Tuesday, Governor Ted Strickland was in Dayton hosting an “Education Forum.” At that forum, Strickland said, “Education is the central issue I face as governor.” Strickland’s inaugural address in 2007 was centered on education, and his 2008 State of the State address outlined six principles to guide education reform in Ohio. I didn’t attend, but, in order to make this report, I replayed the 87 minute video of this forum several times, seen here, and took extensive notes.
Holly Hollinsworth, the spokesperson for the forum, started the meeting by explaining, “The governor has created this series of forums all across the state to give citizens a chance share their thoughts, their ideas, their own experiences and to help Ohio reform and renew its education system. This is truly, and I think you’ll agree, a unique opportunity not just to react but to help build an education reform plan from the ground up.”
Governor Strickland then started with these remarks:
“I want to thank the good mayor who is with us today and I want to thank a number of legislators from both sides of the aisle who have taken time to be with us this afternoon … Every Ohioan has something very important at stake when we discuss education and we want to hear their voices, your voices, as we seek to improve ours schools in Ohio.
“Ohio’s system of education is not something that can be changed over night. I think it is going to take all of us, those of us in government, those of us in education, those in communities across this state of ours working together to get it done. That’s why we are holding these conversations throughout Ohio. This is the 4th of 12 … We want to give people a chance to tell me what they’ve seen and heard and even more important what they can imagine our schools becoming … With your help we will create a world class system of public education in Ohio.”
A video tape showed interviews with various business and educational leaders around the state emphasizing the importance of education and ended with the governor’s comment at his State of the State: “Our schools must teach students to think past the limits of what has been done and imagine what can be done.”
The spokesperson, Holly Hollingsworth, encouraged the forum participants, “That is the message here today to think past the limits of what has been done and I’m asking all of you to think about what could be done that is different and new.”
Governor Strickland emphasized the importance of clarifying mission. He said, “Before we can start talking about all the details about how we are going to design a school or a lesson or anything, I think we need to begin with a firm mission for the school … I believe the Mission of our schools must be: To ensure that every child in Ohio has the opportunity to succeed — to succeed economically, to succeed in becoming as a well rounded person, and to succeed in becoming a productive citizen. And to do that, schools must create learning environments that foster and nurture creativity,and innovation and global competency.
“Let’s acknowledge at the beginning what we don’t know. We don’t know exactly what jobs will be in demand in 20 or 50 years from now. In fact some of the highest demand jobs today simply did not exist 20 years ago. We do know that a creative person — a person with analytical thinking skills, a person who has been challenged to learn independently — is a person who can adapt to any new setting and that is the person who can thrive in 2028.”
Strickland reviewed the six principles that he had developed during his State of the State address. He repeated a large section of that speech, in which he said,
“First, we cannot address our education challenges without strengthening our commitment to public education. As a practical matter, the vast majority of Ohio children are and always will be educated in the public school system.
“Second, a modern education must be directly linked to economic prosperity. Ohio cannot thrive without understanding that world class schools will produce a talented workforce, and a talented workforce will attract and create jobs.
“Third, we need to identify the great strengths of our schools. There are features in our education system that the rest of the world seeks to emulate, and we must build on these triumphs.
“We excel internationally in our ability to foster creativity and innovation. These skills fuel a lifetime of success, especially in an evolving global economy. Ohio schools produced the minds that created Superman, with his fictional X-Ray vision, and the mind that invented the MRI, giving doctors the very real ability to painlessly view inside the human body. Ohioans are visionaries, but practical as well. It wasn’t long after a pair of Ohioans invented the airplane that another Ohioan invented the parachute. Our schools must teach students to think past the limits of what’s been done, and imagine what could be done.
“Fourth, our best teachers can show us what works best in the classroom. We need to consult them and follow their lead. Great teachers can be a resource not only for their students but for their fellow educators. We should support these teachers by giving them the freedom to stay in the classroom and still be rewarded for sharing their expertise with their peers. We lose a lot of new teachers – as many as half of all new teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years – but we can help keep these talented people by giving them better access to senior colleagues.
“Fifth, we must strive to develop a specific, personalized education program that identifies how each individual student learns and use the teaching methods appropriate to that student’s needs and abilities. The great educator and philosopher John Dewey described this idea many years ago. He wrote that we must shift “the center of gravity” in schools. It’s a “revolution, not unlike that introduced by Copernicus when the astronomical center shifted from the Earth to the sun. In this case, the child becomes the sun around which the appliances of education revolve.”
“Sixth, testing and assessment will continue to answer accountability questions. But their most important role will be to guide personalized and individualized education through a comprehensive and ongoing understanding of a student’s capabilities and weaknesses and growth in the educational process. I will be guided by these principles as I draft my plan not only for funding, but also for reforming our schools.”
In the second part of the forum, Strickland brought up reform ideas that have been suggested to him. He started by saying: “This is our opportunity for us to think together and to think boldly — I want to think about transforming our schools. Now, we are not an artist looking at an almost finished painting and wondering where to put that last brush stroke in order to make it a little better. What we are is an artist looking at a blank slate and asking what is the best thing we can create here …
“Let me emphasize what we are talking about today are ideas, not proposals, ideas we need to give thought to. We know there are educational practices still used here in Ohio and across American that were created literally centuries years ago to meet he needs of a fully agrarian society, I think and we need to ask ourselves is there a better way to serve our Ohio school children today and certainly in the years to come.”
The governor said that a lot of ideas had been presented to him that he was studying. He outlined ideas having to do with using interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, hands on learning, longer school year and longer school day, a 21st Century Curriculum that emphasizes “major skills we need to impart, skills involving life, learning, and information skills,” internships for new teachers (following more the medical profession’s paradigm), a value added system of accountability for improving instruction and evaluating teachers, more authority for principals, school performance agreements, and a different grading system.
There were a lot of questions and comments from the participants and Strickland conducted the meeting quite competently, listening carefully and responding thoughtfully.
Strickland ended the program by saying, “I’m determined to work with you to try bring out the kind of results Ohio needs for our students and our people because our students have the capacity to change the world for good and we, quite frankly, should be capable of changing our schools to help them do just that.”