Recipe for an education


According to an old proverb, it takes a village to raise a child.

Participants in the Ohio Public-Private Collaborative Commission recently determined it also takes a village to educate a child.

At a Columbus City School district board meeting Nov. 18, Superintendent Gene Harris, along with Jerry Jurgensen, Nationwide chief executive officer, and Donald S. Van Meter, president of VMC Consulting Group, presented an executive summary of the commission’s findings. Harris also cited ways in which the district aligned with the findings.

The commission, a directive of Governor Ted Strickland and Ohio legislators through Senate Bill 311, spent nearly one year deliberating ways in which to improve the state’s education system. The group determined its top priorities to ensure children obtain the best, thorough education to meet the demands of the 21st -century.

The plan, according to the commission, should focus on four priorities: Involving entire communities in the well-being and education of students, education outside of the classroom for all children, ending the dropout epidemic and improving school leadership.

The commission’s report included “Ohio’s New Learning Day,” which stresses learning outside of the classroom and the involvement of communities.

“Curriculum is important, but it must go beyond that in order for students to succeed,” Harris said.

According to Van Meter, the commission’s intentions were also to set students, educators, families and communities up for success in meeting Ohio Core requirements, which were established in December 2007.

“The commission said it is irresponsible for us to provide educational services and tolerance practices that don’t help all students achieve at a higher level,” Van Meter said.
“If we expect students to master at these higher levels, we need to provide supportive ways to do it.”

As part of the executive summary, the commission recommended “a fully integrated birth-to-career, performance-based education system,” and stressed the importance of preparing students for college or the workplace after graduation. According to a 2006 American Community Survey used for the commission’s report, Ohio ranked 22nd in the nation for percentage of adults with a high school diploma or higher. More than 33 percent of Ohio adults completed an associates degree and only 25.2 percent of Ohioans obtained a bachelor’s degree.

A smooth transition between high school and college or the workplace is important, and the commission recommended promoting public/private task forces comprised of members of all aspects of the community.

“It’s amazing to me we even need to make an argument on the importance of a college degree,” Jurgensen said. “But, apparently, we still need to do that.”

The Columbus City School district follows the same initiatives as the commission’s recommendations, according to Harris, though still needs improvement.

“I am here to declare absolute progress in better strategic alignment with the community and better using the community in order to assist students moving forward,” she said.

The district offers an array of programs that align with each priority set forth by the commission, but the district, Harris said, can still learn from the commission’s recommendations.

“I am here to declare we are on our way,” Harris said. “We are making progress, but there are other opportunities.”

One issue the commission didn’t address, said board President Terry Boyd, is funding. The commission recognizes this component, Jurgensen said.

“School funding clearly needs to be brought into the discussion,” he said. “And with the Ohio economy the way it is, we have to make sure we get what we need in schools, and make sure no one in the community can point the finger and blame our schools.”

Board member Shawna Gibbs, who works with students in rural Ohio districts, worried about those not in urban districts with more opportunities. The priorities recommended by the commission might prove hard for some Ohio areas, she said.

“While I’m extremely excited Columbus City Schools is on its way to meet the expectations, students in rural communities are not quite where they are,” she said. “But to raise the level across the board is daunting.”
Jurgensen agreed.

“It is extremely uneven across the state and the amount of community support will vary,” he said. “Each community will have to wrestle the alligator to the ground with what they have to work with, which will be a challenge. How the state fills in the gaps will also be the challenge.”


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