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The Listening Project

Summer 2011 - Education

The Summer 2011 Listening Project survey featured a series of questions that polled respondents about their thoughts about education. The topic of education has been rated among the top 2 most important challenges for our community in Listening Project surveys over the last decade.

Accordingly, WVIZ/PBS and 90.3 WCPN have been actively covering education and have recently launched a new project to examine the impact of government on education in Ohio.

Check out these resources after you’ve looked at what you and your neighbors had to say about education. Below are the survey questions, and selected responses from the 96 respondents.

Question #1: Please rate the quality of education in Ohio.

Please rate the quality of education in Ohio.

“Great universities, good suburban schools, poor inner-ring and urban schools. A wide choice of private schools available.”

“The tax payer is not getting what they are paying for.”

“I think most schools in Northeast Ohio do what they are supposed to do, and not more, mostly due to budget difficulties.”

“Our funding model continues to support pervasive disparity amongst districts of wealthy and poor communities.”

“My perception is that Ohio is struggling in its commitment to education.  People talk about education as important, but then educators and education seem to be under attack - Senate Bill 5, vouchers, charter universities, etc.”

“Like the rest of the nation, too much hinges on where a child happens to live.  Plus, the standards keep changing.  This latest thing with the documents students should read- strictly a political move.”

“Quality varies wildly within Northeast Ohio.”

“My thorough answer is: there are above average educational opportunities and below average educational opportunities is Ohio. Why we don’t follow the lead of those who provide above average education, is beyond me. Note: I am not referring to test scores; I am referring to EDUCATION.”

“Students electing not to attend college or pursue trade or vocational training after high school don’t seem ready to enter today’s workforce.”

“Many schools are offering top notch education for children in Ohio.”

“We think we are better than we are.”

“Public education is strong in Ohio. There are a few image stumbling blocks that seem to be masking the TRUE good and bad. I feel that one is being created by our current administration. Public educators were immediately vilified when Kasich took office. This put educators on the defense. Now neither side seems willing to work with the other. The other problem is that when a poor teacher is found, the media blows the problem up and again, fingers are pointed at the whole system.”

“The rate of the quality of education in Ohio is only average, or possibly below average, save for the few STEM schools that (used to) get funding from the state. Because the Tea Party, of which I am appalled that with their nowhere near reality beliefs even have a say in anything, have attacked the teachers and their union and falsely accused them of being overfunded and overpaid. So many teachers have been laid off because of budget cuts that are really not for any particular reason. Furthermore, it seems that the only people who get hired are not those who are veterans of the work force, but those who are more focused on their personal lives than teaching and have no experience whatsoever.”

Question #2: Please rate the quality of education in the school district where you live.

Please rate the quality of education in the school district where you live.

“They cater to the lowest common denominator and are so worried about helping the neediest; they have pushed aside the vast majority of average and above average student. Only one family in my neighborhood sends their kids to our schools. Everyone else has picked privates.  So we live here because of the community and certainly not the schools.”

“Keeping pace w/regional competition, but not strongly striving for excellence.”

“Don’t know, I don’t work there or have children there. They have test scores that are not so hot though.”

“We are a relatively affluent district and have the ability to offer a little more than average.”

“I live in Cleveland. I am an educator (although not for Cleveland Municipal Schools). CMSD is stuck in a quagmire worse than any and is not headed towards healing. There is no district in Ohio that needs qualified, dedicated, supported teachers than CMSD, yet that effort is undermined by our local and state governments. Kasich is hell-bent on destroying access to free and appropriate public education for all students, whether of a higher or lower socio-economic status, general or special education. There are disposable students for Kasich and others who support vouchers.”

“I live in Shaker Heights. The problem here is that there are at least two systems of education.  If your child is inherently brilliant and/or you are a terrific advocate for your child- you child will get an excellent education. If you are transient and/or not very knowledgeable about “the Shaker way” your child will get the standard education- which is probably better than many districts- but not the best the district has to offer.”

“I live in the city of Cleveland. Sometimes when I’m out and see how parents in the community relate to their children I feel that the kids might not be getting what they need at home. If this is the case, it would cause disruptive behavior in the classroom.”

“This district was excellent in the past although much has changed since our children attended and we taught. Kids think life is simple, but much has to be learned before adulthood.”

“The school down the street from my home is in Academic Emergency and has been for years; only 27% of their eighth graders passed the OAA.”

“We pulled back up from a lower score. We could be better though. Students with learning problems do not always get what they need.”

“Too much corruption and cronyism.”

“Excellent with Distinction.”

Question #3: Ohio’s higher education systems (State Universities, Junior and Community Colleges, Vocational Schools) are meeting the needs of Ohio.

Ohio's higher education systems are meeting the needs of Ohio.

“I am concerned about the rising cost of state schools. It used to be that everyone who wanted to attend could… not so much anymore.”

“They’re probably doing a fine job in the high-power programs which attract superior students.  They may also be pulling up and helping along those students who somehow didn’t thrive in K-12.  Obviously, vocational schools are not meeting the state’s needs, because every week one reads/hears that skilled trades jobs are going unfilled or are going to people with serious attitudinal and training issues.”

“They can only do as well as they can with the students they are given...and our K-12 institutions, overall, are not doing well at creating thoughtful, creative students. We’re testing them to death on skills but not application, so students are not prepared to take wing with higher learning. We’re also leaving out the least among us. There are fewer and fewer programs for our special needs adults as they age out of schools.”

“The community college is the new American high school.”

“While I agree they are meeting the needs, I do take exception to a ‘system’ that permits higher education to raise tuition at what seems like their own discretion.”

“I think that we as educators are doing well but are hamstrung by bureaucracy and lack of money.”

“We have several good and even a few world-class colleges and universities. The problem is that too many of the region’s children are prepared to enter, much less graduate, from them.”

“Universities and colleges were not meant to be job training programs, but that is what they have turned into. We don’t have the jobs in Ohio for all the graduates. Perhaps more students need to be directed to community college and vocational schools for the jobs that are available.”

“Graduation rates feel low.”

“Ohio has two major wealth producing sectors, Agriculture and Manufacturing. Higher education should be the incubators for development in these areas.”

“They are so focused on job training due to political pressure and have forgotten the need to prepare our citizens for a lifetime of working, not just one job.”

“While there are lots of campuses and departments, there are many who can’t complete degrees due to financial, family and confidence issues.”

“There are good programs, but like all secondary education, insanely overpriced.  Student debt is a huge burden.”

Question #4: What are the challenges facing Ohio education?

“Funding and teaching.”

“A teaching paradigm based on creating employees, not developing people.”

“Catering to the smallest populations due to legislative and judicial mandates while educating the majority of students. Realizing that not every student should go to college, thereby reinstating vocational education. Cutting the ridiculous bureaucracy and multi-layered administrations.”

“The unconstitutional way we fund the schools, the lack of cooperation between state boards, local boards, and actual educators.”

“Money for resources and diverse programming to suit all needs.”

“My pet peeve about education and the way it is discussed nation-wide right now is that we seem to have accepted the assumption that the goal of education is preparing people for work. This seems to me to present an impoverished view of education. Education is meant to prepare young people for life and to enrich everyone’s life. Work is an important part of life, but is not everything. We also need to be preparing young people to participate in life politically, socially, and culturally and enriching everyone’s life in that way. I’d like to see Ohio take the lead is resisting this impoverished view of education as vocational training and embrace a richer view.”

“School Vouchers are siphoning funds from struggling public schools. Charter Schools are filling a need, but they need to have rigorous controls and should be strictly monitored to be sure that they are credible.  Only credible sanctioned Charter Schools should be funded through the Voucher system. Too many fly-by night/for profit charter schools are taking needed funding away from public schools. Teachers also need a Merit Pay System!!! Nearly guaranteed employment for teachers just because you have longevity in the school system is an outdated system. Making sure the best teachers are educating our kids is vital to their success. A mixture of testing scores AND other elements (to be developed by a panel of teachers and administrators) should be implemented to ensure that the best teachers are educating students.”

“Ending the over-emphasis on testing, and the evisceration of the public school system by the right-wing desire to bust unions, privatize the schools, and in essence dumb down the public.”

“Teachers need to be fired that don’t teach. They can’t be. Principals in our district have to file complaints against the teachers in order for the school board to be able to fire them. The principals are friends with the teachers and don’t file the complaints. We saw it first-hand.  I worked in the school the entire year last year. If there’s nothing in their file, the school board can’t fire them or else they will have the union on them.”

“Money, money, money - continuing to fund education with the current system is and has not been working.  Nothing will change - Senate Bill 5 is a joke and it is not the answer. We must refocus our attention on the funding problems. Lack of parental involvement - it is unbelievable the impact this has on students. The correlation between parental involvement and student success is huge and needs to be addressed. Of course this is taboo since parents are the ‘customers’ so the school district has limited options in dealing with this issue.”

Cutting education funding is a crime. Teacher salaries may be higher than you think they deserve, but those words are never uttered by someone who has tried their hand at actually teaching. Taking away education from our children will only serve to let the smart ones rise to the top even faster and let the an ever-growing mass of average kids get lost.  An entire generation is about to loose out. If we can codify the exact locations of casinos in the constitution, why not mandate that all elected officials’ kids MUST attend school in the poorest district in the state - perhaps that would wake them up?

“We are not providing adequate early education in the Basics. We must provide strong foundations in math, reading, grammar/English, science, etc. in order for students to succeed at higher levels… whatever those levels may be.  I think we could do a much better job than we are at building this foundation.”

“Overall I think that quality of education is good, but needs to be more equitable by solving the funding issue.”

“Changing society in the information age… we’re still teaching to the 1950s. Today, with all the information in the world at our fingertips, love of learning and critical thinking should be what’s taught, not facts for a test.”

“Ohio’s challenge is no different from any other state… our education system was predicated on the assumption that students would come to school ready to learn. School readiness comes from parent involvement: early reading experiences, appropriate socialization, respect for authority, etc. Urban districts, rural districts, and most working class districts have placed responsibility for school readiness on the schools (there is a research study that supports this). High end suburban districts are the few districts that have a student population that fits education’s original intent. Schools are dumbing down curricula because students have few skills for learning and little or no support at home. Consequently, the purpose of education has to be reinvented to meet what 21st century students need, want, and are responsive to. Additionally, a new ed. structure must be developed that fits this new model.”

“Funding from the state, or lack thereof.”

“We have far too many people setting directions for and running our educational institutions and systems. We would laugh at the notion of a politician going into the surgical unit at the Cleveland Clinic and directing them on how to do their jobs.”

“Affordable higher education.”

Question #5: What one thing would you do to improve Ohio education?

“Re-instate vocational ed. Re-instate neighborhood schools - thereby building community. Realize that some kids will always be in the bottom - that’s the definition of the bell curve. Our problem is that by trying to eradicate the bottom of the curve, we have only moved the middle to an untenable position resulting in their slide to further down the bell curve. Let’s get back to a true norm and not the politically correct norm into which we have manipulated the system.”

“Include more multicultural education.”

“Pay teachers better; retire tired teachers.”

“Really look at where the money is going and what is being gotten for the money spent.”

“Get rid of school boards. Have a person other than the Principal be in charge of teachers. The Principals should be in charge of the students. The teacher’s boss needs to be someone other than their co-worker friend.”

“Increase interventions in the early grades. Work on parental support. Change the funding system as it stands.”

“Force more parental participation.”

“Establish a year-round school year, or at least lots of publicly funded summer enrichment activities.”

“Honestly, I really don’t know, but I’m convinced that the education of children depends on strong family backing.”

“It’s not that simple… one thing! Non-educators don’t understand the complexity involved in education ranging from K-12 through post-secondary. Okay, one thing, I would have more vocational training at the 9-12 level with seamless entry into post secondary trade schools; to compliment that, I would strongly discourage teachers from telling every student he/she needs ‘to go to college.’ ‘College’ doesn’t teach skills, but most employment openings require skills. If the individual wants academic training offered by four-year colleges and universities, he/she can always get it later - after they earn a few pay checks. Fifty percent of the freshman class at any state college drops out by second semester… that should tell you something.”

“Equal opportunity for everyone. This included equal access to special education and gifted education for public school students.”

“Get rid of any kid who threatens another child or teacher. Partner with child and family services to bring in social workers for troubled youth. Quit worrying about how many kids show up and actually teach the ones who do.”

“Make parents and teachers accountable.”

“Listen to the teachers - they know what to do.”

“Eliminate teacher’s unions.”

Question #6: Do you feel like you have the opportunity to make a difference in the quality of Ohio education?

“Yes, as a parent/classroom volunteer/PTA member/tax-payer.”

“No. The current administration in Columbus gives every indication they are emphatically NOT listening to their constituents.”

“My children are beyond college, so not so much, anymore. Of course, one votes for school levies.”

“Yes, but only in a small corner of our educational programming. It’s like Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill. Those in power (Kasich and others ignorant of true education theories and practice) keep silencing voices by blaming educators and hurting the spirits of those who work in our educational institutions. Educators and all school staff should be valued and revered for what they do.”

“Not really.”

“Maybe.”

“Yes, through lobbying our politicians and through the OEA/NEA.”

“Little. Contact legislators that don’t listen appear to be the only option. There appears to be no way for me to improve public education enough for my son (who has dyslexia) to return to our public school district. Instead, we spend his and his brothers’ college education money on a school that can meet his needs. That’s not what I pay taxes for.”

“We are moving out of Ohio due to the education our kids our receiving. All the area schools are the same. Instead of choosing the lesser of two evils, we are moving to a state with better schools.”

“I think I can make a modest difference. But education policy is so politicized: I don’t think the politicians pay attention to actual educators. If they did an internship in an ACTUAL school for 4-6 weeks, I think a difference could be made.”

“I believe that I have an opportunity to make a difference in the quality of Ohio education even if I just give encouraging words and hope to students and parents on a daily basis. I believe everyone has an opportunity to play a role in making a difference in Ohio education.”

“No! I vote for levies and the money just gets wasted. In Cleveland we voted to fix school buildings. The buildings that were fixed closed. They put the kids in buildings that are old and nasty. Now they say they are out of money. The previous educational administration bamboozled the taxpayers.”

“Education is a community project, not just a school project. We all have the opportunity to promote the wonderful payoffs of a broad liberal arts type education, which in itself promotes understand of our world and our place in it.”

Question #7: What suggestions do you have for coverage of education on 90.3 WCPN, WVIZ/PBS and ideastream.org?

“Go to some well functioning schools and find out what they are doing - not cool new programs, such as Chinese, but the basics. It’s all in the basics. Then see what the poorly functioning schools are doing with the basic. Make a direct comparison - without the filters of ‘suburban/metro,’ socio-economic, race, etc.  Fifty, seventy-five, one hundred years ago plenty of folks were in as tough or tougher circumstances, many without English as a first language, but the schools functioned, the kids went, learned and followed a path to success as an adult - not all of course (go back to the bell curve) but the vast majority. We didn’t set the definition for success back then.  Each educated to find their own way.”

“Address root issues/values in education and not just the symptoms of a failing system. Maybe do a story on alternative models of education (Waldorf, Montessori, African-centered).”

“Program about why Ohio still has not found a way to fund education without using levies and why republicans and democrats have not worked to figure it out.”

“I really think that all conversations and topics need to be balanced. For the past year or so, it feels like the discussion and coverage is becoming too right.”

“Creative ways to fund the education systems, discrepancies between urban and rural districts, and the cost of OGT/OAA testing - personnel, preparing, curriculum costs, and the cost of all the test materials...”

“I know of many families who have fled the public system at one time or another due to a lack of sensitivity to their child’s anxiety and/or lack of ability fit in. Are there any public systems that do an excellent job with the middle-years (grades 5-9) age group? Please do some in-depth reporting about how charter schools and/or vouchers are being used as a wedge to dismantle public education. Please look into why lower socio-economic families don’t understand how to navigate the school system. Do districts want them to be real partners in their children’s educations? Please look into why upper middle-class families are not invested in equal opportunities for ALL children. The us vs. them mindset is so widespread in Northeast Ohio that it really limits where most minority/non-traditional families choose to live/ educate their children.”

“Do a survey of teacher ratings by the kids - they’ll tell you what you need to hear!”

“Keep the focus on being out in the community. Talk to parents, students, educators and administrators.”

“Show successful traditional public schools, let people know that the for-profit charter schools are public schools and are taking per-pupil state funding and in large part are not succeeding in making progress for improvement of students’ achievement. I think that many people would be alarmed to see how some charter schools are run and managed. The idea that the governor was allowing and encouraging legislation to give charter schools more independence; less oversight and rules to follow is disturbing.”

“Go beyond asking questions about the things happening or about to happen within the current structure; ask the ‘what if?’ questions. We need to start looking for solutions beyond the standard solutions set, and that starts with asking different questions.”

“Bring teachers at public, private, and charter schools into a discussion to compare successes and failures in the various systems.”

“Dive head long into the race factor, discuss the divide. Also talk about educating parents about how to educate their children.”

“Profile those who dare to offer alternatives to the popular ideas.”

“Cover failures rather than just success stories. How charter schools don’t work. Where are the problems and why? Why does Mentor have such a problem with bullying? Why? Is that high school out of control?”

“FOLLOW THE MONEY. Ask what jobs the people at the administration building actually do and do they actually do their jobs or hide in their office all day. What about the warehouses with books and computers that were bought and never used. Why the Cleveland school system continually hides crimes committed by students at the schools during the school year. Let the sunshine in and see what happens!!!!”

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