Letter from Centerville Superintendent

February 16, 2015

Dear Parents / Guardians:

In approximately one week school districts across Ohio will begin administering the ODE Next Generation Assessments. Recently there have been a lot of questions regarding these new tests and I would like to provide a brief summary of the most accurate information at this time:

  • We are required to assess all students per the Ohio Revised Code,
  • The Ohio Department of Education does not recognize any “opt-out” of testing form,
  • The Ohio Department of Educations will consider any “opt-out” student as a non-score and a non-participant (which will penalize buildings and districts on their respective state report cards in two areas), and
  • Any “opt-out” student will not be included in a teacher’s value added data, but this does not mean that a teacher’s value added data is unaffected.

This means that:

  • There are negative consequences to our school buildings and district ratings,
  • There are direct negative consequences to third grade students and students in high school courses (3rd Grade Reading Guarantee & New Graduation Requirements), and
  • There is the potential negative consequence for teacher evaluation ratings.

To view ODE’s “Information on Student Participation in State Tests” click on the link below.

http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/53dc1f3e-11f1-4093-875c-090e160b187f/Guidance-on-Student-Participation-in-State-Tests.pdf.aspx

While we may not like the mandated assessments, we have an obligation to our students, our staff, and our community to perform to the best of our abilities to administer the assessments and provide the best possible testing environment for our students.  We continue to believe that quality instruction is the best way to prepare students and I am proud of how our staff has tried to protect instructional time with our students by spending as little time as possible on test preparation.

With that said… I have to be honest in saying that the assessment mandates have proven to be challenging. We, like most other districts have devoted countless resources in technology infrastructure, technology devices such as Chromebooks, personnel, planning and preparation. The amount of instructional time dedicated to these assessments is also a worry. While we understand the need to be accountable, we may be at the “tipping point” of reason with the number of testing hours vs. loss of instructional time.

As Superintendent, I would like to share that Centerville City Schools has been a member of the Alliance for High Quality Schools for many years. As a member of the Executive Committee, I can share with you that our mission is to proactively engage the legislators and members of the Department of Education in dialogue and discussion. While I cannot promise what the future will hold… I can tell you that we are working hard to engage those who can affect change. As a public entity, Centerville Schools is bound to follow the law, and that is what the District will do but, we have a voice and we want all of our voices to be heard as well.

As always – thank you for your support. We are fortunate to live in a great community with great kids, great parents and an outstanding staff.

Sincerely,

Tom Henderson, Ph.D.

Superintendent

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One parent’s dilemma: Why I’m not opting out yet

I want, more than anything, to opt out. I want to tell the State of Ohio, Obama, Arne Duncan, and PARCC to suck it, you may not use my son as a guinea pig. You may not break his spirit and love of learning. But….

I do not want to jeopardize my son’s teacher, principal, school, or district. I do not want to punish the very people who work tirelessly on a daily basis to give him a safe, well-rounded education despite the extra demands placed on them.

Who do I believe? One side urging parents to Opt Out is the Ohioans Against Common Core. They are promoting HB 7, Ohio’s “Safe Harbor for Students.” This Bill allows parents a legal option to opt out of PARCC testing, which, on the surface, sounds amazing. But…

They are telling parents that teachers and districts are protected through Safe Harbor from the negative assessments teachers would incur. They claim the ODE is using scare tactics and lying to parents about the negative impact on teachers if parents opt out. But…

They have their own agenda. “Against Common Core” screams Tea Party, anti-big government, anti-Obama, anti-Common core. Yes, they want to protect our kids from testing, but are promoting their own agenda at the same time. This group wants to “restore local control” but I wonder where they stand on charters and privatization? I wonder if they are manipulating parents for their own gain much like the Federal Government as it pertains to education reform. I specifically asked this group if Safe Harbor protected teachers and never got a response. Remember, many corporate ed reformers want to blame teachers and public education to promote the privatization of education. I can’t support an organization that wants to “take back education” but gives no thought to the negative impact their actions have on the people working in education.

The ODE, on the other hand, has its own agenda too. It has issued a fact sheet listing all of the negative consequences to opting out. Opt out groups say these are scare tactics. Maybe they are, but does that mean the ramifications are untrue? ODE has to follow the law and has their own, state-mandated agenda to promote, involving education funding from the government.

So, to make my own decision for my child, I spoke to my local district. I’ve been in contact with several teachers, including my son’s third grade teacher, our school’s principal, Centerville’s Director of Curriculum, and Superintendent Tom Henderson. The bottom line here is that opting out right now would negatively impact my son’s school, his teacher, and our district. I’m not willing to do that. I believe too much in these people in the cross-fire. And while I still ultimately believe we need to find a way to reduce testing, I don’t think opting out is the way to do it unless teachers are protected from the ramifications.

Then how do I protect my son from the stress of testing? I don’t make a huge deal about it, I tell him not to worry about it, I do the best I can as his parent to shield him from the stress of this stupid testing because I am his parent and that is my job. The less importance I give the test, the less he’ll believe it’s important. I know his teachers are doing the best they can to do the same because I’ve spoken to them. And I continue to try to impact my government (anyone else vote against Kasich?) My goal this weekend is to begin a massive letter writing campaign to our state school board and our state legislators and to pass on the information to anyone else that wants to do the same. I’m going to use my voice, just not to opt out while it harms teachers. But…..

I want to know what you’re deciding and why. Please use your voice. Join in the conversation. Make your own decisions. Do SOMEthing to let legislators know you’re paying attention.

Ohio House Bill 597

An overview of what’s happening:

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/08/common_core_opponents_take_ano.html

 

You can read the full bill here.

 

 

November 2014

Ohio, do your research before the November elections roll around. Find out where candidates stand on education. Strong public education is a bipartisan issue with Reform support in both parties.

Read about Governor Kasich’s funding plan for schools here. Then, read how his funding of charter schools short-changes public schools by 6.6% here.

We will be sure to follow challenger Ed Fitzgerald’s stance on education and keep you updated on both candidates on the road to the November elections.

Voter’s Guide

Tomorrow, May 6, 2014, is Ohio’s Primary Election. Because both Republicans and Democrats have equally undermined public education with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, voting along your established party line can’t be always be trusted. It’s important to understand where candidates stand on Education Reform. We’ve compiled the information we can find on Ohio’s primary candidates, and it’s still unclear in some cases, so make sure you check some additional resources before you head to the ballot box.

Compare candidates by typing in your address or zip code with Vote Ohio or Dayton Daily News Voter Guide.

Research all ballot issues and candidates on Ballotpedia or On the Issues including the following raced which will determine the November general elections.

Governor

John Kasich (R) on Education. Supports Education Reform.

Edward Fitzgerald (D) on Ohio’s Achievement Gap. He is endorsed by the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Charles Earl (L) does not specifically include education on his issues list.

Attorney General

Mike DeWine (R) on Education. Voted yes on school vouchers.

David Pepper (D) does not specifically include education on his issues list.

Steven Linnabery’s (L) facebook page.

Secretary of State

Jon Husted’s (R) website.

Nina Turner (D) is endorsed by the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Treasurer of State

Josh Mandel (R) on Education. Supports privatization.

Connie Pillich’s (D) website. Advocate against slashing public school funding.

10th Congressional District (Includes Centerville)

Mike Turner (R) votes on Education.

Bill Conner (D) on Education. Opposes charter schools and vouchers.

David A. Harlow (L) on Education.

Robert Klepinger’s (D) facebook page.

John D. Anderson’s (R) facebook page.

 

 

 

So what can you DO?

So, you’ve started to get informed. You’re gathering information and concerned about public education. You’ve heard the call. Now what?

Get involved locally:

Email us at centervillecure@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get information on events and resources.

Attend local school board meetings and get involved with your PTO.

 

Get involved state-wide:

Contact the Ohio Department of Education.

Write to Peggy Lehner, Montgomery County’s district 6 Senator and Chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Contact Governor John Kasich.

Contact Congressman Mike Turner, who represents Montgomery County.

Get involved with the UCC’s Justice in Education Mission.

Like Save Ohio Schools on Facebook.

 

Get involved nationally:

Contact Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education.

Follow and sign petitions with the Network for Public Education.

Join and sign petitions with Parents Across America.