1. Everyone else I’ve talked to thinks this story is unequivocally great. It is a profile of the Fordham-sponsored charter school KIPP: Columbus, which is itself great, and its leader, who is also great. But certain aspects of the story’s presentation bothered me; including the focus on the school’s admittedly less-than-great startup years and the obnoxious and inaccurate phrase “bloated waiting list”. Why do these blemishes in a largely positive story bother me so much? Am I just old and cynical and looking for offense? Let’s consult some further evidence. (Columbus CEO, 6/3/19) Our own Chad Aldis is among the voices quoted in this piece, looking at a proposed change to Ohio’s automatic closure law for charter schools. Nope. So far so good for me. That story seems to cover the nuances of the question in an accurate and balanced fashion. No cynicism detected. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/5/19)
  2. I think we’re OK here too. While this rundown of private school options in the Toledo area spelled out unique aspects of the various schools’ teaching models, it omitted discussion of private schools being viable escapes from a public school system that might not be serving students well. But that’s OK with me. Such a thing doesn’t have to be spelled out; we parents already know. Why yes, most of these schools do accept students with EdChoice vouchers. Why do you ask? (Toledo Blade, 6/4/19)
  3. Oops. That last comment above was a tad cynical, wasn’t it? Well, better buckle up because there’s more to come. This is a piece ostensibly about how high school football players in the Euclid area are achieving “academic success”, but it unfortunately hits all of my buttons. Cynical observation 1: Whatever grade boosting is happening is the work of a tutoring service hired by the local schools for the purpose; not by the schools’ actual teaching. Cynical observation 2: The above fact is noted but not commented upon in the piece. Cynical observation 3: A student is quoted as having had Fs in science and English, grades which were boosted by the service. Great. What were they boosted to? The state minimum for athletic eligibility or a level of some actual “academic success”, as the article stated as fact its start? Cynical observation 4: It is presumptuous of me to think that the many college scholarships these students reportedly received were for sports rather than academics, no matter the benefit to the students. The article is constructed in such a way to insinuate the opposite but neither version is confirmed. But either way, why not come right out and say it? Cynical observation 5: Because if I’m right, the story is likely “poor performing schools hire outside contractor to boost football players to academic eligibility threshold so they can continue to play and earn sports scholarships.” (News5, Cleveland, 6/4/19)
  4. OK. That was a lot of cynical reading between the lines there. Perhaps I do have a problem. But seriously, how can you blame me when we have stories like this on the regular? All the folks who hate standardized testing were on hand for legislative testimony yesterday, backing a bill that would chip away more of Ohio’s test-based accountability system. For every moderated comment like “The purpose of Ohio's current standardized tests has been to ensure that important pieces of the curriculum are being taught in high school. However, it is reinventing the wheel,” we get two others like this: "testing mania in Ohio schools," and “These tests don't do any good. They wrongfully evaluate what we're truly capable of. They rob us of the safe haven school can be… We are only met with more stress and unattainable standards, despite facing countless hardships outside of school.” Cynically, I assume that the former types agree with the latter types but are simply better at using their indoor voices. (Gongwer Ohio, 6/4/19)
  5. Forbes seems to have an inordinate fascination with K-12 education in Ohio these days. My cynical side is forced to wonder why. The latest offering is this drivel whose opening paragraph offers this bit of rhetorical nonsense: “Our nation’s education system appears to be driven by very public test scores and report cards, creating a cycle of educators who despite their better judgment, must prepare kids for testing to ensure good evaluations. Principals, districts and communities have been asked to focus on report cards and ratings because of assessments. All of this is resulting in students who need remediation in college and are not ready for the workforce.” Even if I did believe this fantasy, how is the answer anything other than more and better test-based accountability? Because, says a district math teacher from Pepper Pike, Ohio (median household income $166,786 per year, he reported cynically), the kinds of things that tests measure have been replaced by Googling and YouTube videos. To wit: “[N]ow the assumption on the part of employers and colleges is that the content-knowledge based skills listed in the ’90s are present and the students can use technology to become proficient quickly.” Lucky for the K-12 educational establishment blob, who I cynically assume don’t want to actually do any teaching at all, that employers just assume these things. Because pretty soon they aren’t going to have any other method by which to tell. Honestly, she could have just said that they use a Magic 8 Ball and it would be as accurate. (Forbes, 6/4/19) Totally unrelated, I’m sure, we learned this week from a new national report that college enrollment in Ohio declined markedly between spring 2017 and spring 2018. There is very little speculation in this piece (or in the report?) about the reason for the decline. For me, there is the less cynical explanation (economic circumstances, either up or down, made college less attractive than work) and the more cynical explanation (K-12 grads in Ohio have been so poorly served by their schools that they either can’t get in or know they haven’t been prepared for it so they don’t bother.) Wonder if we’ll ever know the answer? (Gongwer Ohio, 6/3/19)
  6. So what have we learned from the foregoing? That your humble-but-regularly-infuriated clips compiler could be just the tiniest bit too cynical about the education world but, if so, it’s totally the fault of other people. Hmm… Sounds familiar. What I will tell you in closing is that I am 100 percent non cynical about this story (although the number of typos and grammatical errors are, you guessed it, infuriating): A recent high school graduate from rural Jackson Township took home gold in a state baking championship after more than two years of training and preparation. She is clearly good enough to move forward in her chosen field without benefit of college, but she chose college. And not just culinary school because she wanted a college with a sports program too. Super nice. Great things lie in store for her for sure. (The Suburbanite, Canton, 6/5/19)

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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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