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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

Testimony to the Senate Education Committee

Vandalia-Butler City Schools Superintendent Brad Neavin 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 3.

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Good afternoon, Chair Lehner, Vice Chair Hite, and Ranking Member Sawyer.  My name is Brad Neavin, Superintendent of the Vandalia-Butler City School District in Montgomery County.  Go Aviators!  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 wish to address how testing impacts our District’s locally developed mission which is to “empower students with knowledge, creativity, and skills to enrich their families, communities, and careers.” 

It is my hope that my testimony will provide you with a glimpse of the perceptions of our community, our educators, and most importantly, our students.  And, I want to keep the focus of my concerns on the question of testing and not Common Core.  In fact, I think… Continue reading

A Warning Letter about PARCC

If recent action taken by one superintendent is any indication of things to come, the growing concern by many local educators about the impact of the PARCC Common Core tests may soon become a much broader public concern.  Superintendent Trisha Kocanda of Winnetka Public Schools in Illinois has written a warning letter to parents, community members and district staff about the PARCC Common Core exam that students in the state will be taking in March and May.  In her letter, she shares her concern about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students and the usefulness may the results.

Stunned Silence

It was about 10 p.m. when I received a voice mail from Jeff Langdon.  Jeff is superintendent of the Deer Park City School District which borders the northern edge of Cincinnati, Ohio.  I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was excited.  In his message, he told me that he was driving home from a coffee discussion held at the home of one of his residents.  A dozen citizens participated in the informal discussion which focused for much of the time on the usual school stuff:  district finances, passage of the district’s recent operating levy and student academic performance.  Then, just before concluding the discussion, Jeff commented that “the next time we get together we need to talk about the future of Ohio’s public schools which are currently being slowly dismantled by our education policymakers.”  He said they wouldn’t allow the conversation to end there and asked him to be more specific about what he meant. Responding to their request, he cited the fact that a significant portion of their tax dollars is not staying in Deer Park.  It is going to charter schools.  Jeff said everyone sat… Continue reading

A Great Irony Revisted

This week end, I was sent a cartoon – courtesy of Kenji Matsudo, Assistant Superintendent, Madeira City Schools – which captures the essence of one of my recent blogs.  Madeira is involved in the grass roots initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.  In my blog, I pointed to “a great irony” that is now taking place in education.  While leaders of the education reform movement in our country are trying to model our education system after countries whose students have historically outperformed America’s students on high-stakes tests, some of those very countries are trying to make their education system more like ours.  For example, internationally known scholar and author, Dr. Young Zhao, explains that even though China has an effective system to prepare students to pass exams, unless the Chinese only want obedient, compliant and homogeneous workers, they know they have to shift the emphasis of their educational system.  According to Dr. Zhao, the West is where China is working to find the inspiration it desperately needs for this new educational focus.  With Kenji’s permission, below is the cartoon and his insightful commentary:


Reaching Out to His Staff

This morning, I received an email from Brad Neavin, superintendent of the Vandalia-Butler City Schools. Brad is one the leaders of the superintendent-led initiative to provide Ohio citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.

Brad’s email to me

Corky – Just wanted to share what I sent out to staff today.  This was an item as part of several that I sent as an update.  I’ve received several thank you’s from staff members.  I am in my 30th year and the state of education in Ohio is the worst I have seen.

His email to his staff

Happy Friday!

I wanted to provide you with some updates and thoughts as we finish off what has been a short but busy week here in VBCSD.

On Thursday, selected teachers and students throughout our district will participate in a test of our technology infrastructure to determine if our network, our A-Site, and our internet provider are ready for the ramp up of the actual testing.   As I am sure you are aware, there are many concerns about the testing – including the question of the capacity of technologies to handle the tasks.  … Continue reading

Time to Contact Our Members of Congress

If you are concerned that our school children are spending too much time preparing for and taking high stakes tests, it is now time to contact your members of Congress and let them know how you feel.  This morning, Madeira City Schools Superintendent Steve Kramer pointed me to an article in the Washington Post announcing that the U.S. Senate will focus on testing as it begins debate on the education law.  The reporter writes that “the Senate began its most serious attempt in years to rewrite the country’s main education law with a hearing Wednesday focusing on an issue that has caused an uproar nationwide: Whether states should be required to test students every year.”  I know that it may sound trite but contrary to what some people may think most of our elected representatives are trying to a good job and they will listen to what we have to say.  Besides, drawing upon the quote in 1765 from John Lewis, a poor Alabama farmer, “If not us, who?  If not now, when?”


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

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