and the treasurer already seemed way ahead of their bosses on this topic. And what could have been a wildly embarrassing gaffe will likely only end up as a minor footnote in what is already an extensive blooper reel. (Dayton Daily News, 5/1/19)

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Policy Priority:

Jeff Murray is a lifelong resident of central Ohio. He previously worked at School Choice Ohio and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. He has two degrees from the Ohio State University. He lives in the Clintonville neighborhood with his wife and twin daughters. He is proud every day to support the Fordham mission to help make excellent education options more numerous and more readily available for families and…

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