This is a problem. Serious education reform demands strong, competent leadership for two reasons. First, kids don’t have lobbyists to look after their interests. The inertia and resistance to change manifested by the education system and its myriad adult interest groups are so powerful that, absent first-rate leadership, one must expect nothing much to change. This is particularly dangerous for a state with weak job growth, anemic economic growth, and signs of a brain drain.
Second, while Ohioans substantially agree about many of the problems facing public education and the reforms needed to address those problems, they are split down the middle on others. Effective leadership is mandatory, else nothing will change.
This would be okay if nothing needed to change, but Ohioans surely don’t think so—and plenty of objective evidence says they are correct. Only a third of survey respondents—and fewer than one in five African Americans—believe their local public schools are “doing pretty well and need little change.” Virtually all others want “major change” or “a whole new system.” This is no surprise in a state where close to half of respondents also see the economy as a serious issue. Ohioans know that education and economic opportunity are connected, and they’re worried about both
But there’s good news in the survey, too. On many important education issues and reform ideas, Ohioans manifest broad agreement as to what’s wrong, what’s important, and what ought to happen.
Here are five key education topics where we see something akin to consensus:
- Money alone won’t accomplish much. Respondents believe it would “get lost along the way” to classroom improvement (69 percent).
- Stop social promotion and automatic graduation. Teachers should pass kids to the next grade “only if they learn what they are supposed to know” (87 percent) and high school students should pass tests “in each of the major subjects before they can graduate” (83 percent).
- Free-up the front-line educators. Local schools ought to have considerably greater freedom and control over curriculum, budgets, and, especially, firing “teachers that aren’t performing” (89 percent).
- Reward good teachers. Good teachers should be rewarded with higher pay (84 percent) and paid more if they “work in tough neighborhoods with hard-to-reach students” (77 percent).
- Enforce discipline. Schools should enforce strict discipline with regard to student behavior, dress, and speech (91 percent).
Joanne’s site has links to Ohio’s NAEP numbers.