Education, Ohio, Public Schools, School Board

Oh Really, Gunlock?

I find it very interesting that Mr. Gunlock is still trotting out the same tired old rhetoric about the OGTs measuring eighth-grade knowledge even after he quit the state school board mid-term. We have asked for proof of this claim over and over yet he has failed to provide it. I would love to read any information you could provide on the topic, Mr. Gunlock. Of course this is not even the real problem anyway. The problem is anyone who thinks that a child’s score on some tests is a true indicator of his readiness for the future. You did not take exit exams, Mr. Gunlock, yet I am sure that you consider yourself a success.

Why do we continue to insist on giving these exams and tying them to graduation when study after study shows that this is not only unnecessary, it can actually be harmful? We are one of only fourteen states in the entire country that require children to pass exams to graduate. Are those thirty-six other states full of kids that are not prepared for the future? Of course not.

As for business leaders complaining about a lack of qualified candidates for the workplace, I have yet to hear that from an actual business leader. A 2014 study done by The National Association of Colleges and Employers and published in Forbes magazine found that the top ten skills employers seek are:

  1. Ability to work in a team structure
  2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
  3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
  4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
  10. Ability to sell and influence others

Is there any proof that these new tests measure ANY of these qualities? How can we know for sure when no one has ever seen these tests?

I would also like to know why you left the state school board so abruptly, Mr. Gunlock. Was it because you couldn’t bear the thought of admitting that perhaps you got it wrong? That maybe, just maybe, these kids are not the problem? That the fact that only 24% of students scored proficient or above on the Geometry test may have more to do with the actual test than the kids themselves, regardless of how you feel about them only needing to answer 35% of the questions correctly? I am inclined to believe the children who took these tests when they tell me that there were questions on there on topics that they had not yet covered in class. Of course that would only make sense given that, despite what the name implies, these end-of-course tests are given in March and April.

Is taking the word of  PARCC about its cut scores even though their tests were deemed so poor that we dropped them after only one year fair? How about switching testing vendors after one year while simultaneously raising the cut scores of the new tests? Or giving these same kids three different sets of Math and ELA tests in three years while providing little to no information to districts about these ever-changing testing requirements?

Does it matter that some students were taking these tests online while some used paper and pencil? While PARCC claims that it did a study and found no discernable difference, the results from states around the country say otherwise. As a matter of fact, Derek Briggs, professor of research and evaluation methodology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who also happens to serve on the technical advisory committee for both PARCC and Smarter Balanced (whose tests are created by the same vendor we now use for all of our state tests), is quoted as saying, “In the short term, on policy grounds, you need to come up with an adjustment, so that if a [student] is taking a computer version of the test, it will never be held against [him or her]”. Yet we are still holding current juniors responsible for the results of these tests that nearly everyone else was given a safe harbor from.

Like Representative Fedor said recently, the adults got it wrong, not our children. I am incredibly grateful to her and the remaining school board members who recognize that we have a serious problem here that needs to be addressed so that the 35,000 of our current juniors who are not on track to graduate next year get the opportunity to do so.

Written by Mandy Jablonski, Ohio BAT

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Education, Ohio, Public Schools, School Board

Thank You to A.J. Wagner

14804946_1358697560837794_1144925745_nDear Mr. Wagner,

Our first interaction was a tumultuous one. We were forthright and bold in sharing our disagreements with the proposed changes to Ohio’s 5 of 8 rule. What followed from that exchange stunned us. In reply, you sent a request to meet with members of Ohio BATs in an effort to understand how policies play out in the classrooms across our state.

Not only did you spend nearly four hours of your time meeting with us, you made it abundantly clear that December day, and each subsequent day in service with the Board, that you stand with the students, parents, and educators of Ohio. While you have said repeatedly that meeting with us and really hearing us is not some extraordinary thing, while stressing that public servants are supposed to do just that, our collective experience indicates otherwise.

The encouragement and the validation felt by this first meeting rippled throughout our group. It provided hope, where before, we felt only despair. For that, there are not words enough to express our gratitude.

Throughout your two years on the Board, your steadfast commitment to public education cannot be misconstrued or understated. There was never doubt that your guiding principle is concern for our young people. You demonstrated a gracious spirit while you worked to uphold the aims of a true democratic public education, despite some of the backlash you faced. Your stand on the right side of history will have lasting implications for anyone fortunate enough to have crossed your path.

We appreciate your efforts as an Ohio School Board member, although we mourn the loss of a terrific ally. Your shoes will not be easily filled. We wish you well during this time of transition in your family’s life.

In Sincere Gratitude,

Ohio BATs

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