State supt. defends school ‘mandates’
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Education Editor
Thursday, 15 August 2013 09:03
State Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Ross told prospective educators to stay persistent and have grit as they enter their careers.
|ODE Superintendent Dr. Richard Ross speaking at BGSU on Wednesday. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Ross was in Northwest Ohio Wednesday to speak with faculty and College of Education students at Bowling Green State University, then was going to meet with local public schools superintendents and treasurers before visiting the Toledo School for the Arts this afternoon.
TSA, a charter school for creative students in grades 6-12, is sponsored by BGSU.
Ross is no stranger with this part of the state, having grown up in Defiance County and earning his PhD from BGSU.
He said there has been a lot of finger pointing between higher education and K-12 schools in that 40 percent of college freshmen statewide need remediation.
"Who's teaching these students?" Ross asked of his audience of future teachers.
Everyone needs to work together to create a birth to jobs seamless education process, he said.
While he touched on changes to the Local Report Card, the need for students to have a high school diploma or GED, and teacher prep, he focuses much of his time on the third-grade guarantee that becomes effective this school year as well as a Straight A fund from the Ohio Department of Education.
He stated that last year, 27,000 youngsters in Ohio did not pass the third-grade test. Six out of 10 students that drop out of high school can't read at the third-grade level.
The third-grade guarantee, which becomes mandated this year, requires that every third-grader will have to pass a state-set reading exam to move forward to fourth grade.
Ross said he's heard the test referred to as another unfunded mandate.
"Is it about money or what you think is important?" he asked his audience.
Ross is a former teacher, principal and district superintendent.
He put much of the burden on student learning on teachers' and administrative shoulders.
Should schools choose to increase reading classes by 30 minutes or 90 minutes each day?
In 10 years, this "mandate" might help eradicate the remediation rate of students going on to college, Ross stated.
And with good leadership in the school systems, there should be no stigma attached to holding a child back a year, he added.
"Third-grade reading is not negotiable to me," Ross stated.
And there's no excuse, either, that their child's reading skills, or lack thereof, should come as a surprise to parents, he concluded.
As for Ohio's new $250 million Straight A Fund, educators will have the opportunity to put good ideas into action, Ross said.
The fund will provide funds to new approaches that meet the learning needs of its students, reduce the cost of running a school or school district, or drive more dollars to the classroom.
The goal, Ross said, is to create effective and efficient schools and increase student achievement.
He said school programs are too static, with the opinion that since they've been done in the past, they need to be offered now and are therefore hard to get rid of whether they're working or not.
ODE is seeking Straight A Fund proposals that solve specific problems in schools, can be quickly duplicated by others and are sustainable.
The funds are there "to create an opportunity for schools to move forward into the 21st century," Ross said.
He also briefly addressed teacher prep, and the need to be more attuned to school needs.
More physics, advanced math and special education teachers are needed, he stated.
And, "we needs for higher-quality teachers."
He pushed for co-teachers, where the teacher stays in the classroom rather than bolting for the break room when an intern takes over a class.
Steve Cillo, co-director of field experience within the Teachers Education Services department at BGSU, said he has met with 60 superintendents around the state, and there is still "a whole bushel basket of students that need to be placed."
A middle school education major asked Ross whether focusing on reading will hinder math skills down the road.
"If you're smart about this, you can embed reading across all subjects and kids have to read to do math and get jobs," Ross replied.
His final advice to students in the audience: "Be prepared to pay it forward."