Hamilton superintendent: Local control, not state, needed for schools

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr. STAFF FILE/2016

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Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr. STAFF FILE/2016

The leader of Hamilton City Schools touted his district’s successes Thursday, but did so while continuing his role as the region’s chief critic of state education officials.

Schools Superintendent Tony Orr was the featured speaker during the annual Hamilton State Of The Schools luncheon.

The second-year superintendent of the 10,000-student, Butler County district used the forum to remind city political, business and other local community leaders of his displeasure with the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) revolving testing policies and graduation requirements.

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Orr told the audience of more than 200 it was “myth” that the state’s annual report cards “is an accurate measurement of our teachers’ effectiveness or any public school’s performance for that matter.”

“The state first implemented report cards in 1994 after requiring the administration of standardized testing … since that time the test changed six times. With every change, teachers and students must adapt and taxpayers must pony up funds to buy (instructional) materials to align with the latest and greatest testing flavor,” said Orr.

“The tests and subsequent report cards are myths that mislead the public on the success of our schools (and) beginning next year, this series of tests will be combined with virtually unattainable graduation requirements creating a dire situation for our students slated to graduate next year,” he said.

“We need local control (of schools) where teachers are free to teach and students can learn beyond a myriad of standardized testing. To prevent future Ohio Department of Education and State Board of Education train wrecks, unfunded mandates must be approved by a majority of the 612 local boards of education in Ohio,” Orr suggested.

Leaders from Badin High School, Butler Tech and Miami University’s regional campuses also spoke to the crowd, highlighting their various institutions’ growing lists of accomplishments in recent years. The event, sponsored by the Hamilton Rotary Club and the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce was held at the Courtyard by Marriott.

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While Orr isn’t alone among area superintendents in his criticism, he has emerged in recent months as the most vocal.

In October, the Journal-News was the first in the region to report Orr’s high-profile opposition to new, higher graduation requirements for the class of 2018.

He was later joined by other superintendents elsewhere in the state, who also complained to state education officials, leading to the Ohio Legislature to recently begin a committee review on possibly changing the graduation standards.

And comparisons of school districts through the changing Ohio standardized tests has been problematic in recent years, ODE officials have admitted, due to annual changes as the student measurements are moved toward uniformity and greater details.

But Orr also rattled off a list of notable Hamilton School academic, career education and extra-curricular activities achievements and a growing network of private and community partnerships that benefit not only students but the entire city.

“Hamilton Schools are the place to educate children and our future is on track,” said Orr.

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