Tuesday, September 4, 2018

It’s Always Something (a post for the start of the school year).

Today is the first day of school in my district, and I’m sitting at home due to a heat index set to hit above 95 degrees. Much as I hate to use the phrase “It’s always something,” it’s always something.

As a matter of fact, last week, a few colleagues and I had just finished some professional development on how to identify bed bugs, proper use of an epi-pen, and the details of a mass evacuation in the case of a bomb threat, or lock-down should there be an active shooter, when I asked them what they thought it would be this year.

Without hesitation they knew what I meant, and Amanda said, “Tuberculosis.” I nodded, believing this was a reasonable answer, and legitimately figured that it has been awhile, and we’re probably due. Of course, it’s also been awhile since our locale became one of the first cities in the country to have a confirmed case of swine flu, waves of bomb threats, etcetera. All of this is beside the point.

It’s always something.

Having given it some more thought, I believe that the answer to my own question is that this will be the year that the state of Ohio abandons its senior class. Believe me when I say that I really hope that I’m wrong, just as I hope that none of the other horrors visited upon classrooms nationwide rear their ugly head. It just seems to me that there is simply too much backward thinking on the graduation requirement, and an article in the Dayton Daily News only further confirms my fear..

I sat down with my legislators in July to convey the reality of the situation at my high school. Basically, an alarming number of students are unable to earn the 18 points on 7 assessments, necessary for graduation. To be specific, of the 438 graduates from the high school where I teach, 148 graduated through the “Additional Pathways,” which permitted 2018 graduates to use a means other than assessments to prove they were deserving of a diploma. All things considered, if not for the pathways, I believe that these numbers would have boiled down to a Graduation Rate of around 60% in a school whose rate is typically 85% (give or take).

Further complicating the issue, I told them, is that the Ohio Department of Education claims that the 18 points are the threshold at which students prove that they are “college and career ready,” despite the fact that no data driven analysis by the state, or anyone else for that matter, can prove this claim. No college references state test scores to predict success (most look to GPA for that), & no employer is looking at these scores as a part of their hiring practices.

Add to all of this the fact that the State Board of Education recommended in January to extend those Additional Pathways for the classes of 2019 & 2020, big urban districts are reporting the potential of 50% non-graduates, and even the affluent burbs say 10-20% needed the pathways, and the solution seems obvious. And yet...

In Jeremy Kelley’s DDN article Republican Senator Peggy Lehner, Chair of the Senate Education Committee says, “At this point I can’t say for sure that anything will be done. I am certainly looking at the data very closely, and I’m going to be encouraging my colleagues to do likewise.”

With due respect to Senator Lehner & her colleagues as they consider a deep dive into that data, the system you have thus far failed to change does not measure what it claims to measure, and seeks to prevent the receipt of diplomas among some of Ohio’s most vulnerable students, lots of them. I do not believe it’s an exaggeration to say that the ramifications of this scenario on their lives, the lives of their families, the health of their communities, the economy, and the entire state of Ohio is quite dire.

Unfortunately, the Ohio Department of Education doesn’t seem to get it either.

The ODE’s representative Chris Woolard said, “I think the real question here is, what’s the graduation rate going to be, and is it going to be significantly different? I can’t answer that question.”

Well, fortunately for Mr. Woolard, every single representative of a public school who has commented on this situation has answered that question. The answer Chris, is YES, THE GRAD RATE IS GOING TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER! Sweet Fancy Moses, one would think that the Ohio Department of Education might listen to a Superintendent. They’ve spent 4 years ignoring what I’ve got to say on the topic, but I’m just a teacher.

Then, he doubles down on his lack of understanding... “Based on where we saw things six months ago, from an on-track perspective, things looked better than what people were concerned about two years ago.”

No, no, no, no. Six month’s ago, two years ago, 4 years ago, critics of the grad system like myself have been saying that big urban districts would see grad rates around 50%, smaller urbans at 60%, and so on. Believe me, I remember suggesting this and thinking that it would be awful whether I was right or wrong. If I was wrong, then I look like a paranoid wackaloon (but at least kids are graduating), and if I’m right, then we find ourselves right where we are. We weren’t wrong.

The ODE is officially painting a rosy picture as they persist in attempting to polish the turd that is their Graduation Requirement while the Ohio Legislature isn’t sure whether or not they’ll remedy their broken and meaningless system.

Sound about right?

It’s always something.

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