Ohio Public School Advocacy Network

How I Learned What Not to Do

Early in his career as superintendent of schools, Charles Irish tried to follow in the footsteps of his mentors who taught him that success in the community would mostly be about selling your solutions to a “yet-to-be-informed” public.  More than once he was told that people don’t know what they want or need and that you, as superintendent, have to patiently educate them.  After frustrating experiences and a lot of soul searching, he concluded that this model of leadership was insincere and unsustainable.  In “How I Learned What Not to Do as a School Superintendent,” (beginning on page 72) he shares a fascinating story about his journey on the road to a new way of thinking.

Note:  My friend and colleague, Charlie Irish served for 13 years as superintendent of the Medina City Schools in Medina, Ohio.  His “How I Learned What Not to Do as a School Superintendent” article appears in the current edition of Connections, a publication of the Kettering Foundation.  An internationally renowned think-tank, Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should?

Charlie’s Take on Education’s Goal

“If public education exists to serve the individual only, then “free enterprise education” ought to rule the day.  Charters, privatization, etc. would be the way to achieve that goal — a race to see who can get the most and the best.  But if the goal is tempered by seeking to enhance democracy by creating a stronger citizenry, then treating education as something for the individual only works against that ideal.” – Charlie Irish

Note:  Charlie Irish served for 13 years as superintendent of the Medina City Schools.  He currently works with the Kettering Foundation on what it takes for democracy to work as it should.

The Only Way to Turn It Around

“Public education is predicated on the notion that you’re concerned about other people’s kids just as much as your own kids…But all of this privatizing, profit obsession, all of this preoccupation with short-term gain has pushed long-term integrity to the side, no matter what color you are or what class you are…And we have to be honest (and)…tell the truth about it.  That’s the only way we’re going to turn it around.” — Cornel West

NOTE:  Dr. West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual.  He has taught at Yale, Harvard, the University of Paris, Princeton, and, most recently, Union Theological Seminary.  He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard and obtained his MA and PhD in philosophy at Princeton.  He has written 20 books and has edited 13.

The Overuse of Standardized Tests

In her newly published book, These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can’t Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools, co-author Emily Gasoi contends that the continued overuse of standardized tests lowers the quality of education and misrepresents the hard work of students, teachers and their schools.  She believes that “test-based accountability encourages schools to emphasize outmoded instructional practices, such as prioritizing rote learning and correct answers over inquiry, holding all students to a one-size-fits-all benchmark, discouraging collaboration, undervaluing creative and critical thinking, and assessing discrete, decontextualized skills, all of which runs counter to what is now being touted as twenty-first century teaching and learning.”

Bringing Us Together

As we all know, we live in a politically divided nation where the level of trust has fallen to a dangerously low point.  However, there is a silver lining and reason for hope.  It is our children.  When we focus on the needs of our children rather than the needs of adults, we come together as citizens.  I’ve observed this happening time after time over the past 30 years as citizens have come together to pass school tax issues in order to meet the educational needs of the children in their communities.  With the creation of the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network, once again, children are the focal point of this grassroots movement to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.


Some Food for Thought

Here is some food for thought from a veteran school teacher:  “Students crank out endless final products every day and night.  Teachers correct volumes of such low-quality work; it’s returned to the students and often tossed in the wastebasket.  Little in it is memorable or significant, and little in it engenders personal or community pride.  I feel that schools need to get off this treadmill approach and shift their focus from quantity to quality.”  This quote is from Ron Berger in his book, An Ethic of Excellence:  Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students.  A public school teacher in western Massachusetts for 25 years, Mr.  Berger works with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Local Forum Created to Discuss Education Policy

Citizens in the Talawanda City School District are being given the opportunity to help shape statewide education policy in Ohio.  Two-hundred and thirty-three residents have already joined the Talawanda Community Advocacy for Public Education (T-CAPE) Facebook Group which was launched in August by the Talawanda School District Community Advisory Board.  T-CAPE is a voluntary group of citizens who receive regular news updates about public education legislation and then meet to discuss how it impacts the students in their school district.  The next meeting of T-CAPE will be November 27.

Would Mean More Local Control

The sponsor of newly introduced Senate Bill 216 told WOSU Radio on Wednesday that he wants to roll back almost a hundred requirements on Ohio’s public school districts.  These requirements range from mandates on school personnel to directives for students in classrooms.  The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Matt Huffman of Lima, said it would mean more local control – and he wants to go further.  “Frankly, if we could eliminate all state requirements and have to do what the federal government is making us to, that’s where I would want to go.”