Ohio Education Reform News Roundup

By Miesha Headen, DFER Ohio State Director

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Many things are in happening across the Ohio education reform landscape. Here are some we think are particularly notable:

Expanding School Choice in Ohio: The 2011 State budget increased the number of EdChoice vouchers available to students from 14,000 to 30,000. After the second application process closed on August 15th, the Ohio Department of Education reported that 17,003 students statewide have applied for EdChoice this year, including 1,623 new scholarship applicants and 58 students who applied for scholarship renewals. Interest in the scholarship has been growing as parents have learned more about the program and weighed their educational options. The Tribune Today reports on how the expansion of the voucher program is affecting Mahoning County with a quote from School Choice Ohio's Executive Director, Chad Aldis.

Report Cards: The Ohio Department of Education released report cards for all district schools on Tuesday, August 23rd. Of the 613 school districts in Ohio, 352 received the State's highest two designations, Excellent with Distinction and Excellent, while no districts fell into the lowest category, Academic Emergency, according to State Impact Ohio. The report card "heat map" (courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer) also shows the school grades for every county in Ohio. The map highlights some of Ohio's less affluent, rural counties - such as Ashtabula, Pike, and Belmont - which also struggle with mediocre public schools.

Three Cheers for Transparency and Accountability: Peter Geoff, President of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, wrote a great piece in the Huffington Post about the Ohio Supreme Court's ruling on White Hat Management LLC. The court mandated that White Hat and all other charter management companies must fully disclose to the public their financial information and academic performance. Geoff makes the compelling point that the charter school model hinges on autonomy in exchange for accountability; therefore, maintaining freedom depends upon instilling trust with the public.

Rocking the Citadel: The City Club of Cleveland -- dubbed the Citadel of Free Speech -- hosted Emma Fraser-Pendleton on August 19th. Fraser-Pendleton is the Project Manager for Turnaround for Children, a group dedicated to improving struggling urban schools. In her speech, she focused on transforming urban education and gave one of the most frank talks you will ever hear about the connection between race and failing schools. Download the podcast; it is worth your time.

Miesha Headen graduated from Columbia University and holds a Masters of Management from Ursuline College. She has served on the Richmond Heights Charter Review Committee and the Richmond Heights Local School District Leadership Team. She is a Councilwoman for the City of Richmond Heights. She joined the DFER team as Ohio State Director in 2010. Read more about Miesha here.