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America’s schools are at a turning point.  Our children are being over-tested, our teachers are physically exhausted and emotionally demoralized, and our tax dollars are being diverted to replace our public schools with a privately managed, free-market system of education.

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Corky O'Callaghan

A Paradigm Shift

In Hawaii, educators are shifting their focus from producing good schools to finding ways for schools and communities to share ownership of public education.  For example, local environmental groups are working as full partners with Hawaii’s schools to jointly design curricula and teach students.  Working as full partners is a major paradigm shift in the traditional relationship between our public schools and their communities.

Stepping Forward

I had the good fortune of meeting Rich Harwood 25 years ago during my initial work with the Kettering Foundation.  Rich, who has a remarkable life story, has had a huge influence on my understanding of the healing power of public engagement, and he continues to inspire me to bring citizens together to make a difference for their communities.  Rich’s new book, Stepping Forward:  A Positive, Practical Path to Transform Our Communities and Our Lives, is must reading for anyone who loves our country.

Brexit and Sacred Cow Thinking

As a public school superintendent, Charlie Irish spent much of his career challenging the conventional thinking of his profession.  This past year, he and I co-authored Cleaning Up the Mess from Sacred Cows:  A Strategy to Take Back Our Public Schools.  In it, we identify “sacred cow” conventional beliefs that are severely weakening the relationship between the public and our public schools.  He recently wrote about how the Brexit saga in the United Kingdom exposes some of the sacred cow thinking that is putting that relationship in jeopardy.

Trying to follow the convoluted twists and turns of the Brexit matter becomes a mind-boggling effort for most of us.  Yet, I see a lesson in it.  It is simply that when confronted with complicated issues in a democracy, voting is the last thing to be done, not the first.  Consider how things might be different in the U.K. if what we are seeing now had been a pre-election discussion rather than post-election fight. It strikes me that, as a nation, the U.K. is being asked to define itself with a gun to its head.  Before we get too smug, however, let’s bring… Continue reading

North Royalton Joins Movement

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” These inspiring words from Margaret Mead rang true on September 18 in North Royalton where a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens decided to join a grassroots movement to discuss and help shape statewide education policy for their public schools.  This statewide movement is being led by the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network.

A Major Threat

The release of the most recent national poll of the public’s attitudes toward the public schools reveals a major threat facing public education.  This month, PDK International, a leading thought-leader for the educational profession, reported that broad discontent is leading half of our nation’s teachers to consider quitting their jobs.  This is a growing concern of mine, and it is one of the reasons why I wrote America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE CAN help shape their future and Cleaning Up the Mess from Sacred Cows:  A Strategy to Take Back Our Public Schools.  The PDK report is illuminating and worth reading.

A Growing Concern Among Policymakers

Last evening, the leadership team for the Mayfield Public School Advocacy Network hosted a two-hour discussion with its State Senator, State Representative and Ohio Department of Education Board Member.  The conversation was friendly and cordial but also very open and frank.  For me, one of the most important takeaways from the meeting was it appears that some, if not many, of our state’s policymakers understand the negative impact of high stakes state testing and the growing sense of urgency to do something about it.  In fact, when I asked the three statewide policymakers point blank how widespread the awareness of the testing problem is, they said, “very widespread.”  Mayfield is one of 10 school districts participating in a pilot initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens an opportunity to discuss and help shape statewide education policy.

House Bill 305

Ryan Pendleton recently created a video update of House Bill 305 (the Ohio Fair School Funding Plan) for the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network.  Treasurer of the Akron City Schools, Ryan worked for more than a year with a team of school district treasurers and superintendents to help State Representatives Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) create this proposed change in how Ohio’s schools are funded by the state.

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