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The Listening Project

Fall 2012 - Education

Since The Listening Project began over a decade ago, you have defined Education as a major challenge of our community, second only to Jobs and the Economy. Many of you have suggested Education as the long-term solution to the region’s challenges with Jobs and the Economy.

One hundred and twenty-eight (128) of you responded to this Listening Project about Education – here are some of the highlights.

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

Question 1

The majority of people (57.8%) answered “Average” with the balance split between “Above Average/Excellent” (19.6%) and “Below Average/Poor” (22.6%).

“I think the quality of public education is headed the wrong direction but I’m not sure it is better anywhere else.”

“The funding situation in Ohio remains problematic. I am also concerned about the effects of charter schools on the promise of public education.”

“Teacher quality is high, but administrative talent is often lacking.  Many reforms trending will not help students learn, but will hamper teachers’ professional judgment to assist students.  Administrators need to back teachers and be more judicious about reforms.”

“As long as local public schools are tied directly to local property taxes for a majority of their support, the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ will continue to widen.”

“My fear is that conservative leaders in Ohio do not want a well-educated citizenry. They push cuts for funding, undermine public schools, oppose good pay for teachers.”

“Schools have lowered standards since I attended.  High school graduates probably have the equivalent of a 7th grade education now in my opinion.  On the Rapid, saw a student reading a bowdlerized version of David Copperfield - it wasn’t even Dickens’ words and every page had text on the left and an illustration on the right - shameful that this student will think he’s read David Copperfield.”

“Administration and teachers appear behind the times, unable to utilize current technology to save time and effort and enrich learning.  Outmoded ideas and methods persist.  Gifted students are underserved.  The identification of gifted students is often arbitrary, subjective or biased.”

“Government needs to stay out of it OR actually put only educators on their committees, not politicians.”

“Unfortunately, there is a great disparity that is directly connected to income and poverty.”

“Teachers are being forced to water down their curriculum because students are rebelling against working hard and meeting high expectations.”

“Parents are not supporting their children to help them become educated.  They often expect that once they reach the age of 10 they can learn on their own and do not need help organizing, studying, or preparing for class. They focus on extra-curricular activities more than on the actual education. In addition, the programs which once produced trades for our nation have been abandoned so that ALL CHILDREN GO TO COLLEGE.  Everyone does not need to go to college, but everyone does need to be able to earn a wage that will allow him to live a reasonable life and enjoy it.”

“Quality education K-12 is broadly available. Success of education depends on many other factors, including support of parents, motivation and more.”

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

Question 2

People’s perception of the quality of education changed when asked about their own district with almost ½ the respondents rating their own district “Excellent/Above Average” (48%).  However, about the same percentage rated their own district “Below Average/Poor” (20.5%) as did in Question 1 and the comments offered are consistent as well.

“I live in the Chardon district, which I believe to be better than many in Ohio or even NE Ohio.”

“I live in Cleveland.  A levy was just passed that will presumably improve our district. While I am still skeptical, I decided to vote for the levy, with the hopes that it will actually work.”

“My district has a reasonable number of administrators and looks to teachers to develop curriculum based on student and community needs for the future.”

“Based on today’s educational standards, the school district where I live is excellent.  However, I question today’s educational norms, and based on what I think is important in education, I would give the district a lower ranking.”

“I live in Cleveland.  Our schools are quite terrible by all accounts.”

“Cleveland Heights has good stability, high quality academic programs, a full list of athletics and extra-curricular, and some really solid teachers for an inner ring suburb struggling to keep up with a decaying state budget.”

“I live in a suburban area, and the students are above average in ability so they score well on tests.  However, due to the increasing attitude that those who send their children to private or religious schools should not have to support the public schools, levies have been failing here for years both for operation and for new building.  Four of six elementary schools are over 100 years old, and it will be years before my district qualifies for even modest state help in building new schools.  Classes are crowded, subjects have been cut, very high pay-to-play fees have been established for sports participation and teachers have been forced to be satisfied with no wage increases for years.  I am sure it will be hard for any realtor to tell a prospective home buyer with a straight face that our district offers the best education in Lake County as they had been doing some years ago.”

“We pay a lot in taxes to keep our small school system lavishly funded.”

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

Question 3

Over half (53.1%) agree or strongly agree with this statement and less than a quarter (23.8%) disagree.  Many of the comments were not as positive and expressed concerns.

“I agree, with one exception.  I don’t know if the universities in Ohio actively encourage, or even provide incentives for graduates to remain in the state.  Ohio has a big issue with “brain drain.” and I believe that’s a need the state has that is worth considering.”

“If part of meeting student needs is helping graduates find employment, higher education is failing.”

“I think the answer depends on which disciplines students are focusing on/being trained for. Certainly there’s a lot of emphasis now on the STEM subjects, but I’d like to see that focus balanced by an understanding that the arts and humanities are essential for a well-rounded workforce.”

“They are educating people to go into the wrong fields.”

“There needs to be a change from college for all --to vocational programs that train for jobs. College is not for everyone!”

“One needs look no further than our law schools to see we’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars training people for jobs that won’t exist.  Our single-minded pursuit of bricks and mortar institutions will leave us in Asia’s dust.”

“College costs in Ohio are too high. It is my understanding that college tuition is some of the highest in the country.”

“Post-secondary institutions are very resistant to change.  They need to be much more responsive to community needs and competition.”

“Higher education seems to be out pricing itself.  It’s not worth starting a career that will pay $40K when you’re $80K in debt.  It takes too long to recover.”

“All my five children have had so far good and positive educational experiences from community colleges in the state.

“To me, meeting the needs includes not leaving graduates in extreme debt.”

“Overall, yes. The system could be made better, but students are given opportunities needed to succeed and flourish.  Students need to find the right institution for themselves and work hard.”

Question 4: What is the single biggest challenge facing Ohio education?

Of the 113 respondents to this question, a little over half (58) mentioned funding, some noting the overall inadequate funding and others focusing on equity of funding. Samples of these responses include:

“Equal access to resources across school districts; i.e., urban vs. suburban.”

“Funding shortages to city school districts.”

“Erosion of tax base and community - both caused by past and ongoing urban flight and suburban sprawl.”

“Equitable distribution and increased support of state-wide resources among all districts on a per-pupil basis.”

“I think funding public education (high school and below) and getting the best impact for the money is the biggest challenge.”

“Funding and our government not being in compliance with an Ohio Supreme Court order that was delivered what… 10 years ago? Letting homeowners vote on whether to fund schools is not the solution. We are one of two states left who fund this way and there are many other state examples we can look at as guidelines for funding our public schools!”

“No money for public schools.”

Other respondents focused on other challenges:

“Lack of parent involvement.”

“Teaching realistic classes and skills that will actually help young people to see the world as it really is and what they need to do to succeed in it.”

“Students’ home environment that is not conducive to educational and academic success.”

“Lack of attention to motivation of students.”

“We still live in a culture where intelligence is looked down upon by the masses.”

“Assessing teachers. Using test scores is dicey. The schools also need Social Workers! Title I programs originally had a Social Worker and Parent Council attached to the Title I school programs. Many schools have eliminated these professionals which I think are essential. Guidance Counselors are dealing with tests and other educational paperwork issues and crisis. They need help as well. Open Air Schools that Cleveland had in the 1917’s had physicians and nurses on staff to help with families at risk.  This format should be looked into again.”

“Getting students interested in learning.”

“Complacent teachers.”

“The culture of blaming teachers instead of challenging parents to step up.”

“Lack of recognition that students are responsible for learning that which is presented to them. Placing a value on higher education.”

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

Not surprisingly, many of the answers had to do with fixing the funding. Here are some of the other responses:

“Return to teaching the basics and not teaching to state tests.”

“Get kids out of the classroom and into the community.”

“Look into community-based school models and how they can be replicated in Cleveland (i.e. Harlem Children’s Zone). Communities and parents have more solutions for the system than we give them space to express.”

“Get better qualified people (experience and ethics) in charge of running education. I met a woman who appeared to be in her mid-twenties serving on the Board of Regents. The person who Kasich appointed in his cabinet for education who never was a teacher.”

“Require that every student is paired with 4 mentors, and that all these names are turned in to the state department of education on an annual basis. Once 4 different people are looking out for each student, (and mentors may not be an official mentor for more than 3 students), every student will have a much better chance of getting the support, understanding, & connections that they each need.  Also, of course, I’d fix/equalize/stabilize school funding.”

“Parental involvement.”

“Relax the pressure on kids, give them greater space and trust the process more than pushing for earlier and earlier results.”

“Require students to pass test for promotion to the next grade level.”

“A holistic approach is needed. Students need nursing, social work and other services to succeed in class.”

“Teach the importance of education in the rest of their lives.”

“Tax addictive products (caffeine, tobacco, sugar drinks) and earmark the tax for education.”

“Do away with standardized testing. It serves no child.”

“Hire more (highly qualified) teachers, thus decreasing the teacher to student ratio.”

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

Question 6

Slightly more respondents said that they could make a difference (“Strongly Agree/Agree” - 43.6%) than said they couldn’t (“Disagree/Strongly Disagree - 35.9%) and one in five said they didn’t know (“Undecided - 20.5%).

“I always support public school levies. Don’t like the voucher system, which diverts funds from public to private schools.”

“I do my best, by supporting organizations like Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio, which advances integration of the arts into the school day for every child.”

“I can make an individual contribution through individual involvement, but the ability to change the system would require a massive paradigm change.”

“Ohio’s decline has been going on for decades. Few lawmakers, and even fewer citizens take it seriously, until it touches their own families. And, it’s usually too late at that point to change much.”

“The state university my children have attended has been very helpful in terms of access and support. They are able to listen to my concerns.”

“Of course in minor ways, volunteering, voting for levies, but at the macro level, no… politics is too entrenched in a battle at the state house, refusing to deal with funding unfairness, testing mandates, politicians in bed with the testing companies.”

“No, much is state mandated, as districts have to teach state standards.”

“We all need to make our voices heard. Most school board meetings are public. We should attend, listen (understand the challenges faced by school districts), and help develop solutions to our challenges.”

“I’m a teacher, so I have the opportunity every single day to make a difference. I hope I do.”

Question 7: Do you have any immediate family - children or grandchildren - who are currently enrolled in Ohio in any of the following kinds of schools? Check all that apply.

Question 7

“My second grade granddaughter has huge barriers in math. When questioning her teacher, the teacher explained there is no money for extra tutoring for math.”

“My children attend a private school with the help of the Ed. Choice Vouchers. I am lucky to have had the choice for them.”

“I am a public school teacher but my child is in a private school environment because I feel as though I have more control over how she is being taught and who is teaching her.”

“I began home schooling this year due to the cuts made in public schools in my district.”

“They are in an excellent school system and getting a really good education, reinforced at home!”

Question 8: If so, what kind are they? Check all that apply.

Question 8

Results exceed 100% because some respondents have more than one child enrolled in different kinds of schools.

“Charter schools and home schooling are NOT the educational systems that I support.”

“I would hope they would be public, but I have to report that those who live in my high-end development have been abandoning our public schools over the past several years due to the funding cuts.”

“We eschewed private schools due to financial issues for five children and the fact that Catholic schools don’t handle Special Education needs in parish schools very well which would have had one child go to public and the rest to private. Private Special Ed schools were financially out of reach.”

“I feel strongly about supporting public education. It’s not only the law, it’s the only educational opportunity for most of Ohio’s students.”

Question 9: Have you heard or read reporting from StateImpact Ohio on educations subjects? Check all that apply.

Question 9

ideastream® launched StateImpact Ohio eighteen months ago as a statewide project to report on the state of education in Ohio, where it’s heading and how it affects you.

Half the survey respondents have heard radio reports and more than 20% have read stories on the web or in the newspaper.

“The reporting is thoughtful and meaningful. I really appreciate it.”

“This is key: we should have a systematic connection - through the radio station - between every school district (and every school, including private schools) and the radio station (and its website).  Report cumulatively, comprehensively (and visually with maps) what everybody is thinking and doing, via the constituency system that is all our school districts/systems.”

“Great journalism by ideastream - keep up the good work.”

“Too demur, no urgency for change in reporting or conclusions.”

“Not impressed. They don’t go deep enough or address root causes.”

“Some good reporting, but there’s only so much that WCPN can do outside the prevailing spheres of influence. Someone needs to figure out how to appropriately move city dwellers to support children in the learning necessary to become happy, productive citizens. Further degradation of family units and the expansion of an uneducated sub-culture will never support a vibrant and useful school system in educating active, involved citizens to take the city forward.”

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