Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 4, Number 16
July 8, 2010
Ohio's Education Reform Challenges: Lessons from the Frontlines
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has deep roots in Dayton, Ohio and has long been immersed in Ohio education policy, particularly as it?relates to charter schools. Debates around charter schools ? their role, their efficacy, even their right to exist ? are hot and contentious in the Buckeye State, perhaps as much so as anywhere else in the nation. But Fordham hasn't merely weighed in from the lens of think tank and advocate of choice; it has also worked directly with schools as a grant maker, launched and supported a Dayton-based charter management organization, and for the last five years has been?a charter school authorizer (aka ?sponsor? in Ohio).
To recount and draw lessons from this experience, Fordham's Chester E. Finn, Jr., Terry Ryan, and Mike Lafferty authored Ohio's Education Reform Challenges: Lessons from the Frontlines. The book, published by Palgrave Macmillan, chronicles what former commissioner of education of Massachusetts (and Fordham board member) David Driscoll aptly describes as the ?collision of theory and practice,? starting with Fordham's beginnings in Dayton, the decline of that city, and the desperation felt by many low-income families trapped in one of the most chronically under-performing school districts in Ohio. It is this perennial academic failure as well as changes to Ohio law in early 2003 (when the state ?fired? the department of education as authorizer, orphaning about 75 charters), that prompted Fordham to roll up its sleeves and plunge into the fray.
Fordham had long