Ground Rules for a Productive Conversation

1.  Have a “kitchen table” conversation.  Everyone participates.  No one dominates.

2.  There are no “right” answers.  Draw on your own experiences, views and beliefs.  You do not need to be an expert.

3.  Keep an open mind.  Listen carefully.  Try to understand the views of those who disagree with you.

4.  Help keep the discussion on track.  Stick to the questions.  Try not to ramble.

5.  It is okay to disagree.  But don’t be disagreeable.  Respond to others how you want to be responded to.

6.  Have fun!  Collaborating is a rewarding experience.  It enables all of us to be of value and make a difference.

Source:  America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future

Thank You for Your Prayers

On Saturday, my wife, Diane, ended a three-and-a-half-year battle with pancreatic cancer.  Throughout most of her journey, she was relatively pain free and enjoyed the joys of daily living – including the marriage of our two daughters and the birth of a granddaughter and a grandson.  Thanks to the prayers of many, many people – including a number of you who follow this blog – she did not suffer greatly during her final days.  In fact, miraculously, she had little or no pain – truly a gift from God.  I will be eternally grateful for all of the love and support that we have both received.

“Our Teachers and Students Are Exhausted…”

Deer Park City Schools Superintendent Jeff Langdon 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 10 regarding student testing.

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Good afternoon Chair Lehner, Vice Chair Hite, and Ranking Member Sawyer, my name is Jeff Langdon, Superintendent of the Deer Park Community City School District located in Hamilton County, and 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 would like to address how testing impacts our student population, parents and community members who make up Deer Park Community City Schools.

We are being challenged throughout the State of Ohio to be more innovative, creative and engaging.  It is my strong belief that educators are doing an outstanding job of answering that call – but the work is becoming nearly impossible.  This brief excerpt from the ODE web site is important:  Webster’s… Continue reading

“If We’re Willing to Do Our Part”

I’m in new territory.  While I’ve written other books, to the best of my knowledge none of them have been reviewed by an objective, independent source.  So when I met with the editor of my local newspaper, the Green Valley News & Sun, and asked him to review America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future, I was more than a little interested in what he would say about it. Running the risk of seeming to be self-serving, I’d like to share his review – not because I’m such a great writer but because he captured the essence of why I wrote the book.  Here is his review:

Why would Green Valley be interested in a book on education reform?  The answer is in Corky O’Callaghan’s subtitle:  “And how THE PEOPLE can help shape their future.”

O’Callaghan, who lives in Green Valley, informs, then encourages us to use that information for good.

The books is easy to understand yet thorough in its presentation of where our education system has been, where we are and how we can help shape the future.

O’Callaghan takes… Continue reading

Nation’s Top Teacher Resigns

Stacie Starr, a veteran Elyria, Ohio, teacher, spoke to a standing-room-only audience at the local public library and fought back tears as she announced her retirement at the end of the current school year.  “I can’t do it anymore, not in this ‘drill ‘em and kill ‘em’ atmosphere,” she said.  “I don’t think anyone understands that in this environment if your child cannot quickly grasp material, study like a robot and pass all of these tests, they will not survive.”  Stacie is not just any teacher.  Winner of the 2014 Top Teacher Search, she is one of the most highly regarded teachers in our nation.  I strongly recommend that you take a few minutes to read the account of what took place the night she resigned and view the compelling video of why she did it.


That Surprising Thing Bill Gates Said

To paraphrase the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Bill Gates talks, education reformers listen.  As most people know, Bill Gates is one of the richest and most philanthropic individuals in the world.  But what many people may not know is that he has his fingers on the pulse of the key players in the education reform movement.  Most recently, he has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into helping develop and promote the Common Core State Standards, as well as hundreds of millions more in creating and implementing educator assessment systems that incorporate student standardized test scores into individual teacher’s evaluations.  On January 3, education reporter Valerie Strauss wrote an excellent piece for the Washington Post about the surprising thing that Bill Gates said regarding the failures of some of his education reform initiatives.  In her article, she questions how smart is is for a country to allow private philanthropists to drive public policy:  “Time after time, Gates has acknowledged that his approach wasn’t quite right.  There’s nothing wrong in admitting mistakes, of course, but there are dangers when philanthropists adopt pet projects they think will work and influence… Continue reading

Happy New Year!

To kick off 2015, I’ve made some enhancements to my website.  They include a personal message to the American people on my Home page, a separate Blog page, another item for the Making a Difference page, deletion of the Superintendent Forum page which was confusing and cumbersome  and a What You Can Do page which includes a detailed list of suggestions for what citizens can do if they’d like to make a difference in shaping the future of America’s public schools.  Happy New Year!

A New Sense of Hope and Possibility

In 1991, “Citizens and Politics:  A View from Main Street” was released by author Rich Harwood and the Kettering Foundation.  This groundbreaking study found that Americans were not apathetic about politics and public life, but instead felt pushed out, disconnected, and impotent.  Back then, they complained bitterly about a system made up of politicians, news media, and special interests that had overtaken the public square and operated with little regard for the people who lived and worked within it.  More than two decades later, the conversation has radically changed.  In new discussions with Americans across the country, Rich reports in his recent book, The Work of Hope, that politics and people’s disgust with it is no longer the central, dominant narrative in America.  Now the endless, often mind-numbing churn of politics lives outside people’s everyday world — operating as if in an entirely separate universe, with its own set of rules, winners and losers, and purpose.  Today, people are exhausted by the public recriminations and acrimony that hold our discourse hostage and they condemn our individual and collective inability to come together to get things done.  … Continue reading

Insight from a 10-year-old Student

Virtually every school superintendent and teacher I know strongly supports the idea of having high academic standards.  However, the concern many of them share is the high stakes testing associated with these standards.  A case in point is a test being used to measure student performance against the Common Core Standards.  While one presentation from a 10-year-old fourth grader to the board of education of the Montclair Public Schools in New Jersey may not indicate how everyone feels about the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test, it does provide valuable insight into why there is growing opposition to it.  I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and view this powerful video.

Help Spread the Word

At the outset, my goal in writing America’s Schools at a Turning Point:  And how we THE PEOPLE can help shape their future, creating my website and becoming a blogger has been to expose how our students are being over tested, our teachers are being overwhelmed and our tax dollars are being diverted by our nation’s education reform movement.  Unfortunately, however, nothing is going to change until the American people realize that our public schools are facing a serious crisis.  The basic challenge, then, is getting the truth about this crisis into the hands of concerned citizens who have little or no connection to our public schools.  With that said, I am asking you to help me expose the plight of our public schools to your personal network of friends, neighbors, business associates and relatives.  All you need to do is simply suggest to your email contacts that they go to my website at CorkyOCallaghan.com and sign up to follow my blogs.  If everyone does this, the impact will be significant.  Thank you for your support.

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