It's Not All About EdChoice

With the battle over Ohio EdChoice looming, public and private schools waging war over who gets the student, lawsuits being filed, and lawmakers and school leaders wanting to do away with Ohio School report cards, when will we focus on the whole story, and the root cause for low-performing schools in the first place.

Let’s take a look.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) admits that not all children start on the same level playing field when they enter school. Different children learn differently for a multitude of reasons. And almost 1 in 4 children experience an adverse childhood experience (ACE) before they even start school. When a child experiences trauma, it’s challenging for them to learn. Trauma-informed care studies show that a student’s ability to learn decreases exponentially depending upon the amount of ACE’s they’ve endured.

Who’s assessing the degree of trauma that a child faces when they come into the school? Are these schools trauma-informed schools? Have the educators been trained to understand kids who’ve been exposed to trauma, and how to effectively help them to learn?

According to research from the Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), only 29% of students feel their school provides a caring, encouraging environment. That’s alarming. According to a recent RISE research study, among 271 educators, 21% responded that they do not believe staff at the school would stop bullying when they see it. Over 40% of the educators surveyed don’t believe their school provides the materials, resources, and training necessary for them to support students’ social or emotional needs. What supports are schools putting in place to make certain students feel cared for and that they are encouraged?

CASEL reports that when social and emotional learning (SEL) is embedded into a school’s culture and curriculum, 27% more students improve their academic performance by the end of the program, 57% more students gain in their skills levels, 24% more students improve social behaviors and lower levels of distress, 23% more improve attitudes, and 22% more show fewer conduct problems.

SEL is listed as one of the four domains of learning in the ODE’s 2019-2024 strategic plan. How many schools have adopted social and emotional learning as a key strategy (not just a set-aside program, or a job for a select few SEL coaches) in their schools?

Ohio recognized that an achievement gap has been evident for more than 15 years, and that the state’s education system is not effectively meeting the needs of specific groups of students, such as African-American, Hispanic, English learners (EL), the economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities. The ODE has listed equity as one of its three core principles. But how many schools have diversity and inclusion strategies that align with student success rates? What steps are these schools taking to effectively meet the needs of these specific students?

Ohio has 517 low-performing schools. Wouldn’t it be prudent for these 517 schools to share with the students, parents, and community about what steps they have taken to ENCOURAGE parents and students to STAY at their school?

The ODE says that “report cards are only one part of Ohio’s education story. We need to get a more complete picture by visiting the schools, talking to educators, parents and students.”

I couldn't agree more, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing with my RISE program in schools in Northwest Ohio. In my experience, schools are not rushing to implement these strategies, even though the above strategies are a part of the ODE 2019-2024 strategic plan for educators.  In fact, the ODE stresses that schools should address the needs of the “whole child,” and stamped the plan with the hashtag #EachChildOurFutureWhat does that specifically mean for these 517 low-performing schools? Are they ready and equipped to RISE?

I encourage public schools to be more public and private schools to be less private and let us learn of your plans. We can start by having more community forums. I’m raising my hand to start.

Our first RISE Community Forum will be held in Toledo very soon. We hope to learn more from the schools in the above areas, to learn about their pain points. We’ll also learn what initiatives they have in place to encourage students to stay at their school. Who should attend this forum? School leaders, educators, parents, students, and the local Holland area community members.

This will be the first of MANY community forums, where I’m hoping we can learn, grow, unite, and keep helping our schools RISE!

Stay tuned for details.

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