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The Listening Project

December 2009 - Education

The December survey featured a series of questions that polled respondents about their thoughts on the state of regional education, and on the educational services and programs offered by ideastream.

Below are the December survey questions, and selected responses from the 266 respondents.

Question #1
Which of the following statements most closely resembles your thoughts on K-12 (elementary, middle, high school) education in Northeast Ohio?

December Question 1

Open-ended response to this question included:

“The system is still broken, and little change has occurred.”

“K-12 is about as effective as last year, but in many districts that’s not saying much. One of the problems is that we have relatively poor tools for determining what “effective” means: effective at what? At academics? At developing social skills? At inspiring a sense of citizenship and participation? What, really, do we expect schools to be effective at doing? And how do we know it’s happened?”

“We must continue to be innovative in our teaching techniques for those students who do not learn through traditional methods.”

“The charter schools are doing a much better job than traditional education. They have to improve on teacher skills and motivating the children to use their minds instead of letting peers do it for them.”

“Public education is extremely successful considering all the negatives schools and teachers must deal with that have nothing to do with education. Two big problems I can think of is lack of parenting and lack of financial support for schools.”

“Students have become limited in their depth and scope of knowledge to a greater degree than I have seen in 18 years.”

“This is entirely too vague to measure ‘effectiveness’ accurately. Just change the words ‘K-12 education is’ to ‘parents are.’ Think of all the variables that impact children’s ability to learn… health, home stability, peers, individual teachers, class size, education level of parents, job losses, mobility, etc.”

“As a teacher/educator, I see and hear about what is going on in many classrooms. There is an enormous range, with some highly effective teachers and too many ineffective teachers. I would like to see tenure pulled from the public school system and replaced with merit. I’m hopeful that our graduates will replace ineffective teachers as they retire and tip the balance so that more children receive a good moral and academic experience in our public schools.”

“I have been tutoring and it is apparent to me that the reading textbooks are inadequate. Does anyone ever evaluate textbooks and reading instruction? Stop blaming parents and teachers for faulty instruction techniques. Teachers are not being taught to teach and publishers have boards of education over a barrel.”

“I am so tired of complaints about education with nothing to back it up! Everyone who complains wants to tell a story about a high schooler who can’t read. Is this relevant? Absolutely. But it is not the entire story. How about the high schooler whose family has moved him from school to school, in and out of state so there is no consistency in education, no time to start on a plan of action before the family is off again. And where is the money to fund all these changes? Forget the changes, just try to fund the amount of time it takes from educators to study a problem. Solutions are supposed to be “evidenced-based” but that means precious learning time is taken up with developing a plan to monitor improvements, the monitoring time which includes documentation, then putting together the numbers to see what changed and why. When do people think all this extra work happens?”

Question #2
Which of the following statements most closely resembles your thoughts on higher education (colleges, universities, post-secondary) in Northeast Ohio?

December Question 2

Open-ended response to this question included:

“There are even fewer comparative measures to evaluate the relative effectiveness of higher education than there are for K-12. One measure that should be illuminated, however, is the freshman retention rate.”

“I suspect that students are having more trouble maintaining continuous enrollment due to financial issues, making it more difficult to sustain continuity of effort and learning.”

“We live in a community where the non-traditional student is increasing.”

“Higher education may be more effective, although differences from one year to the next are usually not that significant---improvements take time.”

“Post secondary education continues to be innovative and searches to meet the needs of students who are working or on campus.”

“Big improvement in community colleges - that is where the real growth needs to come and is coming.”

“I believe that our local institutions are continuing a path towards excellence that has hitherto been lacking. I am so pleased with Tri-C and CSU in their efforts to be beacons of excellence in our community.”

“Higher education keeps trying to improve but with increased enrollment due to joblessness, downturn in state support and increased payment to presidents there is not much improvement in the quality of education.”

“Area community colleges have been stepping up to address needs for post-secondary education, and they will probably do well into the future. Four-year schools are suffering, however, as their traditional markets are buffeted by the economy. Stimulus funding has provided an artificial, temporary cushion for many programs.”

“High Education is likewise highly politicized with partisan lines drawn at the highest level - Board of Regents. There is the ‘divide’ between public and private institutions fueled by an ‘us’ against ‘them’ mindset.”

“To compare an issue with only one year span tends to obscure the fact that we now need at least an MS/MA to be on the same academic level as a BS/BA a generation ago.”

“I am concerned that universities are dumbing down their curricula to adjust to unprepared incoming students, rather than expecting students to meet a standard for admission.”

“I have taught at universities around the country and am currently auditing classes at a local college. I would say that because many of the students have come from Cleveland schools they are poorly prepared for working at the college level. Their behavior as well as their lack of study skills brings down the level of teaching that can be offered. I taught in some state universities located in financially lower income areas, but my students came prepared to class and when they didn’t know due to lack of exposure, they asked and followed up at the library. I, unfortunately, see little drive in many of the students in my classes.”

Question #3
What are the region’s educational assets?

The quality of higher education in the region was mentioned frequently in participant responses, with a variety of institutions named directly: The University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Case Western Reserve University, among others.

Open-ended response to this question included:

“We have an abundance of colleges in the area as well as a highly developed library system. Many businesses are willing to offer support.”

“Excellent range of colleges and universities, public and private. Well established public school systems that provide excellent support for education even in the face of problematic funding mechanisms, etc.”

“The strong universities we have in the area from Tri-C to the four-year colleges. Also there are more programs available to learn specific skills.”

“Local community colleges- I live near Lorain County Community College. It is the driving force in our county. It is stimulating the economy in more than one way. The college retrains workers who have lost their jobs. It encourages and supports small businesses and entrepreneurs. It encourages high school students who come from families that have no college graduates to attend college. The college has had several big construction projects going in the past few years.”

“I think the assets are the availability of college classes throughout a broader geographic area in NE Ohio, making it possible for people to attend classes closer to their home.”

“Wonderful community colleges like Lakeland and Tri-C. Cleveland State is growing nicely, becoming more prestigious. Baldwin-Wallace has great music and theater programs, and more. Kent State has a great Education major for the past 100 years. Other greats: John-Carroll, Ursuline, Case Western Reserve, Cleveland Institute of Art, the dental school, law school, Lake Erie College, Hiram, Malone, Akron Univ, YSU, and probably a few more I missed. We’re blessed in Ohio with some good schools of higher education.”

Another thread focused on the region’s teachers and educators, and how they can make a difference in the classroom.

“Teachers that are willing to go the extra mile.”

“Educators that are willing and able to make a change.”

“The city, itself, is an asset for educators if they use it creatively. I think CCC is an incredible asset, largely unacknowledged. CSU, while an asset, lags in public perception re: quality. CWRU could be a greater asset if the tenure and advancement process there rewarded community engagement at the same level as publication. And the K-12 faculty in high performing programs and districts is an incredible asset.”

“Many great colleges and universities to prepare our students for the future. This includes community college and continuing adult education programs.”

“Hard working teachers!”

“The caring educators who recognize their impact on the development of the whole child (character development, emotional intelligence, social & communication skills for conflict resolution, and the tools/skills for being a lifelong learner - not just academic content).”

Question #4
What are the region’s educational challenges?

The most mentioned challenge to regional education is the economy – specifically, funding schools.

“Not enough funding to keep important arts and physical education classes in K-12 schools. Not enough funding for people interesting in higher ed.”

“Funding programs for our schools and making sure the facilities are conducive to learning.”

“Change public education funding structure to eliminate need to present operating levies to voters at short intervals. Convince property owners that excellent school systems = property value appreciation, if school funding must be tied to property values.”

“Poor management of funds on a statewide level, leading to deprivation and misuse locally.”

“There is an unequal distribution of funding to challenged schools. Any parent who is struggling to financially support their family has a very difficult time supporting children academically. Perhaps more family support would help that problem, as well as education for young first time parents in preparing their children for school.”

“Because of the downturn in the economy, the local school systems have tightened their belts and made some hard choices. Teachers have been laid off. It appears that some students are being left behind because of a lack of resources. Young people are graduating from college and leaving the area in order to find teaching jobs. This has caused a brain drain from our area.”

Another thread that appeared in the open-ended response included improving the role parents play in a child’s education.

“Getting parents and then their children to value an education. It’s very hard when people’s many basic needs are not even being met: security, food, housing, clothing, jobs, etc.”

“Trying to juggle set schedules into the day, instead of worrying about the children’s needs.”

“Far too many students receive little or no education at home. The lack of family extends to little training in simple basics like manners and how to behave in public.”

“What do we do to save the students in the Cleveland school district. It is a whole cultural and attitudinal change that needs to occur. Families need to take education seriously.”

“Poverty, parents who are not actively involved in children’s education, parents who think they know everything about education.”

“Poor parenting, poor parenting, and poor parenting. There is a sense that education is not valued and that all the difficulties and hurdles in educating our children rest on the teacher’s shoulders. Administrations are looking the other way as to how to truly tackle the problems facing our students, and put all of the blame on the teachers.”

“Students don’t attend regularly, homework is not being completed. Parents are not emphasizing the importance of school to their children.”

“Our children arrive at school without the tools they need to succeed, like a good night’s rest and a full belly. Often, this isn’t about money. It is about parents who won’t cut kids off from their cell phones at night and won’t require them to eat a decent breakfast in the morning.”

Here are some more thoughts from respondents regarding regional educational challenges:

“Everything is too expensive. We need a general liaison to help people make decisions about school and about how to finance it. Someone not connected with any school.”

“We continue to be challenged to offer a comprehensive public school education to children in the Cleveland school system. It seems incomprehensible that so many different superintendents have failed so miserably to improve the education and lives of these children. Too many platitudes, not enough common sense action on behalf of children who live in urban areas.”

“With children having children, it will be a challenge as the child/parent still needs a lot of guidance concerning her own welfare as well as her child’s.”

“K-12 schools in the city proper need to be kicked more. Teachers complain that they can’t teach, kids complain that they can’t learn,and the dropout rate is abysmal.”

“Education is, by definition, a long-term enterprise, one that requires a sense of ultimate objectives if it is to thrive. I think the region lacks sufficient confidence in its own future to provide that long-term perspective.”

“People say the public school system is failing. Certainly they could improve, but in order for them to do so we need to take away the responsibility that has been thrust on them in the last thirty years. They are now asked to be a social agency as well as an educational system. Children from disadvantaged areas come to school woefully unprepared to learn and the schools now have the responsibility to not only teach, but to feed, and to act as surrogate parents. Society needs to step in and say it is NOT OK to have over 50% of our children born to unwed mothers. It is patently unfair to bring a child into this world this way. I say this for the children but I also say it selfishly for myself. When business and industry cannot find enough qualified high school grads to fill their most elementary and entry level positions our city suffers as a whole. When kids drop out and turn to crime, who is to blame? Solve the problem of unwed mothers and you go a very long way to solving a lot of problems.”

“Too many children who are not given the basic tools they need. I worked at the Cleveland School of the Arts and saw how compelling it was for those children to succeed. They were given many avenues of expression but most importantly, they were given hope and a belief in themselves. Many came into the school with no self esteem and left knowing that they had a future. Every child has abilities but our children are often raised in an environment where thay are defeated before they begin. We must provide more educational environments like the CSA for our children.”

Question #5
Have you seen, heard, or used any of the following programs and/or web content in the past six months? (choose all that apply)

December Question 5

Open-ended response to this question included:

“All are incredible programs. I’d particularly like to see NewsDepth and PSI made more known to local schools along with more outreach programs to bring them physically into the classroom or in an interactive distance learning environment.”

“There seems to be a bias in many reports of blaming schools and teachers and yet the reality is, in most cases, schools and teachers are working very diligently to educate students in spite of challenges that include inadequate funding, psychological and physical problems that impede student learning, etc. Many charter and private schools are more often praised while many public schools are demeaned unfairly---it is a very different playing field when a school has to keep all students no matter what. Private and charter schools usually get rid of their most challenging students and they end up in the public schools, especially those with open enrollment (a policy that is often adopted for monetary reasons). And many times, the public school is able to succeed where the private and charter schools could not because of very diligent, highly qualified, yet overworked teachers and staff. More needs to be done to highlight the success of public schools. I will check out the resources you listed that I did not check and appreciate all you do to support all education, public and private.”

“I have used ideastream educational programs in the past; I have purchased programs from public broadcasting and frequently discuss information passed along by NPR.”

“WVIZ (& WCPN) audience(s) should be made aware of your educational services. It should have a place in pledge pitches.”

“I would always like to see and hear more about what highly effective educators are doing and how they are doing it. The more educated parents and community members are about what high quality, highly effective education looks like, the more likely we are to be able to shift the paradigm and increase our success in public schools. It is not a matter of more money, it is a commitment to higher quality education of the whole child (not just cognitive gains). Standardized tests are NOT the best way to measure quality instruction nor do they tell us whether our students know what they need to be able to do to navigate the future; they focus a narrow beam of light on one aspect of education leaving the rest of the child in the dark.”

“These programs are excellent but may not appeal or reach those who would benefit the most from their content.”

“You keep me in touch with the community!”

“Many of the people who need the information (at our college at least) don’t want or listen to public TV or radio. It is seen by my students as the media for brainiacs or geeks… does not relate to them. They decide without ever having listened.”

“Reporting on education is one thing, but it doesn’t relate to any substantial change in the system. NOVA has lost credibility and is not worth watching. I have not seen the other shows since I watch very little, if any, TV.”

“Sound of Ideas burns the phone lines when it does programs on education. The host Dan Moulthrop reveals his bias of being a public school apologist. There is great potential for ideastream to do more innovative programming in what is happening across the region and the country in advancing teaching and learning. Too little is done probably because of heavy representation on the ideastream board by the public school hierarchy.”

“Also watched a POV on PBS about principals. Very informative about what we are doing to the education system. A lesson in change for change’s sake, never mind the human connection, and meeting the needs of the employees.”

Question #6
ideastream offers a variety of educational content and services. Are you aware of or use any of the following? (choose all that apply)

December Question 6

Open-ended response to this question included:

“I had no idea there were so many ideastream contributions. These should be better publicized.”

“Wow! I wasn’t aware of the SMART Consortium math and science workshops. This is great!”

“I’ve used and recommended PSI.”

“I would like to be better informed about offerings in the community. When you rely on only the educational service centers or school districts to get the word out the system is too large and not timely. They do not move or share beyond their individual walls and do not have capacity to do so either.”

“I actually took an online course this past spring and was quite pleased with the entire experience.”

“WVIZ does an awesome job of keeping teachers connected to new technology and quality media.”

“These workshops are ALWAYS full of interesting ideas, some that are incorporated and some that are too time intense to incorporate. But all information is able to be manipulated to fit the lessons presented in the classrooms.”

“I try to be aware of these kinds of resources - and share them with my students - but I did not know about most of these. And, I have 90.3 on in the background all day. Why is it that these resources were not more noticeable to a consumer like me?”

“You have not clearly/obviously made your educational offerings well known.”

“I try to bring what I’ve learned into my classrooms, but it is hard because although many of my students’ knowledge is at a middle school level, they don’t want information for ‘kids.’ Any chance of doing some programs for adults who are functionally illiterate or a bit above that level?”

Question #7
What educational services would you find useful that ideastream could offer you that they currently don’t now?

Open-ended response to this question included:

“I teach Japanese at CWRU. Although I belong to national and state associations for teachers of Japanese, I am not plugged in to the activities and programs of Japanese in the local K-12 systems. I would love to see ideastream do a program or service that could spotlight foreign language teaching in the region and that could serve as a source-point for foreign language teachers to become aware of, contact and work with each other. I would even be happy to help.”

“More adult workshops offered as interactive streaming video online.”

“Educating the community via the website on state and federal policy issues that affect us. There’s great coverage day to day on ideastream but no place on the website to go to get updates and interpretation consistently on pending legislation and its consequences for the average person.”

“Northeast Ohio green resources web pages. Perhaps a climate science primer, links to information concerning home weatherization, locally produced food availability, bicycle commuting resources.”

“I am an elementary school counselor. I would like more services in that area (i.e. bullying prevention and awareness, awareness and acceptance of differences, social skills and awareness).”

“Closer to my area, I don’t have time to drive an hour there and back.”

“Application, resume and interview skills for older or retired workers looking to get back to work. (Those who have a big retirement nest egg go to Florida or Arizona… and aren’t here to support the community… or ideastream.)”

“They are pretty well-rounded in the services they provide now.”

“Show the community many examples of highly effective teachers, schools with a “community of learners” culture, authentic ways to assess student learning and to evaluate what teachers are doing.”

“On-demand, streamed PBS shows like ‘Fetch.’ We will be getting rid of our TV connections in the next month due to the high cost of cable/dish relative to the low amount of time (under 10 hours a month) that we watch and watching all our tv content online.”

“I think ideastream does an outstanding job of supporting teachers & students in the region.”

“I love the ‘Design Squad’ on Tuesdays and I believe there is another show like it on WVIZ… could you offer something along those lines locally?”

“Host a show devoted exclusively to innovation in teaching and learning pulling in leading thinkers and practical leaders in education e.g. Clayton Christensen, Howard Fuller, Alan November and a host of many, many others who remain virtually unknown in Northeast Ohio.”

“I would love to know if there are services for kids with learning disabilities and for adults that have been out of the educational arena for a significant amount of time.”

“Send out a bulletin of these educational programs and services, like the one that used to go to the media services in schools. I would literally HOVER over a bulletin like that. I would highlight ALL the useful shows and find out when I could have my students watch them. And… could we all get them via our computers? Or are we back to that two in the morning schedule?”

“The services and programs are well designed, but need to have broader utilization.”

“I enjoy attending the special programs at the Natural History Museum and Cleveland Botanical Garden. Please try to have programming that complements their exhibits. For example, my husband and I attend the lecture on sustainable cities at the Natural History Museum. This was part of the Explorer series. Cleveland needs to be looking at what other cities have accomplished to address global climate change and how to be more energy efficient. We were both impressed by what is being done and more people should hear about it.”

“A discussion page for educators to reach other educators and ask and answer questions. I like the online classes, not always sure how easy the process is to sign up and get graduate credit. Maybe a connection to the different public school systems in the area. Who does what well? Let’s share ideas.”

“Weekly program tapping into the minds of Northeast Ohioans who are experts in their fields. For example having Keiper of the CMNH do something on forensic entomology for biology classes.”

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