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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

The Power of Deliberation

Public deliberation is a powerful force.  Throughout my 25-year-career of working with nearly 300 Ohio school districts, I’ve observed how effectively implemented public deliberation strategies routinely double the passage rate for proposed school tax increases from 35 cent to 70 per cent.  Today, these deliberation strategies are being employed in the movement being led by the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network to help Ohio’s citizens shape statewide education policy.  For an in-depth look at the characteristics and benefits of public deliberation, I recommend an article published by the University of Houston’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences titled, “What Is Deliberation.”

 

 

Embracing the Chance to Make a Difference

In my most recent blog, I provided a link to a newly created Facebook group for a pilot initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.  The goal of this pilot initiative is to turn the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network, created four years ago by Ohio’s school superintendents, into a grassroots citizen movement.  For the past six months, a small group of civic leaders and I have been working to help build community leadership teams for pilot school districts participating in the first phase of this citizen-led initiative.  They include Woodridge Local Schools, Boardman Local Schools, LaBrae Local Schools, Columbiana Exempted Village Schools, North Royalton City Schools, Mayfield City Schools, North Olmsted City Schools, Avon Lake City Schools, Olmsted Falls City Schools and Gahanna-Jefferson City Schools.  While the movement is in its infancy and there still a lot to learn about what it will take for it to sustain itself, one thing is already becoming clear.  Most of the citizens who are joining the OPSAN planning teams understand the importance of this initiative and are embracing the chance to make a difference.

OPSAN Facebook Group

A Facebook group has been created for the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network’s pilot initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.  To join, click OPSAN.  School districts participating in the first phase of this statewide initiative include Woodridge Local Schools, Boardman Local Schools, LaBrae Local Schools, Columbiana Exempted Village Schools, North Royalton City Schools, Mayfield City Schools, North Olmsted City Schools, Avon Lake City Schools, Olmsted Falls City Schools and Gahanna-Jefferson City Schools.

Helping One Another

In The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, the author, Priya Parker, explains that “every time people gather, they are being brought into the opportunity to help one another, to do what they couldn’t do or think up or heal alone.  And yet so often when we gather, we are gathered in ways that hide our need for help and portray us in the strongest and least heart-string light.”  Whether the purpose of gathering is to bring people together to create peace in the world or to celebrate a family birthday, this book is a valuable read.

Heights Board Resolution

The Heights Coalition for Public Education has been working for the past five years to provide citizens in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District with an opportunity to help shape statewide education policy in Ohio.   This past week, the district’s Board of Education passed a resolution to “end the overuse and misuse of standardized testing.”

Northwestern Study Revealing

A recent study reveals that fostering non-cognitive skills does more to influence students’ future outcomes than does helping them raise their test scores.  Looking at the data for 570,000 students in North Carolina, C. Kirabo Jackson, an economics professor at Northwestern University, found that ninth-grade teachers who improved their students’ non-cognitive skills—which include motivation, the ability to adapt to new situations and self-regulation—had important impacts on those students.  They were more likely to have higher attendance and grades and to graduate than their peers.  They were also less likely to be suspended and to be held back a grade.  These benefits persisted throughout high school.

Building a True Accountability System

When it comes to providing true accountability for our nation’s public schools, John Tanner makes a compelling case that our nation’s current testing system isn’t working.  Yesterday, the author of The Pitfalls of Reform:  Its Incompatibility with Actual Improvement shared his research on student testing with 60 school and community leaders during a day-long symposium at the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio.  Tanner, however, he didn’t stop there.  He also explained that he is working with educational leaders in Texas to create an accountability system that does work.  The symposium was sponsored by the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network which is working to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.

Madeira Board Speaks Out

On February 19, the Madeira City Schools Board of Education passed a resolution calling on its state leaders to make changes to the Homestead Exemption Program that would provide additional financial assistance for the district’s senior citizens.  Madeira Superintendent Kenji Matsudo, then followed up by sending this message to state and local elected officials and other educational advocates in his school district:  “Our Madeira senior citizens overwhelmingly support their beloved school district but, unfortunately, changes to the program a few years ago do not allow all of our Madeira senior citizens to take advantage of the program.  Please see the attached resolution passed by the Madeira Board of Education on February 19, 2019 and work to make changes to the Homestead Exemption Program by turning it back to how it was in 2007 – include all senior citizens, regardless of their income.”  Matsudo is one of the leaders of the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network which is working to give Ohioans a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.

 

Is It Time to Kill Annual Testing?

“Ask anyone from a school accountability expert to a parent of a school-age child, and you will get near universal agreement that we have a dysfunctional standardized-testing system in the United States.  Educators do not like the annual statewide tests: They inform school penalties, not learning, because the results come so late in the school year.  They fail to match any specific curriculum, and generally don’t deeply measure students’ analytical capabilities or the dispositions employers and colleges value.  Our nearly 20-year experiment with yearly federally required exams has boosted math scores, research indicates, but those gains have petered out as accountability pressures have grown more acute.  And efforts over the last decade to produce better tests have been met with tepid enthusiasm.”  This quote serves as the introduction to a recent article in Education Week titled,  “Is It Time to Kill Annual Testing?  It is well written and worth reading.


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