NOISE from Columbus and Washington is getting louder and louder, distracting legislators, distracting educators, distracting parents, and distracting kids. That noise continues to create a sense of apprehension and even fear that discourages districts from providing unique learning opportunities for our students’ growth.
Rather than our state and federal officials asking why our students fail to measure up, we should focus on the greater purpose of education. What if they valued growth over test scores, inquiry over mimicry and public humiliation, and passion and dedication over rankings? What if we shaped our accountability system around the idea that success is not one-size-fits-all? What if we all agreed that the purpose of school was not the transmission of facts or formulas, but the foundation for critical thinking, problem solving and lifelong learning? What if we taught our students to look for a greater purpose and opportunities to serve instead of higher test scores?
I recently attended several meetings with state officials where their agendas included pay to participate fees, sudden cardiac arrest, concussions, start of school year, and zero tolerance policy. While we all understand and recognize the importance of the topics, these should be left to local decision-makers. I appreciate being asked to provide input, however, legislators are simply asking the wrong questions and getting too far into the weeds of local issues.
Let’s have the tough conversations and develop viable solutions for:
1. A useless testing/accountability system designed to rank and sort — not improve learning.
2. College Credit Plus, a program that forces local districts to pay for college credits and pay for textbooks regardless of the family’s willingness and ability to pay.
3. Charter school funding and using local tax dollars to fund sub-par charters who have very limited oversight. Check out how much your district is paying out to charters at knowyourcharter.com.
4. Instituting new and creative dropout recovery programs free of the punishment of the accountability system.
5. Multiple revisions of the State Report Card, which have resulted in the loss of its value and an understanding for what those scores and grades really mean.
6. The virtual collapse of the Ohio Department of Education, which is supposed to serve as a liaison between the legislature and schools.
7. The broken school funding system, which forces professional educators every few years, or in some cases every year, to run political levy campaigns on their own time to pay for the education of our youth.
Columbus and Washington need to stop creating one-size-fits-all solutions for problems that do not exist in all districts. In other words, the state and federal officials, who are primarily lawyers, should focus on the laws and the educators should focus on education. They should simply define the goal and provide the appropriate level of support and resources, then step back and watch us perform miracles. We call this concept Local Control and it would go a long way in stopping the NOISE that interferes with the beautiful music that our students and teachers make every day.