Schoolkids an afterthought to Strickland’s education agenda

There’s what a person says, and then there’s what a person does.

Gov. Ted Strickland has talked a good game about education in Ohio serving students better, but the measurements don’t substantiate the rhetoric.

Before the spring of 2008, the Strickland administration had laid out a game plan to improve the dropout rate of Ohio’s high schools.  Some high schools needed more attention because they were “dropout factories.”  In my own blog article on the topic mentioned that Strickland’s game plan was too geared toward the older students when interventions needed to take place much earlier in a student’s life.  I wrote:

The attempt to intervene with these actions is taking place at the boundaries between 8th and 9th and 10th grades.  Naturally, I pointed out that the challenges could be addressed in much earlier years in a child’s education.  There is a desire by the Governor’s administration to address these challenges in earlier years, but so far, they are working to at least get the ball rolling, and this is their starting point.

So, with the older years being the starting point, this is the 4th year of the Strickland Administration, so those 10th graders who received interventions at the get-go should be graduating in greater numbers.  Not so.  For the third year in a row, the graduation rate has fallen.

But Ohio, under the Strickland Administration should pat itself on the back, because, on the latest “report card,” more school districts moved into the “effective” or higher ratings.  I was reading a Youngstown Vindicator article about the most recent report card, when I saw this quote from State Superintendent Deborah S. Delisle:

“It is important to recognize the significant academic gains made by students, even if they have not yet met the proficiency target.  By demonstrating progress over time, educators can show these students that their efforts are paying off and identify ways to continue making progress in the classroom. More importantly, parents can be kept informed of their children’s progress throughout the year.”

Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Umm . . . excuse me for asking, but if more school districts are becoming effective than ever before, where are those dropouts coming from?  Could they be coming from the same “dropout factories” that the Strickland Administration was going to put the most focus on?

I guess that strategy to work on the older grades and the dropout factories isn’t panning out.

Why is that?  If you read through that dropout post I’d written more than two years ago, doesn’t the Strickland plan sound good on paper?

Maybe the outlined approach is OK, but maybe helping the schoolkids isn’t the ultimate goal of proposing these plans.

When reading Right Ohio, which I frequently do, I saw this eyebrow-raising blog post with video showing State Superintendent Deborah S. Delisle (yeah, that same person patting school districts on the back, including the districts who hadn’t met the proficiency target) walking out of a hearing regarding Ohio’s “Race to the Top” application for more federal funding.  This meeting in Washington DC was so important that even Ted Strickland, himself, was in attendance.  Oh . . . well . . . she just walked out of it.  Maybe it wasn’t so important after all.  Gosh, she seems so motivated to help our schoolkids, doesn’t she?  I bet she was leaving early so that she could get to an appointment in Youngstown to tutor an at-risk sophomore.  Or not.

A clue about what’s really afoot comes to us from the Ohio Inspector General’s report on the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) that spotlighted Director Richard Murray as manipulating the system to benefit union cronies more than schoolkids or communities.  The Plain Dealer has this August 5th article on the topic.  The Columbus Dispatch has this August 14th article in which Richard Murray says that his agenda is totally permissible within the workings of the OSFC, and the Dispatch adds this article from today, the 27th, wherein the OSFC adopts a rule urged by the Inspector General’s office, but Murray says it will be business as usual because he feels that he’s never abused his power in the first place.

Whether or not you agree with Murray’s defense that he has not abused his power, is there any indication at all that Murray deems the ultimate beneficiaries of the work of the OSFC are the schoolchildren or the communities?  No.  Murray says that he will not resign his position unless Gov. Ted Strickland asks him to step aside, but Gov. Strickland is standing by Richard Murray.

Do we have any reason to assume that the workings of the OSFC are any aberration from the way that Ted Strickland runs the rest of the education agenda?  That Strickland stands by Murray, that Delisle walks out of an important meeting, that the dropout rate worsens for the 3rd year in a row, these are all indicators that the motives are personal, or about cronyism, or about patronage, or about expansion of the bureaucracy, or about increasing the size and cost of government, or about the centralization of power over the education system.  Richard Murray is not an aberration.  Richard Murray is a window through which we can see Strickland’s education regime for what it really is.

Strickland may be keeping up appearances by attending the meeting in Washington and saying what he’s expected to say regarding better outcomes for Ohio students, but these are just posturing and lip service.  The actions of those who occupy chief education positions should carry more weight in assessing Strickland’s education regime than Strickland’s words and appearances do.

If you value Ohio’s schoolchildren, you ought not vote for Strickland in this year’s elections because you cannot trust him to support the right people to handle all the various components of Ohio’s education bureaucracy.

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