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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

Heights Schools Getting Slammed

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District is getting slammed by Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program.  According to Heights School Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby, nearly 1,300 students in her school system  have taken vouchers and scholarships to attend private schools.  She said the district is footing much of the bill for their tuition which amounts to a loss of $4.2 million for the last fiscal year and an estimated loss of $6.8 million this fiscal year.

 

School Start Times for Teens

According to one nationally recognized sleep expert, the research is clear.  Schools should start later for teens.  At first glance, the solution to the negative consequences of teen sleep deprivation is clear.  Just move start times up.  Unfortunately, it is not that simple or easy.  Changing school start times impacts families and the community in many ways, and without public discussion and support, the push back to later start times can be severe.  The degree of push back may now be tested in California where the Governor signed into law on October 13 a bill requiring many California middle and high schools to start classes later in the morning.

 

The Moral Life of Schools

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Philip Jackson, Robert Boostrom and David Hanson wrote a book called The Moral Life of Schools.  In it they made the following observation:  “To anyone who takes a close look at what goes on in classrooms it becomes quickly evident that our schools do much more than pass along requisite knowledge to the students attending them (or fail to do so, as the case may be).  They also influence the way those students look upon themselves and others.  They affect the way learning is valued and sought after and lay the foundations of lifelong habits of thought and action.  They shape opinion and develop taste, helping to form liking and aversions.  They contribute to the growth of character and, in some instances, they may even be a factor in its corruption.”

A Paradigm Shift

In Hawaii, educators are shifting their focus from producing good schools to finding ways for schools and communities to share ownership of public education.  For example, local environmental groups are working as full partners with Hawaii’s schools to jointly design curricula and teach students.  Working as full partners is a major paradigm shift in the traditional relationship between our public schools and their communities.

Stepping Forward

I had the good fortune of meeting Rich Harwood 25 years ago during my initial work with the Kettering Foundation.  Rich, who has a remarkable life story, has had a huge influence on my understanding of the healing power of public engagement, and he continues to inspire me to bring citizens together to make a difference for their communities.  Rich’s new book, Stepping Forward:  A Positive, Practical Path to Transform Our Communities and Our Lives, is must reading for anyone who loves our country.


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