Ohio Public School Advocacy Network
There is more evidence that top-down mandated education reforms are not working. On April 12, the national Network for Public Education reported that the billions of dollars spent on annual testing and Common Core have produced meager change. In fact, based upon NPE’s analysis of test data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, achievement gaps have widened. “It is past time to stop blaming students, teachers, and schools, and place the blame for stagnation where it belongs: On nearly 20 years of failed federal policy based on failed assumptions,” stated NPE President Diane Ravitch. Ms. Ravitch is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst and a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previously, she was a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education.
On March 21, the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 216 by an overwhelming margin of 33-0. Referred to as the Ohio Public School Deregulation Act, S.B. 216 is designed to reduce the amount of unnecessary mandates and regulations affecting Ohio’s public schools. At a time in our country when our political system is caught up in a constant state of grid lock and unable to get anything done, this was a major feat. So, how did it happen and what can be learned from it? In a word, it was effort driven by a strategy of collaboration rather than confrontation. Rather than trying to pressure our state senators by throwing them under the bus with criticism about what they are currently doing or not doing, a small group of superintendents from western Ohio respectfully met with their state senator and began a frank and open discussion about some of the barriers getting in the way of teaching and learning in their local schools. This conversation was then expanded to other senatorial districts throughout the state until consensus was reached about what should be done. Yes, it was basically that simple. … Continue reading
Battelle for Kids is an influential voice in shaping the accountability system for Ohio’s public schools. In a recent policy statement entitled “Shaping Accountability for the 21st Century,” Battelle for Kids President and CEO Karen Garza wrote: “Historically, state-level assessments have been developed around what is easy to measure, not necessarily what matters most to support students’ long-term success. As school systems embrace new ways of preparing the whole child, more complex, comprehensive models of assessment are needed to measure progress around this changing definition of success. These new models of assessment—such as project-based assessment, student-led assessment, and performance-based assessment—require more time, intensive professional learning, and more support for educators to employ in the classroom. But when done well, they provide educators, students, and parents with much richer information about students’ learning and future readiness.”
Below is the blessing and final admonition to the passengers on the Mayflower as they embarked for a new life in the New World. It is a powerful analogy for the leaders of the Ohio Public Advocacy Network whose goal is to provide their citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.
As we all know, the political division in our nation has reached the point where we are unable to solve many of our nation’s most serious problems. It is time for us to turn things around and start listening to one another and working together. A well-written article in The Atlantic magazine puts into clear perspective the cost of abandoning an institution, our public schools, that is designed to bind, not divide our citizenry. The article, entitled “Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake,” is lengthy but worth taking the time to read and share with others.
More than 100 citizens attended the recent community meeting to discuss school safety in the Avon Lake City School District (Ohio). Highlights of the two-hour discussion are available on the district’s website. In a candid interview with Avon Lake Superintendent Bob Scott, I asked him what he learned. His response: “Providing people with information is not always enough. Like many other important topics, school safety requires a two-way conversation. My overall takeaway from our discussion is that most of the public concern was focused on the mental health aspect of school safety. Our citizens understand that we have to be able to identify students who need our help in order to prevent an incident like the one that tragically occurred in Parkland, Florida. This, of course, does not discount the importance of safety plans and safe facilities. Avon Lake and school districts across the country have planned, implemented, re-evaluated and continuously modified safety plans even prior to Columbine. What we have learned is that barriers and drills may reduce the possibility of a crisis and may reduce casualties during a crisis, but relationships and communication are our best safety… Continue reading
Monday night, the Gahanna-Jefferson City School District hosted a community meeting to discuss school safety in the wake of the Parkland massacre. “So much of this is about mental health,” explained Gahanna-Jefferson Superintendent Steve Barrett. “We want to help all of our kids with social-emotional issues. It’s not just about academics.” Coverage of the meeting from Channel 4 News highlights some of the concerns that were discussed.
“Breaking the silence is the first step. It makes it possible to stake out an issue, draw others to it and empower people, who may have been silenced by the policy, to begin to use their influence…Silence is the enemy of change.” This thought-provoking quote appeared on March 1 in the Heights Observer. The column was written by Susie Kaeser, a long-time resident of Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District (Ohio) and a national board member of Parents for Public Schools. Like public schools across the nation, her district has been deeply affected by the adoption of federal and state policies that have made testing, accountability and privatization the key levers for affecting school quality. A staunch advocate for public education, Susie was instrumental in the formation more than four years ago of the Heights Coalition for Public Education, an all-volunteer group of concerned community members who are calling on Congress and the Ohio Legislature to end their war on public education.
Researchers and clinicians who have studied the problem of violence over the past three decades have found a steady increase in levels of children’s exposure to violence. On the heels of the Parkland school shootings, Daniel J. Flannery recently reported how witnessing violence harms children’s mental health. Flannery is Professor and Director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University.
Amid the national focus on school safety following the tragic shootings in Parkland, Florida, local school and community leaders throughout our nation now have an important choice to make. They can wait for federal and state government policymakers to tell them what to do to beef up protection for their staff and students or they can take the bull by the horns. They can sit down with their staff and students, design a plan that is tailored to each of their school systems, discuss it with their parents and community and then generate local public support (including money) in order to make it happen. It is clear that the growing concern about school safety has hit a tipping point. As a result, the window of opportunity to provide our citizens with an opportunity to make a real difference has never been greater. It is time to take the bull by the horns.