A group of people held a press conference and announced a plan to have government control of Ohio’s K-12 public schools, public universities and workforce systems. This link will take you to a video of the press conference. After watching the video you’ll have the choice to:
Collapse, Share or Buy DVD. I chose Collapse with the hope that it would make the idea disintegrate, collapse it entirely or make it simply go away…it didn’t work.
This is Part 2.
Before you answer the questions I’m about to pose with any degree of confidence, I would ask that you reflect on your answer for a moment.
Do you believe that the public school’s job and primary purpose is to “prepare the workforce for tomorrow?”
Do you believe that it is the state or federal government’s job to help students find their interests?
Should public schools help students explore, discover and illuminate potential career pathways? Absolutely yes they should, but does the mission stop there? Is our primary goal to simply be part of the “human capital” conveyor belt? Are we just preparing kids for jobs or is there more? The answer to that question is another “YES…there’s more.” While the public schools have a definite preparation role to play as it relates to the Nation’s workforce, that is not the core purpose of public education.
In the Fall of 2017 a group of public school superintendents from around Ohio were chosen with assistance from the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. Members were strategically selected in order to represent all parts of Ohio (urban, rural and suburban). The group was formed because many of the top school district leaders felt that Ohio’s educational policies and laws were not grounded in a solid foundation, but rather were formulated due to political interests. That coupled with the fact that Ohio did not have a clearly stated mission and vision made the conditions right to have these important components be generated from a grass roots level.
The superintendents took part in a two day think tank to discuss the purpose of public education and sought to create a set of beliefs. The first generation Statement of Purpose and Beliefs were created and then vetted through a survey. The survey was sent to all Ohio Public School Superintendents, other school administrators and it was open to community members at the local school districts. The vetting purpose was simple–get feedback and another set of eyes on that which was created and seek to use the opinions of others to reshape the first generation version. Feedback was generated by survey respondents indicating whether they could: a) Fully support the statement; b) Partially support the statement; c) Minimally support the statement or d) Cannot support the statement. A summary of that feedback can be found here. Respondents were also able to offer narrative feedback as well. These responses were grouped and coded based on themes.
In December of 2017, the group was reconvened to reflect on the broad feedback and tasked with making revisions to the original statement of purpose and set of beliefs. The second generation of the Statement of Purpose and Beliefs can be viewed here. While the document needs some additional work, it does provide a more definitive direction for Ohio’s public schools based on feedback from a broad group of stakeholders from a grassroots level. The statement that should resonate the most is–
Students, schools and communities are best served when decisions are made at the local level and supported by state and federal entities.
While I’ve been very critical of the Ohio Department of Education, they did run the gauntlet and gather feedback from over 15,000 people on what Ohio citizens wanted from public education and the answer was not, “let Columbus control it more.” One of the main themes that resonated within that feedback was–more local control. The survey that was used by the superintendent group to generate feedback had a very similar theme–less government and more local control.
If you’re a school superintendent and you want to endorse a complete government plan to take control of Ohio’s Public Education and Public University System, then shame on you. That’s lazy. Engage your local community, your teachers, administrators, parents, students, business and local universities and determine the skills and dispositions you want from your high school or college graduates. Don’t advocate for turning it over to the government so that they can do it for you.
This crazy unification plot overlooks a great deal about the role and purpose of public education–which brings me to the core of this section. Our job as superintendents is to engage our locally elected school board and a great number of others, to create and define our vision and mission. While we have confines that we’re required to operate within (e.g. state standards, research on the most effective instructional methodologies, and so on), when it comes to the vision for public education, our allegiance is to students and to our local communities. Our obligation is to provide an environment that extends far beyond, “get ‘em ready for a job.”
In Olmsted Falls our mission is to Inspire and Empower students. We believe (and our community fully supports this…the same community that provides 66% of the resources to our fund our schools) that we should: illuminate and allow students to explore things that will allow them to choose a pathway…not a track…a path; develop skills to have options in life; teach the whole child; teach the love of exploration; teach self-awareness; help them develop autonomy; provide opportunities to develop a sense of service and belonging; teach students to set goals and fearlessly pursue them; help them learn to communicate, collaborate, think critically and be creative; and of course teach them to read, write and calculate.
Ultimately public schools (and dare I say public universities) do not need government to assume control for us. We need the Ohio General Assembly to engage us, empower us, communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve with us. Finally, once the vision has been set, we need them to get out of the way so that people can implement. The Ohio General Assembly and Governor’s Office have controlled public education in Ohio for over two decades by creating accountability laws and selling their souls to standardized tests. They’ve brought you test-based accountability, a high school graduation system that is broken, a failed funding system and a host of other things that simply have not worked. We need elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, who are willing to collaborate with those at the local level in order to untie Ohio’s educational Gordian Knot.
Public education’s mission (PreK through — Bachelor’s of ______) is so much more than prepping a person for a job. If someone is telling you that it’s as simple as getting them ready to work, then perhaps they need to consider another line of work or simply stay in their lane.