Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hey Ohio, They Are Not Standards Written With Teacher Input If You Completely Ignore the Input.

Why bother? I’ve been asking this question all afternoon and I’m not even sure who I’m asking.

If I’m asking the Ohio Department of Education, the question is, “Why bother asking for teacher, and other stakeholder feedback if you’re not going to use it?” If I’m asking myself, the question is “Why bother respond when they ask for feedback?

I recently responded to feedback, for the 2nd time, regarding the Ohio Learning Standards in Social Studies for American History, the course I teach. When we saw the results for the first round of feedback on the Standards, the ODE reported that nearly ALL those who participated indicated that the inclusion of the Historic Documents in the American History curriculum is redundant, they’re also taught in 8th grade and American Government, and inappropriate in the curriculum. The documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Federalist & Anti-Federalist Papers, Northwest Ordinance, Bill of Rights, off the top of my head) ALL fall well outside the time frame of the American History course, 1865-present.

So, after the first round of stakeholder input, the ODE indicated that consensus dictated the removal of the Historic Documents for American History. My colleagues and I cheered the logic and wisdom of such a system that responds proactively to teacher input. 

Today when I returned to weigh in on another round of the revision, the Historic Documents remained. What fresh hell is this? Despite professional expert testimony to the contrary, the docs are still there, just as redundant and inappropriate as before, but now further tainted by deception.

Any educator, and many non-educators, can see why this would make no sense. I’ve explained it above... it’s repetitive and utterly out of academic context. Students learn for the long term by making connections. They connect new content to other content and existing schema, their prior knowledge. If the new content, in this case the Documents, is remote from the course of study, then the ability to facilitate these connections diminishes. 

Furthermore, if the ODE and legislature are so very concerned about students being college and career ready, then why on earth would we teach the same damn material over and over?

The reason, of course, is that Senator Larry Obhof believes that he has taken part in a supreme act of patriotism having passed the so-called “Founding Fathers Bill” which requires the redundant teaching of the documents. Don’t get me wrong, I do not question the good Senator’s patriotism, nor do I object to the documents being taught (where appropriate in the Social Studies curriculum). What I do object to is the refusal of legislators, Senator Obhof among them, who refuse to listen to experts in the field when making decisions that impact said field.

And in this case, the refusal of the Ohio Department of Education and Superintendent Paolo DeMaria to champion a logical and correct curricular adjustment recommended by experts in the field. Again, their own report on the analysis of the American History Standards indicated that the documents were the biggest issue in need of attention.

I participated in the ESSA stakeholder meetings, and then watched DeMaria and the ODE attempt to submit a plan that did not reflect the recommendations of those groups. Only public outcry changed that scenario. Now I’m seeing the same sort of chicanery in seeking feedback on State Standards. It makes me wonder what similar bullshit went down with educator recommendations for the Math and ELA Standards.

As DeMaria travels the state claiming to be listening to students, teachers, administrators, and others from Cleveland to Columbus and elsewhere, I’m left to wonder whether the glad handing consensus builder is genuine. I’ve had conversations with people who like DeMaria, believe that he’s listening, changing the culture at the ODE toward something positive. I met him once briefly, and he was pleasant enough. I want to believe we’re on the same team, but these circumstances are problematic. 

The Ohio Department of Education is supposed to provide support for educators statewide. They should be presenting the legitimate feedback-based changes to the state board. In this case, because for some absurd reason the legislature decided to write specific curriculum into law, the ODE and DeMaria need to be influencing legislators to act on behalf of the experts in the field. 

Instead they figured to pass this pile of shit “revision” off as if nothing happened.

If you didn’t plan to do your job, then why bother asking for input?