Archives for category: Ohio

In this post, a high school history teacher says that his students are utterly confused by the new requirements for high school graduation.

So is the teacher.

“Fortunately for our students, the ODE has made the path to graduation simpler by making it more complex. Students may graduate through an acceptable score on a certification in a vocational field. OR They may graduate through receiving a remediation free score on a college entrance test (scores not yet verified). OR They may graduate by earning 18 combined points on the aforementioned state assessments with a minimum of 4 points from 2 assessments in mathematics, a minimum of 4 points from 2 assessments in English Language Arts, and a minimum of 6 points from assessments in Biology, American History, and American Government equaling a total of 14 points with the 4 additional points picked up when students score 3 or higher, which is to say “Proficient or Above.”

“Does that make sense? My sophomores couldn’t explain it to me either, and they’re expected to graduate under that system. Fear not, I provided a thorough and engaging explanation replete with visual aids and low brow humor that seemed to do the trick. I could not, however, provide them with a satisfactory explanation as to why they “have to deal with this sh*t.” (Their words, not mine)….

“Look, maybe my scenario here is confusing. On a very basic level, this new testing system is terribly problematic. The issues lie in the fact that it is new, and being created as we go, but also in the nature of the convoluted paths to graduation themselves. The sheer number of variables at play here are impossible to fathom, from student strengths to test performance, low scores in these areas, but not those, 2 points here, other scores there, nothing formalized until very late. Now, take this level of absurdity and factor in real problems like hunger, poverty, instability in the home, disability, health problems, you name it, and you have a recipe for disaster.

“What seemed like a more humane system to someone is turning out to be nothing short of a nightmare. And now the tests are changing again in ELA and Math. Who knows what new issues may arise?

“How many students will be adversely affected? I don’t know. The ODE deals in percentages, I deal in human beings, the 140 plus sophomores I’m teaching. Like the one who told me, “I left half that math test blank. We hadn’t even learned that stuff yet.” Or the other kid who said, “There were some questions…I didn’t even know what they were asking.” These are good people, hard working kids that we’re simply grinding through this machine for some political rhetoric regarding career and college readiness….

“I have no interest in a punitive high stakes testing system. I am only interested in “Proficient and Above” percentages inasmuch as they impact the kids I teach. I am ashamed to be a part of the implementation of such a system, and I work every day to attempt to remediate its terrible impact. Like many of you, I am angry.”

Dawn Neely-Randall was taking a class training her to recognize bullying. Suddenly she realized she was the victim of bullying–by the state of Ohio. She plans to sue the state and welcomes others to join her.


She writes:


Neely-Randall vs. State of Ohio
Peer Discriminatory Harassment:

This past week, as I was completing an online training module assigned by the Ohio Department of Education via a required harassment/bullying video (so we could know the state laws within the classroom context), the definition of harassment given included to 1) have an intent to harm; 2) be directed at a specific target; and 3) involve repeated incidents. I learned that legally, harassment focuses on how the behavior affects the victim.


As a teacher in the State of Ohio, I suddenly realized that I am being harassed by the Ohio Department of Education’s own legal definition as well as from legislators who are passing harmful laws to hurt me as well as many harmful laws that hurt my students, which totally, unequivocally knock the wind right out of me.

The state is asking teachers to educate and test students in ways that many of us do not feel are morally correct or developmentally appropriate. For instance, very shortly, some districts will test 3rd graders (a test they must pass in order to pass third grade; another form of harassment) for three hours straight. So, eight year olds will sit at a computer for THREE HOURS STRAIGHT taking a high-stakes (high-pressure situation) English Language Arts test so they can pass third-grade, even though, they are only beginning their second quarter of third-grade. Harassment, much?

In addition, “preliminary” raw data were finally released by the state from PARCC. A woman could have conceived, grown, and birthed a baby in less time than it took for students to have received their scores from the state based on their LAST year’s testing. Oh, wait. Students STILL have not received their scores and the school’s “grade card” is not due out until at least the end of January. Yet, the media are already reporting these raw, preliminary numbers, which, in effect, label teachers and schools. Districts in poverty zip codes are looking like failures whereas schools in more affluent zip codes look like they have better teachers. The scores also do not account for if a student made tremendous growth from the time he/she walked into the classroom and instead, labeled the child as “Basic” or “Limited” aka, failures. Labels hurt. Labels don’t go away. Labels on children are a form of harassment.

Our Ohio Department of Education is a mess. State superintendents do not stick around long. Even when I called the ODE to ask about the new AIR tests, the person answering the phone asked me, “Is that spelled A-I-R?” Um, yes, yes it is. It seems that everyone there should know PARCC and AIR by now; especially at the state level.

The charter scrubbing scandal is also a mess. Urban public schools are constantly being told they are FAILING and being threatened with state takeover while the Ohio Department of Education falsified charter information not only to the citizens of the state, but also to the United States Department of Education, and continued to label schools and did nothing to press charges against the person(s) falsifying the data, even though teachers in another state are IN JAIL for doing the same thing.

And on and on and on and on. (I haven’t even mentioned the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System where it took me eight hours to write one lesson plan and a process in which teachers are labeled at the state level based in large part on test scores.)

Bottom line: I feel harassed by the Ohio Department of Education. I feel abused. I feel heartsick with what they are asking us to do in education and the hoops they are requiring us to put our students through. When a special ed student pulls out every eyelash during testing, that’s a problem. When a fifth-grade student breaks down blubbering during a high-states test, that’s a problem. When a child on an Individualized Instruction Plan calls the State of Ohio HIMSELF (with his parents’ help) THREE times because he feels so convinced  about how wrongly he is being treated and the Ohio Department of Education does not have the decency to return his message, that’s a problem.

And during the high school years, in which it should be a student’s glory days and life preparation time, they are putting students, who are already being slammed by society, under tremendous stress and pressure by making teenagers the guinea pigs for their constant shifting of requirements for graduation.

Yes, I feel harassed and finally, I’m going to do something about it.

I will be looking for an attorney to represent me in a lawsuit against anyone harming the children, and thus, me, on my watch.


If you, too, feel harassed, please feel free to send me a note. (I’ve already heard from several people.)

If you know of an attorney, legislator, anyone who can help me to get this process off the ground, I’d really appreciate it.

I will be calling my union for help first. However, this is not on behalf of my amazing school or my supportive superintendent. This is on behalf of me, myself, and I. The state has crossed the line many times in the past few years, but their Peer Discriminatory Harassment online module taught me that I, too, am a victim of abuse. I will use their words in this lawsuit, not mine.

On behalf of teachers all across the state, I’m not going to let them blacken my reputation or bruise me any longer. Feel free to join me.
Stay tuned.



Dawn Neely-Randall

Denis Smith used to work for the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversaw the charter schools. Now that he has retired, he can speak freely.


In this post, he reflects on the recall of faulty cars and airbags. And he wonders, what if faulty charters could be recalled?


The post is priceless for the number of links to industry malfeasance.


He includes a long list of charter industry failures, suggesting that embezzlement and cooking the books is not a one-off phenomenon, but a systemic failure.



Here are some examples of problems in that other, non-automotive, non-manufacturing industry:


A record 17 industry locations in one city – Columbus – closed in just one year.
One of the industry’s treasurers embezzled nearly $500,000 from several locations, earning a two-year prison sentence.
An executive in the industry, operating under a phony consulting contract, also embezzled about a half-million dollars, while employee salaries had to be cut in an economy move.
In Cleveland, five industry executives were charged with stealing nearly $2 million in a scheme that saw the creation of five shell companies to receive public funds. Even the board chairman, who owned the building in which the industry operated, was part of the fraud that was detailed in a 32-count indictment.
Three industry treasurers were singled out several years ago for their responsibility with more than $1 million in “questionable spending,” according to audit findings.

In its recent grant competition for the proliferation of charter schools, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $71 million to Ohio, the largest grant to any state. As it happens, Ohio has been the site of numerous cases of charter corruption. The press was filled almost daily with the latest charter scandal. In addition, the state official responsible for charter oversight ignored the low grades of online charters, who are known for their generous contributions to the GOP. This official resigned (his wife is the campaign director for Kasich’s presidential bid).

Thus, when Ohio was singled out by the U.S. ED to receive a huge grant to create more charters, there was a collective gasp from the media in Ohio and from Democratic officials (remember, the same party as the Obama administration), some of whom must have seen the grant as a reward to the Kasich administration.

Now, the U.S. ED says that it will watch Ohio’s charter spending with more than the usual care (the usual care being none at all). That’ll show them.

Valerie Strauss posts a copy of the letter from the U.S. ED to Ohio, saying that it will monitor the charter grant. ED didn’t know about the Ohio charter school scandals. And she says, you can’t make this stuff up.


Who didn’t know that Ohio’s charter schools had become a national joke — literally. The Plain Dealer ran a story this year that started like this:

Ohio, the charter school world is making fun of you.

Ohio’s $1 billion charter school system was the butt of jokes at a conference for reporters on school choice in Denver late last week, as well as the target of sharp criticism of charter school failures across the state.

Wouldn’t you expect someone in the federal government considering giving millions of dollars to Ohio for charter schools to have read the June 2015 coverage in the Akron Beacon Journal which said:

No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.

But the U.S. Department of Education had NO idea!




The Detroit Free-Press speculates about why Ichigan did not win $45 million to create new charter schools. Well, it could be because the stat does not exercise oversight of charter authorizers or charter schools. It could be because the state’s charter schools perform poorly. It could be because the Detroit Free Press ran a series about charters and their lack of accountability or transparency or quality.

But why did Ohio win $71 million for its equally poor charter industry?

State Representative Andrrw Brenner recently became chairman of Ohio’s House Education Committee. His views are extreme, to say the least. He believes that public schools are socialistic, along the lines of the old Soviet Union. He is upset that children don’t read the Bible in school, a practice banned by the U.S. Supreme Court half a century ago.

This is the kind of slander about public schools that was popular among hard-right Republicans in the 1940s and 1950s. I wonder if Rep. Brenner also considers police and firefighters to be socialistic and if he objects to public parks, beaches, and highways.

Brenner was co-sponsor of the bill that allows the state to takeover the Youngstown school district and to place a non-educator in charge with sweeping power.

Rep. Brenner reminds us that the assault on public education will end only when supporters of sane, centrist, and equitable education policies are returned to public office.

Ohio parents and other supporters of public schools–which enroll the vast majority of the state’s children–convened a conference and came away believing that their revolution has just begun. They are waking up the resistance to the destruction and privatization of public education.

They understand that Ohio schools need change, not privatization. They need equitable funding and fewer mandates. They need experienced teachers who are respected. They need real regulation and oversight of privately managed charters.

They say, “Build It and They Will Come.” They mean build the resistance to the steamrollers launched by John Kasich and his puppet Legislature, and parents will fight for their children and their communities.

Bill Bush and Catherine Candisky of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch raise important questions about whether Ohio Department of Education officials lied when preparing the state’s application for federal charter funds. For most of the previous years, the press across the state had been filled with stories about the charters’ poor performance, about financial scandals, about abrupt charter school closings, about the absence of transparency or accountability or oversight in this $1 billion sector. That $1 billion was siphoned away from public schools, and in far too many cases, went into the pocket of wealthy campaign contributors to the GOP.

Both federal and state officials failed in their duty to monitor the use of federal funds and to tell the truth. The federal government should have known, and the Ohio officials should have been honest. But the scandal-scarred charter sector of Ohio won the largest federal grant for charter schools: $71 million.

In applying for a federal grant, the Ohio Department of Education said it would close “ poor-performing” charter schools, touted an automatic-closure law that shuts them down, and promised that only the best-rated charter sponsors would create new schools.

But it also said that, in the 2012-13 school year, Ohio had no “poor-performing” charters, even though about a third of charters didn’t meet a single standard on their state report cards that year and 60 percent of them got D or F grades on the Performance Index, a measure of how students perform on state tests.

The grant application also failed to mention that the automatic-closure law is currently suspended and won’t return until at least the 2017-18 school year.

And those “best-rated” sponsors? Two days after filing the application, the man responsible for drafting it, David Hansen, resigned for having scrubbed data to make sponsors rate higher. All his sponsor ratings were subsequently rescinded. The grant application said that only sponsors “rated ‘ exemplary’ or ‘effective’ under the state’s quality evaluation criteria will be invited to participate.”

Troubling facts like these continue to place a cloud over Ohio’s successful bid for the $71 million, five-year federal grant. The Ohio Department of Education wants an aggressive expansion of charter schools across the state.

“The goal is for high-quality schools,” said Kim Norris, agency spokeswoman. “It will be a highly competitive process with schools applying for the grant dollars.”

The state will funnel almost all of the money to entities hoping to start new charters — including new for-profit online charters, which now rank as some of Ohio’s worst-performing schools.

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio has been a thoughtful critic of charter schools in Ohio. He has written about, documented, and publicized their low performance and lack of transparency and accountability. He helped to create the informative website,, which allows citizens to compare charter performance to that of public schools.

In this post, he describes how he worked collaboratively with charter advocates to shape a bill to regulate charters.

“On Wednesday, everybody’s hard work paid off with the most sweeping, comprehensive and meaningful reform of Ohio’s charter school system since the program began in the late 1990s. It will keep track of Ohio’s operators, letting the public know where they operate and how they perform. It will force sponsors to do their job and hold schools to account, or else they won’t be able to sponsor schools. It will open up the mostly opaque world of charter schools so the public can better track the now $1 billion a year in state money that goes to charter schools.

“It is not perfect. It doesn’t directly close poor performing charters, choosing instead to force sponsors to do that. It doesn’t address the funding issues that force districts to have to backfill the lost state money with local money. And it relies on an Ohio Department of Education in disarray.

“But man, it does a lot. As a first step, this one is a Lulu (apologies to B. Bunny).”

After a year or more of wrangling, the Ohio legislature finally approved a bill to reform their scandal-ridden charter schools.

The bill passed with bipartisan support. Even charter school critics endorsed the changes.

The report in says:

As we reported yesterday, the bill makes several small changes that, as a whole, will tighten operations of the $1 billion charter school industry that lags behind traditional public schools and is the subject of national ridicule, even from charter school advocates.

Among items adjusted or added to the final version on Tuesday are a “White Hat rule” that prevents private charter operators from keeping equipment bought with state tax money; a cautious approach to study, not adopt, a new way of rating schools; and modest adjustments to how ratings of charter school oversight agencies are calculated.

Still intact, with only minor adjustments, are changes designed to distance the often-cozy relationships between for-profit charter school operating companies and the school boards that govern the schools.

Charter supporters realized that the outrageous profiteering of a few well-connected charter founders had created a massive embarrassment for all the charters. In addition, charters are among the lowest performing schools in the state.

The Fordham Institute was a major player in developing the law, partly through its sponsorship of two studies that informed the debate — analysis of the academic performance of Ohio charter schools by Stanford’s Center for Research of Education Outcomes (CREDO) and a separate study by Bellwether Education Partners of what gaps Ohio had in its charter laws and support system.


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