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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 Breath of Fresh Air

Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost is a breath of fresh air.  Yost recently spoke at a conference of the Ohio Association of EMIS Professionals and told the school data managers that he wishes state leaders could set more durable policies to govern education:  “I can’t think of another product anywhere in the world that would have a 13-year development cycle — K-to-12, our product is an educated child — and we change the metrics, the definitions, what we’re looking for, and the process, and the manufacturing line every single year. How do you do that?”  I’m hoping the next governor…I hope that they come to the Legislature on their first day…and say ‘Folks, I know you all care about our kids.  I know you care about education.  I want you to send me one bill, do it before June 1, and I’m going to sign it.  And then don’t send me anything else because if you send me anything else in the next four years I’m going to veto it.  These people deserve to know what the rules of the road are.”

Consequences of Opting Out of State Testing?

If a public school district in the state of Ohio formally opted out of participating in state and federally mandated testing, what would occur?  This was the question posed on April 22 by Little Miami Local Schools Superintendent Greg Power and his Board of Education to Dr. Richard Ross, State Superintendent for Public Instruction for the Ohio Department of Education.  Here is the response from J. Christopher Wollard, Senior Executive Director, Agency Fellow, Harvard Strategic Data Project:

Thank you for your question.  Information related to student participation on state tests can be found at here<http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Testing/News/Guidance-on-Testing-Refusal-Cases-Offered>. Unfortunately, the Ohio Department of Education is unable to speak to the specific consequences that may come as a result of your district choosing not to participate in state testing.  You would need to consult with your district’s legal counsel for a comprehensive answer.  Furthermore, you can reach out to the US Department of Education to discover what they would do as a result of this choice.  In an effort to provide some guidance, the links below may be able to give you some context for how the USDOE has responded to similar inquiries in… Continue reading

School Board Resolution to Take Back Local Control

On Tuesday, the Vandalia-Butler City Schools Board of Education passed a resolution to take back local control of Ohio’s public schools.  The resolution reads:

Whereas, Article VI of the Ohio Constitution requires the State…to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the State…; and,

Whereas, Section 3313.21 of the Ohio Revised Code states in part that “The board of education of each school district shall be the sole authority in determining and selecting…academic curriculum”; and,

Whereas the current funding model penalizes communities with successful economic development programs contrary to the stated goals of the State of Ohio; and,

Whereas the current State assessment model is counter to the desires of local communities as demonstrated in surveys; and,

Whereas instructional, assessment, and curricular decisions should be made by the local school district, administrators, and classroom professionals who best understand the needs of their students; and,

Whereas the Vandalia-Butler City Schools (VBCS) Board of Education believes that not only are the funding, mandates, and assessment models currently in vogue a drain on the district resources, but serve little, if any academic benefit to our local students;

Now therefore, be it resolved that the VBCS district expresses its opposition… Continue reading

How Citizens Participate in Civil Society

Benjamin Barber is currently a Senior Research Scholar at The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society of The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, the President and Founder of the Interdependence Movement, and Walt Whitman Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Rutgers University.  While serving as Director of CivWorld and Distinguished Senior Fellow at DEMOS, a research and policy center founded in 2000, he was interviewed by the Kettering Foundation and talked about the various ways in which citizens participate in civil society.

An Update at Little Miami

On March 3, I discussed on this blog how Little Miami Schools (Ohio) Superintendent Greg Power is taking action to share his concerns about high stakes testing and other aspects of the education reform movement with his parents and the community.  Here is a quick update from Greg:

“We have continued to meet with our parents through our district and building PTO’s.  I have shared many copies of America’s Schools at a Turning Point and we are seeing a level of concern and parent engagement on this issue that I have never seen before.  I have disseminated contact information for the State Board of Education and our legislative representatives at both the state and national levels and we have encouraged our parents to write, call, and email with a very simple message – stop the assessments and leave our kids alone. We also met with our State Board of Education Representative, Pat Burns.  A group of parents, a few of our board members and some of our administrative staff had a great dialogue with her last week and we continue to communicate regarding our concerns.”

The Power of Community Conversations

Public Agenda is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex issues and work together to find solutions.  In this 2:48 minute video clip, Dr. Will Friedman, Director of Center for Advances in Public Engagement at Public Agenda, shares how the power of community conversations about improving the schools in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has spread from addressing education issues and concerns to other challenges facing the Bridgeport community.

A Friend’s Concern

In reviewing the manuscript for America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future, one of my friends and colleagues brought up a great point regarding the thought of putting the future of our public schools solely into the hands of the American people.  Her concern is the squeaky-wheel problem.  She said that as communications liaison to parents and the community in two school districts and as a school board member in one district, she listened to many parents complain about their local school because “the work is too difficult, there is too much homework, their children should be able to graduate (even though they have a horrible attendance record and have failed one or two classes)” and on and on.  Then, when those parents would stand in front of their school board members and demand that the curriculum be “dumbed down,” in many instances those school boards would cave in to their demands.  She added that while she thinks parents and other community members should work more closely with their public schools and have greater influence over education policy, she also feels there is a need… Continue reading

Encouraging Parents to Contact Their Legislators

The statewide initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping education policy in the Buckeye state continues to grow.  In a recent email blast to parents, Avon Lake City Schools Superintendent Bob Scott explained that he recognizes the need for assessments and accountability and knows that it is important for families and community members to have information about how their schools are performing:  “However, Ohio is currently struggling to find the right balance.  Like many of you, I think we need a more balanced approach to improving accountability and equity.  Today, there is simply too much state testing.  That’s why I’ve been recommending (and will continue to strongly advocate) that Ohio reduce the subjects being tested at each grade level.  The state tests do not improve student learning and instruction.  Instead, we use our own local assessments to monitor student progress and modify instruction when data show we have areas for improvement.”  In his letter, Bob also encouraged parents to help deliver the message that it is time for a more balanced approach to assessments – that our children need testing relief and local school… Continue reading

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