Ohio Gadfly Daily

We count down the top five education issues that we'll be talking about in 2014.

John Mullaney

Guest blogger John Mullaney provides valuable insight into Ohio's first ever education innovation fund grants.

Aimee Kennedy

Two weeks ago, we read that many Ohio college students graduate tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Reporting on the Project on Student Debt’s latest analysis, the Dispatch’s Encarnacion Pyle wrote:

Despite efforts by colleges to hold their costs down, Ohio students who borrowed money and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2012 graduated with an average of $29,037 in student-loan debt…Continued.

Unless those students are writing a check on the stage at graduation, it’s safe to assume that interest will push what they owe to well over $30,000. Thirty-thousand dollars is a lot of money to owe, especially before your career is even underway.

What’s the answer for a system that saddles Ohioans with that kind of debt? Pyle’s piece offers comments and ideas from representatives of colleges and higher-education policy makers.

Could colleges do more to reduce costs? Probably. It’s great to see Chancellor Carey and others are focused on the issue.

Is that the only option? No, it’s not.

Too many students are spending time in college catching up on things they could have (and should have) learned in high school. Too many Ohio students are leaving high school unprepared for college. Why? Put simply, most high schools plan for students to earn a minimum credential that doesn’t provide them entry into either career or college: the high school diploma.

When a student graduates high school, we expect them to be able to choose one of three paths: college, a job, or starting their own business. For many students, it seems clear that high school alone has only prepared them for a fourth option: none of the above. Today’s high school diploma just doesn’t mean what it used to.

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The Common Core—the state’s new academic content standards for math and English language arts—has lit a fiery debate across Ohio. Vocal skeptics raise questions such as: Will the state lose its sovereignty in how students are educated? Will curricula become too “narrow”? Will technical manuals replace literary stalwarts like Hawthorne and Twain? Will schools have to assess students ad infinitum?

These are certainly legitimate concerns to raise. But amidst these worries—and in each instance, I might add that the concern is probably exaggerated—a larger question looms: How can Ohio secure its long-term economic prosperity?

Simple. To invest in the development of our children’s knowledge and skills.

The Common Core standards are such an investment. The Common Core places Ohio’s K-12 schools on a firmer foundation to build up its supply of human capital—human knowledge, skills, habits, and creativity taken together—the sine qua non for a robust economy.

Consider the standards themselves. The English language arts standards expect students to read texts closely[1] and to understand the nuances of how authors’ use the English language.[2] They require high-school students to draw on multiple texts to support their written analyses.[3] I think most  would agree that diligent reading skills, a command of language and vocabulary, and using textual evident to support a written conclusion are fundamental abilities for success in college or a demanding job.

Meanwhile, the math standards expect students to be able to interpret the equation y = mx + b as a linear function and then compare it to a non-linear function by the end of eighth grade.[4] At the end of high school, the Common Core standards expect that students are able to construct and interpret scatterplots, interpret a correlation coefficient,...

Recent articles detailing Common Core implementation in 26 Northeast Ohio districts are a must-read primer on what's really going on in classrooms in preparation for Ohio's new academic standards.

The nation’s two largest teacher labor unions (AFT and NEA), the largest public-sector employee labor union (SEIU), and other national organizations are rallying today on their “National Day of Action.” Unfortunately, this conglomerate of labor and liberal interest groups has put forward a slate of tired and worn-out “adequacy” principles and solutions that are better suited for another time and place. The principles represent an input-driven, compliance-based public education model that has yielded decades of academic mediocrity and nary a whiff of excellence.

Meanwhile, this coalition portrays any effort from education “outsiders” to reform America’s public school system as “corporate”—not because there is any evidence of a corporate conspiracy but because it polls well in our increasingly polarized society. This is an unambiguous attempt by teacher unions to preserve their monopoly over the public-school system. The message to those outside the union sphere of influence is clear: Butt out.

We won’t be so kind as to accede. For, as we argue below, the seven principles that this coalition has laid out are deeply flawed. If our ultimate objective is for our public schools and students to achieve higher academic performance, Ohio needs a bolder set of guiding principles. To its credit, the Buckeye State (sometimes with and sometimes without labor support) is indeed undertaking bold, promising educational reforms in our K–12 schools.

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Labor’s principle #1: Public schools are public institutions.

Public schools are of course public institutions; as such, taxpayers—individuals and businesses alike—have a stake in our public schools. The coalition, however, has failed to acknowledge that public schools depend on the goodwill of taxpayers. Decisions about public school budgets, teacher contracts, and curricula must be made transparently. (Collective-bargaining negotiations, for example, are sealed from public inspection under Ohio’s open-meetings laws.) Meanwhile, public...

Some interesting education news from around Ohio

The view from Ohio on Fordham's recent brief which discusses ways to educate high-need students across the country.

A House committee hearing on the Common Core lasts until 1:00 in the morning.

The performance of Fordham-sponsored schools for the 2012-13 school year.

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