I was pleased to read about State Superintendent DeMaria's recent holiday visits to schools in western Ohio in which he celebrated the overall quality of Ohio schools. According to The Daily Standard, DeMaria called an Ohio education 'first rate,' but said that officials are always trying to improve. He compared attempts at improvement by the Cavs and Browns to his and the ODE's attempts to spearhead improvement in Ohio's schools. From the article...
"DeMaria said he is working to bridge the gap between the ODE and area school districts, adding state and local officials must cooperate if education 'is ever going to improve.'"
I hope that Mr. DeMaria recognizes that these attempts to improve are not only undertaken by himself and other administrators, but by teachers on a daily basis. As a teacher, I was taught that this "reflective process" is integral to achieving excellence. One learns to recognize, moment to moment, the adaptations and improvements necessary to provide a quality education. I'm following this process daily. This is one of the reasons why education in Ohio is first rate, teachers like myself reflect and improve throughout our careers. Unfortunately, all too often I get the sense, and perhaps other teachers do as well, that the ODE believes that teachers are the problem. Contrary to what Superintendent DeMaria might suggest to the media, I find that he and the ODE are unwilling to listen to practitioners in the field, and are more susceptible to their own rhetoric, than the actual analysis of data.
Some of the Superintendent's comments regarding the graduation problem illustrate his, and the ODE's, unwillingness to recognize the legitimate need for a change as argued by teachers, principals, superintendents, and other stakeholders. At the meeting in western Ohio, Celina superintendent Ken Schmiesing voiced his concern over the coming decline in graduation rates. DeMaria recognized the concern as legitimate, but believes that over time graduation rates will stabilize.
The problem once again here is that Superintendent DeMaria is talking about a "rate", an arbitrary percentage, where teachers like myself are discussing people, an actual number of students who will NOT graduate because of an arbitrary system. If the percentage of non-graduates is 30, as has been widely anticipated, and my school has 400 seniors next year, then 120 do not graduate. Except that mine is an urban high school, so we would skew higher than the average. Urban schools might realistically estimate 40-60% of non-graduates, maybe more. Again, the percentages don't do this justice. In that senior class of 400, that's 160-240 students, maybe more, who will not receive a diploma.
I am talking about Tom and James, Haley, Judy, Tim, Alex, Carol, Marie, and Jack. The ODE speaks in percentages. Teachers speak in lives.
Unfortunately, it seems as if the State Superintendent and the ODE are cool with this situation because "over time" the rates will stabililize. I'd like to know how much time is involved, and how many students Mr. DeMaria is willing to sacrifice. I know these kids, and I'm not willing to sacrifice one of them.
I think we can easily conclude that those sacrificed will include ALL students currently in high school, and likely those in grades 6-8 (and possibly lower) since they have not had the benefit of the new state standards throughout their educational career. Regardless of the purpose, this scenario of failing kids is unacceptable. What is worse, is that the reasoning posited by DeMaria, the ODE, and many Ohio politicians is utterly unfounded. According to the article, DeMaria says...
"We saw too many students were going to college and finding they need remediation, or they were going into the workforce and finding that they didn't have the skills to be successful,"
First of all, and perhaps this is splitting hairs, but Mr. DeMaria didn't see anything when these decisions were made as he wasn't the Super when this was undertaken, but as a member of the Ohio Board of Regents he would have recognized that Ohio students scored above the national average on ACT scores.
Furthermore, and more importantly to his first nonsensical argument, is that the rate of students in need of remediation has been declining, according to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. From information published in January of 2016... "Data in the recently published 2015 Ohio Remediation Report shows that the percentage of students needing remedial coursework decreased from 37 percent in 2014 to 32 percent in 2015. There also was a reduction in the number of students solely needing mathematics remediation (from 32 to 28 percent) and English remediation (from 16 to 13 percent) during the same period."
A study by the state you work for runs contrary to your argument to fail my students, Mr. DeMaria.
It should be recognized that these improvements in the lack of need for remediation have absolutely nothing to do with the graduation requirement because the students in question were not under the "new" system.
As for the second reason for more "rigorous" standards and testing, I've long heard about the approach of business leaders saying that Ohio's graduates just don't have the "skills" for the workplace. And yet, I've never actually heard this quoted from a business leader.
As a matter of fact, at a faculty meeting earlier this year our administration reported that local business leaders looked for employees who 1) showed up, 2) showed up on time, and were 3) able to work well with others.
I'm waiting to hear something like, "Good god, she's management potential, but she just doesn't know enough about how the Northwest Ordinance relates to statehood." Or "That guy is the best sales associate I've ever seen except for his complete inability to identify the denouement in an American short story."
As a matter of fact, the most valued qualities in employees are not things that can be measured on a standardized test. According to a recent survey of business leaders done by Forbes the top five qualities businesses look for in college graduates are as follows...