November 25, 2013, by Dan Roberts

Education in Ohio: The ‘Back Roads’ to Success, Part 1

At the age of four, my mother sent me off to kindergarten having convinced the teacher I was soon to be five and was eager and ready to learn. For fifty consecutive years, I was entrenched in public education in every role conceivable. After I retired as a Superintendent of a rural district in southeast Ohio on July 1st of 2013. I was ready and eager to learn a new trade. I now work as an Education Specialist for Business Development for SHP Leading Design Architects. My responsibilities include visiting school districts in the eastern and southeastern region of Ohio—the back roads of Ohio. My role is to help them identify, plan and resolve any facility needs they may have, either currently or expected in the future. These fixes run the gambit from re-paving a parking lot, installing a new energy efficient system of lighting or heating and cooling to new K-12 design. I am not a salesman- I am a plethora of solutions! I know first-hand how facilities can drastically improve a school district. If a district expresses a need, they will be connected to the real experts in the firm, but my job is to build relationships and trust first.

I have always believed education is the great equalizer. No matter your economic background, physical size, or even intellectual ability, an education provides opportunity for career success.  I still hold to the fact a child in America can pair hard work, a focused mind, and a goal-oriented attitude with a solid educational upbringing to make just about anything conceivable achievable! Our nation has prospered by providing an educational system tailored to the varying abilities and aptitudes of its diverse student population. We have produced the educated working class, the intellectual, creative, and persuasive voices that generate ideas that benefit the entire globe.

The responsibility of building this educational framework, however, is a state function. It was given this responsibility in Article 10 of the Constitution: “Powers not granted to the federal government are granted to the states or the people.” Education was not addressed as a federal responsibility when the Constitution was drafted or revised.  Even though with the advent of Common Core and national assessments we are certainly moving in the direction of a national curriculum, accountability is at an all-time high. We have to race to the top to incent and reward school districts for closing achievement gaps among identified sub-groups of students. The Common Core currently has only math and language arts content standards to be taught to every student, but soon science will be included. But it remains that there are many and vehement detractors to Common Core. They denounce it as lacking innovation, not rigorous enough for higher-level students, and pushing an agenda of uniformity of education not unlike what foreign countries have in place. Our Common Core taught to students in all areas of 45 states mandates what system of concepts are taught, when and how they are introduced, and what level of proficiency the students should achieve on the required tests.

Are students ready for college upon graduating from high school? Is the Common Core curriculum going to lessen educators’ ability to have their students adequately prepared due to its perceived lack of rigor? Time will tell. One thing for certain about education is that it changes often and most often returns to its roots. How different is the education of a child today than it was 50 years ago when I entered it? The learning spaces, teaching techniques and assessment measures are changing, but only so much. Education is as resilient as it is dynamic.

To be continued….