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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

Would Mean More Local Control

The sponsor of newly introduced Senate Bill 216 told WOSU Radio on Wednesday that he wants to roll back almost a hundred requirements on Ohio’s public school districts.  These requirements range from mandates on school personnel to directives for students in classrooms.  The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Matt Huffman of Lima, said it would mean more local control – and he wants to go further.  “Frankly, if we could eliminate all state requirements and have to do what the federal government is making us to, that’s where I would want to go.”

Bill Introduced to Roll Back Mandates

Arguing that superintendents are often better positioned to make judgment calls than state lawmakers and policymakers, a state senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to roll back nearly 100 mandates imposed on schools, according to a story reported yesterday in the Toledo Blade.  “The problem is really the disconnect from the folks in tall buildings…who have a good idea, and it makes sense on paper, and then you try to apply it,” said Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who introduced the bill based on input from a group of 40 west-central school superintendents who are helping to lead a grass roots movement (the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network) to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.

Positive Reaction from His Staff

Last Wednesday, I posted a powerful interview reported on Cleveland.com with North Olmsted City Schools Superintendent Mike Zalar who spoke out with great clarity about the impact of Ohio’s testing and accountability system.  He followed up by sharing the interview with his school district staff.  Here are some examples of the positive feedback he received:

  • This is phenomenal and I appreciate you further sharing your views, providing background and additional resources, and for speaking up for the education system.  Seriously, thank you!!
  • Very well said – and hurray for those who can finally say the Emperor has no clothes.  Enough is enough and making our staff, kids and parents feel inadequate through an arbitrary and politically motivated system of “grades” is educationally unsound and morally wrong.  Let me know how I can get actively involved as this is EXACTLY the reason I left the private sector world and joined our district.
  • Wow.  Thank you!  I agree with all of your sentiments and I am impressed that you had the courage to go on the record with such strong statements given your position as our superintendent.  Hopefully this opens the door… Continue reading

Working Together for a Common Pupose

For the past 25 years, I’ve seen firsthand how concerned citizens will drop whatever else they are doing and come together to pass tax issues and address other challenges facing their schools and communities.  This willingness to step up and make a difference is the engine now driving the grass roots movement being led by the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network to give citizens a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.  In her new book, Who We Choose to Be, Margaret Wheatley explains why citizens relish the opportunity to work together for a common purpose:  “In a world preoccupied with meaningless tasks, people are ever more eager to engage in work that offers a chance to contribute, to remember how good it is to be a thinking, contributing colleague.  These days, having one good conversation can reintroduce us to what it feels like to be in a satisfying human relationship.  The same is true when we have the opportunity to think together and come up with a solution to a troubling problem.”

School Performance and Classroom Temperature

In an insightful article in yesterday’s edition of The Washington Post, education writer Valerie Strauss reports on decades of research showing a strong link between school performance and classroom temperature.  Amid growing public concern for the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, her timely analysis is well documented and worth reading.

Redefining Student Success Our Way

The over reliance on state-mandated student testing to grade the quality of our public schools is a major concern of educational leaders throughout our country.  One of those leaders is Jim Lloyd.  Superintendent of the Olmsted Falls City Schools, a suburban district west of Cleveland, Jim recently posted a blog in which he discusses with the citizens of his community how state testing in Ohio is impacting the students in his school district.  In his blog, entitled “Redefining Student Success Our Way,” he explains that “our Moonshot Thinking is to work with our colleagues and community to try and figure out how we can be inspiring and empowering to students, foster innovation and creativity within the instructional environment and provide the comprehensive, whole-child, Triple A experience that has been our district’s legacy.”

Wisdom of the Crowd

On October 18, Wisdom of the Crowd debuts on CBS.  The theme of this TV series is that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few.  They are better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions and even predicting the future.  For the past 25 years, I’ve observed this phenomenon in action. I’ve seen how wise and supportive citizens can be when they come together in an atmosphere of trust, listen to one another and focus on the educational needs of the children in their community.  Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd is the foundation of the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network’s mission to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.

Meet Your State Board Member Discussions

Yesterday, State Board of Education member Meryl Johnson asked each superintendent in her District 11 to host a “Meet Your State Board Member” community discussion of education policy issues and concerns.  In her email, she stated:  “I’m sure you are aware there is a rapidly moving effort to privatize our public school system.  We must involve the community to educate them on what’s happening and to discuss advocacy.  I also want to hear issues they’d like me to address at the state level.”

 

Only 71 School Districts Needed

Seventeen years ago, a powerful concept was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his best selling book, The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.  In it, he describes the tipping point as the magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.  At the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, researchers have discovered that this magic moment is reached when 10 percent of the population becomes convinced of a new or different opinion.  For the leaders of the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network, the tipping point phenomenon means that only 71 of Ohio’s 711 public school districts need to be committed to providing their citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy for it to become a statewide movement.

 



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