Every parent wants the best for their children. In Cincinnati Public Schools, we have numerous programs to facilitate different ways of learning. The goal of these programs should be to give the best education to each child. Unfortunately, choosing between these different methods of learning is often not the primary motivation for parents when choosing a school.
After speaking with many parents, I have found that they are frequently heavily influenced by the state report cards and perception of what are “good” and “bad” schools. Frankly, when my wife and I were looking for the right school for our children, we fell into this same trap. We looked at the options, looked at test scores, and made our choice based on what we thought was a “good” school. We didn’t know if our children would want to go to college, would do better in a non-traditional learning environment, or want to focus on a non-college-preparatory path. We made the choice based on our perception of a “good” school and one that would give us the most options later.
We’ve created a situation where “good” vs. “bad” is often the primary motivator, not where the school is or the program offered. Some of the problems created by this include:
- We have parents waiting out in the cold for days to get into a “good” school.
- We have a lottery system, so there is a fair way for us to get students into the “good” school.
- Children cannot attend a program they desire because others want a “good” school, not the program offered
- We have children traveling long distances because their parents view the neighborhood school as “bad”
- We reward “good” schools and let “bad” schools continue to flounder
- We create a tiered system where the gap between students in “good” and “bad” schools grows
- We don’t serve all of our students equitably
To exacerbate the problem, now we are creating elementary school options with a test to for admission in order to avoid the lottery. This reinforces a divide that starts early in a student’s life and is perpetuated throughout their education. There are other options to challenge advanced students without creating a special, separate school. We are selecting for kids that are already doing well and taking critical resources away from those students that need more help through no fault or deficiency of the student. There are enrichment programs to challenge advanced students. Something we love about the Montessori program is that older/stronger students are taught to help the others in their class to learn and progress. This reinforces skills that are useful in all stages of life. It is good for the all of the students involved, the student that is doing well and the student that require more help.
This is not an easy problem but there are solutions to serve all of our children. What we cannot have is the status quo. A quality education shouldn’t be a lottery. It should be an opportunity available to everyone. For our democracy and our economy to function, it is critical. And vouchers aren’t the answer, as they only create new problems by taking funds away from the public schools in addition to actually hurting children.
As a parent, it is frustrating situation. It feels like you fail your children if you don’t get them into the “good” school to begin with, and then they have fewer and lower quality options for the rest of their school years. Is a lottery or camping out or a test the best way to ensure that our children are given the opportunity for a great education? Why aren’t we making sure that all schools are great? Why should a parent need to transport their child across the city to get to a “good” school? Is sitting in a car or a bus for a significant portion of the day contributing to their education or is it taking time away from studying, exercise and rest? We need to have an attitude that every school and every student counts, and we have to be willing to do the work that will make this a reality.
I’ve never run for office before, nor am I an educator. So, why in the world would I run for Cincinnati School Board? I would bring to the Board a viewpoint I feel is currently underrepresented, effective problem solving.
My career started in software development and information technology, currently my professional role is in strategic planning and resource management. Over the years I’ve developed many valuable skills such as how to effectively listen to people, understand the issues they face and work with them to develop the best solutions possible using the available resources. Sometimes it’s building a new computer system. Sometimes it’s altering the way people do things to make them more successful. This the kind problem solving is relevant everywhere: home, work, and school.
What I want to bring to Cincinnati Public Schools is the ability to solve problems effectively and efficiently. Today we have so many ways to share information, to see what developments have proven successful in other districts and see how to apply them to our own schools. CPS will benefit from the lessons on reducing costs, innovative solutions and problem solving that I have acquired from my business and technology experience.
We all realize that CPS needs to make the best use of limited resources to benefit our school system and the students they serve. As we move forward public schools must find ways to do more with less and having someone on the school board who possesses the skills necessary to make that happen is more critical than ever.
I believe that a school board should be made of people from a broad, diverse set of backgrounds because different perspectives and skill sets make for better solutions. I am a candidate that can help take Cincinnati Public Schools to the next level for our children and our future.
For a long while Gina and I have been talking about how to become more active politically. This goes beyond just this past election. One option that has come up repeatedly over the years is running for political office. Well, we’ve decided that I am going to run for Cincinnati Public School Board.
Looking at it, this is one area where we can make a large difference. We are both actively involved in our children’s school through the PTO, and have devoted a lot of time to supporting our school. She and I have both held officer positions and have found it to be rewarding way for us to give back to the school. As we have built relationships with the teachers and administration it has become clear that running for the school board is another opportunity to help them with their mission of educating our children.
My wife and I are passionate about education and the need for making sure the next generations have a solid foundation in areas such as STEM and how to critically evaluate the world around them. We are trying to teach our children that they can do anything they set their mind to and an education is critical to start that journey.
A few things that I am passionate about and will work as a school board member to encourage:
- Make sure All students in all schools recieve the attention they need
- Provide Teachers with the current materials they need to support our children’s learning
- Improve all of our schools and district report cards across the board
- Provide more opportunity for technology in and out of the classroom
- Facilitate hands on learning such as via maker spaces
- Assist PTOs in supplementing the needs of their communities, instead of having to replace lost funding from the district
- Verify that the district is being good stewards of the taxpayers dollars
Right now I’m working on getting my petitions together to get on the ballot, trying to figure out my social media, fundraising, etc.
As we embark on this journey, I will need support from friends and family. We do not have the financial resources to fund a campaign personally and will need the support of like minded voters. I want to run this campaign as inexpensively as possible, and with our experience raising funds for our school I know we can make that happen. This also means that I will need volunteers that believe in the mission of ensuring we have the best public education system possible for all of our children. I’m excited to get to work!
Up until last year I had not heard of Breakthrough Cincinnati. Its a great program to help kids going into 6th to 9th grade maintain their learning over the summer, work with other kids and build great habits for a lifetime. It is primarily taught by older students, college students and new teachers. I was truly amazed by the program when my oldest was accepted to attend.
Over the course of the 6 weeks they worked on math, reading, debate, teamwork. They had a college and high school faire to show the kids the options they had. There was a career day where professionals came in to speak to the kids about different options.
I would love to see programs like this expanded to help more students. I had the opportunity to speak with a number of students and they all seemed to enjoy the program. We saw a huge difference in how seriously our daughter took school this year and I attribute it to both Breakthrough and increasing maturity on her part.
If you have a student in this age group, I highly recommend looking into it. The primary focus is kids from disadvantaged groups but my daughter didn’t fall into any of the categories and was accepted.
I am not being hyperbolic when I say that this is the most backward, regressive bill I have ever had the misfortune of reading. House Bill 610 effectively seeks to dismantle the education system in this country. I’ll let you read the text yourself:
Choices in Education Act of 2017
This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states.
The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA’s geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.
To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.
No Hungry Kids Act
The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)
I have no words to express the depth of my disappointment in our government at this point.
Now is the time to take action. A well educated electorate and workforce is critical to the success of our nation. This impacts everyone’s future, whether you have children or not. You need to call your representatives now. Remember that this government is supposed to represent our wishes. They serve at our pleasure; we can change that if they are not voting in line with the demands of their constituency..
You can find information about your representatives here
Something that has become clear in recent years is that there is a distinct lack of rational thought and fact based, data driven discourse in our political system. This has been true for a while but it has kicked up a notch.
The rise of “alternate facts” and denialism are troubling. As many have said, you can disagree on opinions but lets all agree to the facts. The question is how do you learn to figure out what is fact, what is a trusted source of information, how to evaluate evidence, etc. In a world where literally anyone has the equivalent of a printing press its pretty hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Something that is critical to bring into our schools and reinforce it constantly and from an early age is how to think critically and evaluate whether what someone is telling you is true or false. This applies to science, math, history, social studies, etc. How do you validate something is accurate? Is reading something on someone’s blog as trustworthy as reading in a peer reviewed journal?
Think about these claims that seem to be based on different “facts”:
- do vaccines cause autism?
- is the globe warming and is it caused by human activity?
- is the crime rate going up or down?
- what is the efficacy of a drug or medical therapy?
- what is the greatest driver of economic growth?
- Is “x” a good investment?
- Is organic food better for you or more environmentally sustainable?
Learning to weigh evidence based on the source is critical to understanding the world enough to form well informed opinions. I care less about the opinions on an action to take than how you form those opinions and what they are based upon. We can debate merits of a given policy all day long but that really isn’t possible if we are starting from a different set of facts. Although this is only part of the equation when forming a policy position, we shouldn’t choose our facts based on the policy we want, we should let the facts inform the appropriate policy taking all factors into account.
Back to education, I am a proponent of education methods that don’t rely exclusively on rote memorization of facts. Aside from being more interesting for the student, it can teach the ability to think about the information and research answers. Getting multiple sources on a historical event from different perspectives gives a broader view of what is happening. You also get to see the biases in the different sources. Understanding that there are multiple view points is important in evaluating information.
Having coordination between the material you are learning is also very helpful in order to see why what you are learning is important instead of appearing to be something you’ll never use. When I was in my last couple of years in high school and a freshman in college this never became more obvious than taking calculus and physics at the same time; you learned differentiation and then learned the laws of motion. You couldn’t do the physics without the math so it reinforced why it was important.
Without the skills to think critically it is too easy to be fooled into believing things that are demonstrably false. If you get the wrong facts then you come up with ill-informed decisions. If you aren’t trained in how to evaluate evidence it is easy to get duped in every area of your life. Lets make sure we are educating our children to think about the world.
Science Technology Engineering and Math. These areas of knowledge/competence are critical for students moving into the future.
Throughout the 20th century we valued these. These skills drove the improvements in quality of life, productivity and achievement throughout the century. Without these disciplines we wouldn’t have airplanes, fast cars, iPhones, computers, plentiful food, economic development, video games, the list goes on and on.
The US lead the world and is still a leader but we are losing our edge. Other countries are advancing faster than we are. It is normal for the leader to lose ground as everyone else catches up, but we cannot lose the lead.
From an early age I was excited about technology, be it video games, the space program, computer programming, etc. I spent a lot of time learning how a computer works and how to program. Much of that was self taught because the classes just weren’t there. I was bored in the H.S. class I took because I was further ahead than the teacher was. That wasn’t bad but it forced me to be resourceful. I got lucky because my grandparents took an interest in making sure I had tools to learn. Not every kid my age had that. I had a crappy computer but at least I had one.
As I look at the amount of time kids are at school I am disheartened with the fact that we can’t find more time for the kids to be in the computer labs. At our school the kids don’t get a lot of library time and only half of that is spent in our media lab. There are after school programs to teach programming but those are optional and not all of the kids can participate. We are creating haves and have nots from an early age when it comes to technology.
Learning how to program or get involved in technology has never been easier. I think the problem is the excitement about what can be done. Getting resources for teachers is not the limiting factor. You can get a workable computer for $30 and hook it up to a keyboard and a TV. We need to get kids excited about the possible or at least getting them to tools to figure out on their own what is possible.
When I started programming I didn’t know what wasn’t possible. I copied programs out of magazines and wrote my own. I learned how to manage memory and code all kinds of different things. Most of them weren’t really useful but I was learning to not be afraid of the tech.
The other night some friends were over and all of the kids were sitting around the computer watching each other and helping write programs in Scratch. It was really cool because they got excited about it. We need more of that type of thing.
There are more resources available than when I went to school, but I would expect that with the rate of change in the world. I think the problem is that it hasn’t kept pace. We need to find more opportunities for ALL of the children, not just the ones that can meet after school. Not just once or twice a month. It needs to be prevalent in everything they do.
Sites like Codecademy, Scratch.mit.edu, etc and an inexpensive computer can provide kids with resources to learn a few things and have the skills to venture off on their own. And the best part, aside from the computer its all free.
This is just one thing that can be done… more to come in future installments.
Its really disheartening when you see a problem and you don’t have a good way to fix it. A key example is Governor Kasich’s plan for teacher certification (here)
When you want to pass something without getting all of the scrutiny it deserves you bury it in a large piece of legislation that must get passed. Here you have two things going for you: (1) people need to read 1000+ pages to find it and (2) a budget needs to be passed and if its delayed you have political ammunition.
If this was truly looking out for the best interests of our students it would be put up as separate legislation and debated to come up with a great solution to a potential problem.
Our teachers work incredibly hard every day to educate our children. They work long hours for less pay than many other jobs. They buy supplies for their classroom with their own money. They mentor our children to do what is best for them. Obviously there are a few “bad” teachers in every environment but that is true in every environment.
I’m really not sure what this legislation is even trying to fix.
So, last week a Trump surrogate went on the news (Diane Rehms specifically) and argued that there is no truth and everyone can have their own version of reality. This flies in the face of everything that modern, democratic societies depend upon.
How can we have a reasoned discourse to agree on a path forward without at least agreement on FACTS. We can have our own interpretations and opinions on the meaning of the facts, that is expected, but we cannot have our own facts.
And so Mr. Trump’s tweet, amongst a certain crowd—a large part of the population—are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some—amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and that there are no facts to back it up.”
This is a dangerous place to be. If we can say whatever we want, don’t back it up with facts, we really are in a dystopia. This gets into the realm of organized propaganda and revisionist truth that totalitarian communist regimes practices in the 20th century and Orwell warned about in Animal Farm and 1984. This is where we need the press, in a non-partisan way, to start fact checking things, calling politicians of all stripes out on manufactured truth, and provide references on their facts.
The funny thing it is the Republican party’s leader (or surrogate) that is saying that there are no facts. This is the type of relativism that historically they have accused the Left of embracing, and now they are taking it to a whole new level.
It is a failure of the American Public that we take everything that anyone says as truth if it is on TV or FaceBook or some random blog. The Internet and World Wide Web are wonderful tools but they don’t have built in mechanisms to weed out random crap. With print media, because there is limited space for content, only the strongest pieces make it forward. Fortunately/Unfortunately anyone, literally anyone, can publish what looks like a professional website and put whatever content they want on it. This fuels the perception that they are legitimate news outlets and often they are very biased in what they report (at best) and/or manufacture whatever sounds good knowingly or purposefully.
This gets back to things I’ve said before. We need to work on educating our youth. We also need to get back to putting standards on news content and clearly differentiate what is news and what is opinion. For example, Fox News has about an hour of news a day and the rest of their content is largely opinion which leads to confusion for many.
I am not saying by any stretch that Fox should be restricted in what they can say, it is their right, but I do think that we should have a requirement to mark things as “not news” very clearly. Just like we restrict what can be said on medications and you need to be able to back up health claims on a medication, or warning labels on cigarettes, we need warnings that information doesn’t rise to the level of fact checked so we can maintain the health of our reasoning faculties.