INDEPENDENCE, Ohio a Ohio’s proposed plan to guide schools received a mostly-warm reception Tuesday night from more than 200 parents, teachers, administrators and education advocates gathered to offer feedback to the state.
The meeting at the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County was the seventh of 13 planned sessions across Ohio on the plan that sets a few new goals for education in the state.
– A desire to teach students more social and emotional life skills and how to think critically.
– A desire to treat those skills as equal to teaching students English and math.
– A goal of helping students graduate from high school with the ability to choose their own path, whether that be college, a job or the military.
For 90 minutes, residents gathered at small tables to debate the strengths and weaknesses of the plan. Written feedback won’t be compiled for a few weeks, but most offered support for the core of the plan, while seeking minor adjustments.
“I think it has a ways to go,” said former teacher Patricia Cermak, who said she supports about 75 percent of the plan. “I think it’s great that people are sitting down to do something.”
Heather Johnson, another former teacher, said people at her discussion table agreed that helping the “whole child” and not just focusing on highly-tested subjects is a welcome change.
“We can increase student success when we are addressing the whole child,” she said.
Participants at a few tables were unsure whether to trust that critical thinking and social and emotional skills would truly be counted as equal by the state. That could be a sticky issue on state report cards, where academic subjects have standardized tests and there are few ways to measure other skills evenly.
“It’s one thing to say these things,” one participant said. “It’s another to back it up.”
People at a few tables said the plan, however, does not give enough weight to the arts, which they considered crucial to the development of a child.
Support was also strong for the plan not making college the main goal for students, but wanting to help them pursue a path they choose. Several people said the “college-for all” push of recent years was harmful for many students. And many said that vocational and career training should be increased.
Helping kids chase different options that will make them happy was a welcome change.
“That is what we aspire to have our kids do,” said one participant.
State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said that residents at previous meetings have said the plan has a lot of aspirations, but few ways of achieving them. He said the plan is meant just to reach consensus on goals – for now.
“The action will come later,” he said.