When it comes to developing education policies, I’m beginning to think the members of the Ohio legislature are the unluckiest people on the face of the earth; or maybe the most inept; but neither one is good. Based on the sheer volume of the mandates they have created over the years, one would think the law of averages would dictate that they would hit the mark at least once, but they have not. Sadly, their most recent decision to scrap the PARCC assessments, which are the tests that accompany the Common Core and which have cost taxpayers millions and millions of dollars for no good reason, maintains their perfect record of missing the mark.
The decision to scrap PARCC isn’t a surprise, since at a Dayton Area Superintendents’ meeting a few weeks ago Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner acknowledged their failure and told us how the legislature intends to fix what they messed up in the first place. We now know that their “fix” is to replace them with tests that will be just as useless, although they don’t know what they are just yet. In plain speak, this means that rather than filling in the rat hole they throw our tax dollars in, legislators have decided to dig it a little deeper and wider while assuring us they are doing us a favor. They are not.
During her presentation, Senator Lehner talked about meaningless issues such as the technical glitches that occurred during testing or the bad public relations PARCC generated, apparently unaware that the bigger problem is the complete misuse of these tests and any ones like them. She blamed the testing company, the Ohio Department of Education, teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and even students for the failure tests’ failure. Not once did she consider blaming the people most deserving of it, the members of the Ohio Legislature. But, why should that surprise us since we allow them to get away with it?
As she talked, I couldn’t help but harken back to a disagreement she and I had about this very issue during a panel discussion sponsored by the Dayton Daily News a couple of years ago. At the time, I maintained that the legislature’s plans were so ill-conceived that their failure was guaranteed. She, of course, knew otherwise and didn’t hesitate to tell me how wrong I was. Well, history has proven who was right, and it wasn’t her. I’d love to be able to pound my chest and scream, “I told you so!” but the fact that school children, staff, parents, and taxpayers have all been ripped off by this debacle, makes me angry, not boastful.
This is the same Senator Lehner who, when I protested to her about how insulting it was to have politicians act as if they must tell educators every move to make in the best interest of kids, responded, “Well, Tom, if you guys (educators) would have done your jobs right in the first place, we wouldn’t have to tell you what to do.” Her intent was to insult both me and my profession, which is particularly humorous coming from a person who has played a major role in more bad decisions governing education than one should be permitted to make in a lifetime. But it was also an insult to the millions and millions and millions of us who have graduated from public schools and have become quite successful in life thanks in no part to the decisions she and her cronies make.
This is also the same Senator Lehner who was recently quoted as saying that she believes charter schools should have to follow the same guidelines as all other public schools. This is a rather incredible statement to be made by a member of the same governmental body that has created laws to ensure that charter schools do not have to follow the same rules as public schools. The fact that she would utter that statement is an insult to anyone who has been paying attention.
But, in spite of the fact that we can be guaranteed that the legislature will make a mess of the PARCC assessment replacement decision, there is a silver lining here. Make no mistake about it, PARCC isn’t disappearing because members of the legislature have developed some sense all of the sudden. They are disappearing because of the outrage they heard from their constituents, including parents, and that is encouraging. The same sense of outrage seems to be building against the charter school rat hole, which has made Ohio the laughingstock of the nation. Maybe we can get that changed, too.
It finally appears that people have had their fill of the foolishness and are starting to demand that it stops.
All I can say is that it is about time.Tom Dunn is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.