Sunday, December 02, 2007

Olentangy Middle School Scores Lagging

Two members of the Olentangy Board of Education lamented lagging scores at district middle schools. Funny, the board already gave the superintendent his bonus for school year 2007-8. That's right. These fools voted to give the superintendent a new contract that includes a guarenteed bonus, paid before the school year begins.

Hey, board members, shouldn't you have waited until after hearing test scores before voting on bonuses?

Board member Brad Reynolds mentioned the district's Middle School Study as proof that scores will improve. Has he even read the study?

Here is a prior post on the district's Middle School Study. The study is a real piece of work.

So, how does the district react to the challenges of poor outcomes given the quality of students that enter its schools ...

Reacting to a challenge

It is always interesting to read about the reactions of different organizations to challenges. In the free market, a slight change in consumer preference is enough for companies, large or small, to reorganize in order to better address the future. In the public sector, the same response never seems to occur. Witness the Olentangy Local School Distict.

The educational outcomes of district middle schools have suffered over the years. In real terms, students are being shortchanged with regard to their education while the staff gets to implement whatever programs they choose.

While serving on the board, I fought for years to see improvements, being met each time by administrators functioning as roadblocks. After badgering fellow board members long enough about the fact that living in the achievement cellar is no place for a district with strong demographics, I was finally able to get the board to instruct the administration to study the district's middle school program. Given the energy I expended over the years to have the administration review its lagging scores, I still have a very personal interest in the results of this study.

Well, the
Middle School Study Update was delivered to the board in January. Where you would find reorganization in the private sector, you simply find re-entrenchment in the public schools. This should not be shocking, as re-entrenchment is the standard government response to any challenge.

Read the study and you will find no mention of any review of core curricular programs, such as math. In fact, you won’t see the word math anywhere in the report. Sure, math scores are well below similar districts, yet the Olentangy response is to embrace the mishmash that is public education in the US. Instead of concentrating on the areas of weakness and advocating for improvements, the study simply calls for more game clubs, service learning, etc., all in an environment that includes a “fully integrated, exploratory curriculum” – whatever that bit of edu-speak means.

Remember, it is the core subjects like math that are lagging, yet the district concentrates on providing “a variety of course offerings including accelerated content courses and exploratory courses in Physical Education and Health, World Languages, Technology, Music, Art, and Family/Consumer Sciences.”

Instead of facilitating maximum learning, the district seeks to “(e)ngage students in the ownership and decision-making of the curricular experiences” and to “(f)ocus on experiential, tangible activities that engage students.”

Can’t they simply teach math, and teach it right? Maybe they could, just maybe, if they got out of the business of indoctrinating and into the business of educating.

So, the district taxpayers are forced to pay for the programs that satisfy the staff, while students suffer and taxes rise. Not much of a solution. But, then, what else would you expect?

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