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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 Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Superintendents

This past week, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the superintendents who are helping to lead the statewide initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping education policy in the Buckeye state.  As in any effort that is this ambitious, the challenges can sometimes appear to be a bit overwhelming.  In discussing some of these challenges, I recalled one of my favorite quotes from the highly acclaimed anthropologist Margaret Mead who stated:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  Throughout my career of trying to help educational leaders pass tax issues and meet other difficult challenges, I’ve observed how small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world education in their own school districts. Today, I’m observing how a growing number of thoughtful, committed superintendents are changing the world of education throughout Ohio.

The Magic of Dialogue

Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen firsthand how citizens have put aside their differences, stepped up to the plate and tackled major problems impacting their schools and communities.  How did it happen?  In the words of Daniel Yankelovich, it was the magic of dialogue.  An advisor to corporations, government, and professional organizations, Yankelovich has spent over half a century monitoring change in the American culture and is regarded as the dean of American public opinion research.  To help explain how this magic works, he makes an important distinction between debate, which describes the tenor and focus of most political conversations, and dialogue.

When debating, the assumption is that there is a right answer, and we have it.  When engaging in dialogue, the assumption is that many people have pieces of the answer and that together we can all craft a solution.

When debating, we are combative and attempt to prove the other side wrong.  When engaging in dialogue, we are collaborative and work together toward common understanding.

When debating, it is about winning.  When engaging in dialogue, it is about exploring common ground.

When debating, we listen to find flaws and… Continue reading

Starting Point for a Much-needed Conversation

Bath Local Schools Superintendent Dale Lewellen has joined a growing number of superintendents who are leading a statewide initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping education policy in the Buckeye state.  Tuesday night, he shared the education documentary, “Rise Above the Mark,” with the members of his Board of Education.  The documentary was created by Rocky Killion, superintendent of the West Lafayette School Corporation in West Lafayette, Indiana, to alert the general public about what he calls the “corporate takeover” of our nation’s public schools.  In addition, Dale gave his Board members copies of America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future and will lead a book discussion with them this spring or early summer.  He explained that “this is simply a starting point for a much-needed frank and open conversation with the citizens of our school district about how the education reform movement is impacting our school system and community.”

Ground Rules for a Productive Conversation

1.  Have a “kitchen table” conversation.  Everyone participates.  No one dominates.

2.  There are no “right” answers.  Draw on your own experiences, views and beliefs.  You do not need to be an expert.

3.  Keep an open mind.  Listen carefully.  Try to understand the views of those who disagree with you.

4.  Help keep the discussion on track.  Stick to the questions.  Try not to ramble.

5.  It is okay to disagree.  But don’t be disagreeable.  Respond to others how you want to be responded to.

6.  Have fun!  Collaborating is a rewarding experience.  It enables all of us to be of value and make a difference.

Source:  America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future

Strong Support from His Community

In a recent blog, I shared the testimony of Deer Park City Schools Superintendent Jeff Langdon before Ohio’s Senate Education Committee regarding student testing.  Jeff is one the leaders of the statewide initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping education policy in the Buckeye state.  In his written testimony, he stated that “our teachers and students are exhausted from the test prep and test anxiety.  Our parents are growing more and more frustrated.  To be very direct, parents have had enough of excessive, state-mandated testing and they want their children to receive an education that is innovative, creative and engaging, not one that requires them to take a barrage of assessments to appease state mandates.”  When Jeff returned to his district, he shared his testimony with his school staff, posted it on his district’s website, Facebook and twitter, and emailed it to 1,500 email addresses in his district’s database and to every business in his community.  “The reaction to my testimony was phenomenal,” he said.  “We had nearly 4,000 responses from my community and throughout the state, and they were overwhelmingly supportive of the need to… Continue reading

Thank You for Your Prayers

On Saturday, my wife, Diane, ended a three-and-a-half-year battle with pancreatic cancer.  Throughout most of her journey, she was relatively pain free and enjoyed the joys of daily living – including the marriage of our two daughters and the birth of a granddaughter and a grandson.  Thanks to the prayers of many, many people – including a number of you who follow this blog – she did not suffer greatly during her final days.  In fact, miraculously, she had little or no pain – truly a gift from God.  I will be eternally grateful for all of the love and support that we have both received.

Discussing His Concerns with Parents and the Community

In a letter to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross, Little Miami Local Schools Superintendent Greg Power shared the sentiments of many superintendents throughout Ohio:   “As an advocate for the children of the Little Miami Learning Community, I can no longer remain silent regarding the legislated testing and assessment madness that has been thrust upon our schools.  What has been occurring over the last several years and what is about to be unleashed upon our students and staff is nothing short of government malpractice.”  I recently spoke with Greg and asked him if he planned to discuss his concerns with his parents and community.  He said yes and provided the following update:

“I met with our District PTO parent reps, reviewed the contents of my letter to the state superintendent and discussed more specific details of our concerns with state assessment.  In addition, each PTO rep received two copies of America’s Schools at a Turning Point (one for themselves, and one to give to a friend).  As a result of this meeting, I am now meeting with our individual building PTO’s in evening meetings that are being promoted to parents.  … Continue reading

Superintendents’ Efforts Appreciated

The fact that a growing number of school superintendents are taking a stand on high stakes testing and its impact on both students and teachers isn’t going unnoticed.  A Cincinnati Enquirer article published last Thursday reports that more area school parents are taking a “none of the above” stance and yanking their kids from what they say is excessive new testing and some area school superintendents are joining them by taking rare, public positions in opposition to state education officials’ backing of new Common Core-inspired testing for grades three through 12 in Ohio.  Lakota school parent Ann Becker, who has opted her three children out of the testing in the Butler County district, praised superintendents’ recent criticisms.  “I’m very encouraged by it and I think more superintendents will start to step up,” said Becker, who is also President of the Cincinnati Tea Party and a long-time critic of Common Core.  The more people talk about the testing, the more people are realizing it doesn’t benefit kids and the opposition is starting to snowball,” said Becker.


“Our Teachers and Students Are Exhausted…”

Deer Park City Schools Superintendent Jeff Langdon is one the leaders of the statewide initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping education policy in the Buckeye state.  With his permission, I would like to share his testimony to the Senate Education Committee on February 10 regarding student testing.

*          *          *

Good afternoon Chair Lehner, Vice Chair Hite, and Ranking Member Sawyer, my name is Jeff Langdon, Superintendent of the Deer Park Community City School District located in Hamilton County, and I wish to thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony on the subject of the assessments currently being used in our district.  Specifically, I would like to address how testing impacts our student population, parents and community members who make up Deer Park Community City Schools.

We are being challenged throughout the State of Ohio to be more innovative, creative and engaging.  It is my strong belief that educators are doing an outstanding job of answering that call – but the work is becoming nearly impossible.  This brief excerpt from the ODE web site is important:  Webster’s… Continue reading

“If We’re Willing to Do Our Part”

I’m in new territory.  While I’ve written other books, to the best of my knowledge none of them have been reviewed by an objective, independent source.  So when I met with the editor of my local newspaper, the Green Valley News & Sun, and asked him to review America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future, I was more than a little interested in what he would say about it. Running the risk of seeming to be self-serving, I’d like to share his review – not because I’m such a great writer but because he captured the essence of why I wrote the book.  Here is his review:

Why would Green Valley be interested in a book on education reform?  The answer is in Corky O’Callaghan’s subtitle:  “And how THE PEOPLE can help shape their future.”

O’Callaghan, who lives in Green Valley, informs, then encourages us to use that information for good.

The books is easy to understand yet thorough in its presentation of where our education system has been, where we are and how we can help shape the future.

O’Callaghan takes… Continue reading

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