Forum gathers area views on public schools

Approximately 60 people attended a Regional Community Forum on Public Education in the Alma McDonough Auditorium at Marietta College Wednesday evening.

“This is our second regional forum to give people from Southeast Ohio an opportunity to provide some input into the public education process,” explained forum moderator Rob Radway from the Southeast Ohio Teacher Development Cooperative.

He said the first forum was held last year in Cambridge. Feedback from that event, shared with the Ohio Legislature, Ohio Department of Education, and Ohio Board of Regents, and resulted in some impact on legislation passed last year regarding learning initiatives.

Radway said data collected from Wednesday’s forum on the Education Teacher Performance Assessment (Ed TPA), new state learning standards, and district building report cards would also be shared with those agencies.

Rebecca Watts, associate vice chancellor with the Ohio Board of Regents, explained that the Ed TPA is a performance assessment for student teacher interns.

Ohio is among 20 states participating in an initiative to develop a national teacher performance assessment standard to ensure teachers are prepared to teach before they enter the educational workforce. The assessment is designed to indicate whether teachers have learned skills such as developing a lesson plan and following it through with their students.

“This is not yet a licensure requirement in the state, but we believe it helps bring teachers that are more confident and prepared for education,” Watts said. “There is a $300 cost to the teacher candidates, but we believe the benefits of the assessment far outweigh that cost.”

Carol Hancock, Marietta College associate professor of education, disagreed.

“Our students do see the merit in assessments, but this comes at a time when student teachers are under a lot of other stresses,” she said, adding that some schools do not want student teachers wgo are participating in the Ed TPA because it is too much for the schools to handle.

Hancock said the actual cost to student teachers is around $1,000 as additional fees are required at certain levels.

“We think enough is enough,” she said.

On Ohio’s new learning standards, Brian Roget, assistant director of assessment development and construction for the Ohio Department of Education, said the state board of education adopted the new standards in 2010. He said the standards focus on what’s appropriate to learn at each grade level.

“There’s also a focus on coherence, building a progression of understanding,” he said. “In the past a lot of content was repeated over and over every year at each grade level. But we want to build some progress into the content each year.”

Roget said the ODE also worked with educators across the state to develop learning standards that would have real-world connections.

But Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson said the Common Core standards were only draft standards when adopted by Ohio four years ago.

“Common Core is not well-liked,” he said. “This has been a real coercive process and a loss of state control to Washington, D.C.”

Thompson said the standards were basically developed by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundationwith the Pearson Foundation, a textbook publishing firm.

“I don’t have a problem with accountability in education, but I don’t like that the government bureaucracy is working in partnership with these private entities,” he said. “And I’m concerned about what this will cost. Bill Gates and Pearson will make a lot of money from these standards.”

Thompson said everyone’s not the same, and should not be held to the same strict standards.

“I don’t think this inspires people, I think we’re going the wrong way,” he said.

Thompson’s remarks were met with some applause from the audience. He suggested Ohio could develop its own standards, based on the success or failure of educational standards used in other states.

But Watts said the Ohio Board of Regents believes the new learning standards will be good for Ohio students.

She said 43 percent of high school grads enter college without basic skills such as being able to write essays about a book they’ve read.

“The old learning skills have not provided a good basis for success (in higher education),” Watts said. “We don’t want 43 percent of kids graduating from high school having to take remedial courses so they can learn enough to obtain a job and support a family.”

Co-hosted by Marietta College and Muskingum University, the forum’s seven-member panel included Hancock, Thompson, Roget, Watts, Mike Masloski, district assessment coordinator at Ridgewood Local Schools; Donna Bowen, math teacher at Maysville Middle School; and Ellen Adornetto, education reform consultant with the Ohio Education Association.