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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

Feedback from My First Book Discussion

Ohio’s superintendent-led initiative to provide citizens a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy received a positive shot in the arm last week.  On Tuesday, I had an opportunity to lead my first book discussion of America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future. It was hosted by the Sycamore City Schools and included 60 school board members, school administrators, teachers and community leaders from  22 school districts in the Cincinnati area.  What came through loud and clear in our two-hour conversation resonates with what I’ve seen bubbling up and coming to a head during the past year throughout Ohio.  Our educators are tired of being thrown under the bus by the leaders of our nation’s education reform movement.  They are tired of being demeaned for the work they are doing and they are tired being left out of the process of creating education policy to improve their schools.  There are even indications that some of our school board members are ready to draw a line in the sand and say “thanks but no thanks” to the reforms that are… Continue reading

Parent Reaction to PARCC

Building principals in the Kirtland Local School District in Kirtland, Ohio, recently hosted parent meetings to talk about the upcoming PARCC tests which are being used to measure student performance against the Common Core Standards.  At the end of each discussion session, the parents completed feedback forms so they could share their feelings about these newly created high stakes tests.  Kirtland Superintendent Steve Barrett who also attended the parent meetings provides this report on what Kirtland’s parents had to say:

It was interesting.  Many parents expressed anger and were somewhat dismayed.  They wanted to know why the state and the federal government were requiring students to take tests that would take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours over multiple days, depending on the grade level.  They also questioned the content and format of the assessments.  Here are some of their comments below:
  •  It seems like the state and federal government are simply testing to test.  What is the ultimate goal?
  • These tests will be stressful for kids and take away from class time/instruction.
  • Make sure all parents know about this, especially parents who could not make the meeting.… Continue reading

An Update on the Ohio Initiative

As I reported in an earlier blog, 60 superintendents met in Columbus on November 21 of last year to discuss an initiative that I believe will prove to be historically significant for the children who attend Ohio’s public schools.  The initiative is to provide citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy, and it is being led by a coalition of superintendents from 29 school districts in the Buckeye State.  Following the November meeting, I asked the participants to share their insights and suggestions, and here is what I learned. The vast majority of superintendents are well aware that Ohio’s public schools are being overwhelmed by our state’s education reform movement and many, if not most, of them clearly realize the urgency of the situation and believe it is time for them to do something about it. There is also widespread support for expanding this grass roots initiative to include other school districts in Ohio.  While many of the superintendents who met in Columbus intend to utilize the educational documentary, “Rise Above the Mark,” and the book, America’s Schools at a Turning Point, as tools for setting the stage for… Continue reading

A Strategy to Expose the Impact of Education Reform

Yesterday, Firelands (Ohio) Local Schools Superintendent Bob Hill took a simple but important step in exposing to the American people how the education reform movement is impacting our public schools.  He suggested on his school district blog that citizens in his community take advantage of two “valuable sources of information” about what is happening.  Here is what he wrote:

America’s Schools at a Turning Point: What is your role?

by rhill

Public education continues to evolve at a rapid pace and educators are faced with an ever-changing playing field that is most often dictated by our state legislature. Due to the myriad of recent changes such as the new Ohio Learning Standards, PARCC testing (performance based assessments, end of course exams), the new Ohio Teacher and Principal Evaluation System (OTPES)…and the list goes on…I am often asked how our community can become involved in the change process to help ensure an education that is best for our most valuable asset, our students.

After much reflection, I write today to alert you to two valuable resources that serve as tools to educate our citizens about becoming involved in supporting the education of our children in regards to… Continue reading

That Surprising Thing Bill Gates Said

To paraphrase the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Bill Gates talks, education reformers listen.  As most people know, Bill Gates is one of the richest and most philanthropic individuals in the world.  But what many people may not know is that he has his fingers on the pulse of the key players in the education reform movement.  Most recently, he has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into helping develop and promote the Common Core State Standards, as well as hundreds of millions more in creating and implementing educator assessment systems that incorporate student standardized test scores into individual teacher’s evaluations.  On January 3, education reporter Valerie Strauss wrote an excellent piece for the Washington Post about the surprising thing that Bill Gates said regarding the failures of some of his education reform initiatives.  In her article, she questions how smart is is for a country to allow private philanthropists to drive public policy:  “Time after time, Gates has acknowledged that his approach wasn’t quite right.  There’s nothing wrong in admitting mistakes, of course, but there are dangers when philanthropists adopt pet projects they think will work and influence… Continue reading

Happy New Year!

To kick off 2015, I’ve made some enhancements to my website.  They include a personal message to the American people on my Home page, a separate Blog page, another item for the Making a Difference page, deletion of the Superintendent Forum page which was confusing and cumbersome  and a What You Can Do page which includes a detailed list of suggestions for what citizens can do if they’d like to make a difference in shaping the future of America’s public schools.  Happy New Year!

A New Sense of Hope and Possibility

In 1991, “Citizens and Politics:  A View from Main Street” was released by author Rich Harwood and the Kettering Foundation.  This groundbreaking study found that Americans were not apathetic about politics and public life, but instead felt pushed out, disconnected, and impotent.  Back then, they complained bitterly about a system made up of politicians, news media, and special interests that had overtaken the public square and operated with little regard for the people who lived and worked within it.  More than two decades later, the conversation has radically changed.  In new discussions with Americans across the country, Rich reports in his recent book, The Work of Hope, that politics and people’s disgust with it is no longer the central, dominant narrative in America.  Now the endless, often mind-numbing churn of politics lives outside people’s everyday world — operating as if in an entirely separate universe, with its own set of rules, winners and losers, and purpose.  Today, people are exhausted by the public recriminations and acrimony that hold our discourse hostage and they condemn our individual and collective inability to come together to get things done.  … Continue reading

Insight from a 10-year-old Student

Virtually every school superintendent and teacher I know strongly supports the idea of having high academic standards.  However, the concern many of them share is the high stakes testing associated with these standards.  A case in point is a test being used to measure student performance against the Common Core Standards.  While one presentation from a 10-year-old fourth grader to the board of education of the Montclair Public Schools in New Jersey may not indicate how everyone feels about the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test, it does provide valuable insight into why there is growing opposition to it.  I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and view this powerful video.

Help Spread the Word

At the outset, my goal in writing America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future, creating my website and becoming a blogger has been to expose how our students are being over tested, our teachers are being overwhelmed and our tax dollars are being diverted by our nation’s education reform movement.  Unfortunately, however, nothing is going to change until the American people realize that our public schools are facing a serious crisis.  The basic challenge, then, is getting the truth about this crisis into the hands of concerned citizens who have little or no connection to our public schools.  With that said, I am asking you to help me expose the plight of our public schools to your personal network of friends, neighbors, business associates and relatives.  All you need to do is simply suggest to your email contacts that they go to my website at CorkyOCallaghan.com and sign up to follow my blogs.  If everyone does this, the impact will be significant.  Thank you for your support.

Making Your Voice Heard

Having a voice in determining education policy ultimately means having the ear of our elected representatives.  In today’s toxic political environment, however, the conventional wisdom is that only the loudest and most confrontational voices get heard.  I disagree.  I believe that the American people are sick and tired of the political infighting, grandstanding and gridlock.  I also believe that many, if not, most of our elected officials feel the same way.  With this said, I’d like to share a common sense approach for how our citizens can make their voices heard:  Simply create a personal letter of introduction and send it to your state representative, state senator, governor, U.S. representative and two U.S. senators.  In your letter, politely put them on notice that you are concerned about how the education reform movement (using your tax dollars for privately owned charter schools, the overuse of high stakes standardized testing, the overwhelming pressure being placed upon your teachers, etc.) is impacting you, your schools and your community.  Explain that you intend to be a strong and constructive voice in helping them shape future education policy.  Once your elected representatives perceive you to be… Continue reading

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