What I’ve learned so far

A guest post by Robert Barkley, Jr.

What I’ve learned so far – as of November 19, 2012

In February of 1958 I began student teaching in a small rural Pennsylvania town. Approximately one month into that experience my master teacher was drafted into the military. And since there were no other teachers in my field in that small district, I was simply asked to complete the school year as the regular teacher.

From that day on I have been immersed in public education at many levels, in several states – even in Canada and with some international contacts, as well as from many vantage points. So some 54 and a half years later, here’s what I have learned so far.

  1. There will be no significant change in education until and unless our society truly and deeply adopts a sense of community attitude. And a sense of community is first and foremost based upon an acceptance that we all belong together – regardless of wealth, race, gender, etc.
  2. The views of amateurs, otherwise known as politicians and private sector moneyed interests, while they may be genuine and well intentioned, are, at best, less than helpful if unrestrained by the views of the professionals working at ground level. Put another way, the view from 30,000 feet may give a broad sense of how the system looks, but the view from street level gives a sense of how the system actually works. Neither is wrong, but both are inadequate by themselves.
  3. Moneyed interests such as test and textbook manufactures and charter school enthusiasts will destroy general education for they have little commitment to the general welfare and common good
  4. No institution or organization will excel until and unless it adopts at all levels a shared sense of purpose – a central aim if you will, and agrees upon how progress toward that purpose will be measured over time. Education is no different.
  5. At the basic levels all education must begin with the recognition and nurturing of the natural curiosity and the current reality of each student.
  6. Teaching is a team sport. In other words, the structure and general practice in schools of teachers operating as independent sources of instruction is flawed. Anything that exacerbates this flawed structure, such as test score ratings of individual teachers and/or individual performance pay schemes, will be harmful and counterproductive.
  7. The separation of knowledge into separate disciplines may be convenient to organizing instruction but it is counter to the construction of learning. Therefore, integrated curriculum strategies are essential if neuroscience is to be appreciated and taken into account.
  8. School employee unions can be useful or problematic to educational progress. Which they become is dependent upon their full inclusion in determining the structure and purpose of education. The more they are pushed to the sidelines, the more their focus will be narrow and self-serving.

Robert Barkley, Jr., is retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association, a thirty-five year veteran of NEA and NEA affiliate staff work. He is the author of Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders, Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents, and Lessons for a New Reality: Guidance for Superintendent/Teacher Organization Collaboration. He may be reached at

Education News for 10-29-2012

State Education News

  • Privilege issue stalls hearing in suit over schools’ private discussions (Columbus Dispatch)
  • After its in-house attorney told members of the Columbus Board of Education in July that they couldn’t hold private meetings to discuss an unfolding data-rigging investigation…Read more...

  • Ohio Attorney General honors Chardon High School shooting first responders (WEWS)
  • Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine honored a packed house…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Some of the best will help kids learn to read (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • A who’s who list of local business leaders is about to kick off an early childhood literacy campaign that seeks support from every workplace in the region…Read more...

  • District changes evaluation process for top officials (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • Fairfield City Schools will change how it evaluates its treasurer and superintendent, giving those officials the first evaluations they’ve had in some time…Read more...

  • Charter school’s scores outperform Springfield’s (Springfield News-Sun)
  • Two of Springfield’s three charter schools fared worse than the city’s traditional public schools, and a third school outperformed Springfield City Schools…Read more...

  • $23M Pettisville school goes green in big way with building project (Toledo Blade)
  • Low emission and fuel-efficient cars get premium parking spots outside Pettisville’s new K- 12 school building…Read more...

  • T.J. Lane using rarely successful plea in Chardon shooting (Willoughby News Herald)
  • After Keith Ledeger killed custodian Peter Christopher and wounded three other adults at Wickliffe Middle School on Nov. 7, 1994…Read more...

  • Choffin school faces discipline issues after influx of Career Academy students (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • A teacher believes the addition of Career Academy students to Choffin Career and Technical Center is causing disruption for other students…Read more...


  • Poor excuse (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The second round of state Auditor Dave Yost’s probe of attendance-record-keeping practices in Ohio schools reveals two important things…Read more...

  • Facing facts (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The bad news is that graduation rates have fallen for most Ohio high schools on the latest state report cards…Read more...

  • Local school districts dealing with huge financial challenges (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Here’s a sobering reality about public education in Ohio that should open the eyes of voters in the Nov. 6 election…Read more...

UPDATED: Auditors Interim Attendance Report Released

The Auditor of State has released his interim report on the school attendance erasures issue.

The first observation from reading this 57 page document, is that very few schools have been completely investigated, and of those that have, little if any wrong doing has been found.

Instead what has been discovered are significant levels of bureaucratic oversights, in many cases excused by the complexity of the system designed by multiple layers of state and federal law.

The practices of Toledo are a good example

After news reports that Columbus CSD altered student attendance data, Toledo CSD publicly announced they too scrubbed attendance data. Toledo CSD officials indicated they understood these practices (i.e., removing students with a high number of absences) to be allowable. AOS met with representatives of Toledo at which time Toledo CSD explained its practice of removing students with five consecutive days of unexcused absences and a total of 20 unexcused absences throughout the school year. Toledo CSD has been using the “5/20” rule for withdrawing students since 2001. However, until 2005, Toledo CSD actively removed these students throughout the school year. In 2005, Toledo CSD lost several high‐level administrators to Cleveland MSD. Toledo CSD subsequently hired new administrators and in 2006 the local report card ratings fell since the “5/20” rule for withdrawing students was no longer in place. After realizing lower report card rankings, Toledo CSD administrators decided to reinstitute the “5/20” rule for withdrawing students in the following school year. However, instead of withdrawing students throughout the school year, Toledo CSD waited until after they received the first report from the Secure Data Center from ODE during the reporting period projecting the district’s report card rankings. Toledo CSD informed AOS that they removed all students that met the 5/20 criteria, regardless of assessment test score results for the affected students. However, AOS is still investigating these claims and will report its results later.

Cleveland's prevalent practices of removing truants also appears to fall into this category of bureaucratic non compliance, rather than "cheating"

Based on the information gathered to date, it appears evident that none or virtually none of the student files previously requested will include necessary supporting documentation related to the attendance event causing the student to be pushed to the State during the 2010‐2011 school year. Additionally, it appears Cleveland MSD potentially removed truant students under code 71 without full completion and documentation of truancy due process.

Again, the auditor has yet to fully complete an investigation of this district, noting "AOS is currently obtaining electronic data in an attempt to determine the impact of Cleveland MSD processes and procedures on accountability reporting and we will report results in a later report."

In Marion, another district the Auditor looked at, again no wrong doing was found

During the course of testing, AOS noted numerous instances of students being automatically transferred to the Marion Digital Academy during the 2010‐11 school year. As such, these students were included on the list of those students being pushed to the State and excluded from District report card results.
AOS identified 46 students transferring to Marion City Digital Academy during the 2010‐2011 school year with no parent or guardian initiation or approval included in Marion CSD’s student files.

Just more bureaucratic mis-steps. And more in Campbell City Schools

AOS tested Memorial High and Campbell Middle Schools at Campbell CSD (Mahoning County), identifying 11 (High School) and 29 (Middle School) students, respectively, that did not have supporting documentation available in the student files to support breaks in enrollment related to the following withdrawal reasons: Verified Medical, Truancy, Expulsion, and Homeschool.

And once again the Auditor notes, "AOS is continuing to investigate these retroactive withdrawals and will report further results later."

Forgive us for being unimpressed both with the how these interim findings are not matching up with a lot of the breathless allegations of "cheating" claimed by some in the media, and also by the sloth like progress being made by the Auditor of state.

It appears that the vast number of attendance erasures might in fact be legitimate, but simply not supported by documentation, as districts had poor policies and procedures in place to record and store the documentation. Furthermore, ODE, despite it's claims to the contrary have not been clear on what is required

The results of our statewide assessment indicate that there are a number of areas requiring centralized, improved ODE guidance and immediate clarification. ODE should use this report as a management tool to identify critical Accountability systems and weaknesses requiring enhancement to aid Ohio schools in Accountability determinations and reporting.

The Auditors list of recommendations is replete with calls for legislative changes, indicating that the current system is inadequate, and not the fault of districts

To strengthen and foster consistency in the reporting of approved homeschooling, ODE should consider requesting the General Assembly to amend the authorities and powers of ESC’s to approve homeschooling for all Ohio school districts, including city and exempt village districts.
The General Assembly should provide authority for ODE to collect personally identifiable information, such as student names, to enable ODE to work cooperatively with the Ohio Juvenile Court system and DYS tracking and reporting truant students.
The General Assembly should establish a single statewide student information system so that all data is uniform, uniformly reported, and accessible for data mining. Alternatively if such is not feasible the General Assembly should require ODE to approve the Student Information System used by each district in the state to ensure it meets requirements.
EMIS monitoring functions should be performed by an independent agency or commission appointed by the General Assembly.

Not mentioned anywhere in this report - how any of this has adversely affected student education. Neither does the Auditor indicate what the cost might be both to districts and to the state if full compliance and his recommendations were implemented.


Acting State Superintendent Sawyer just released the following statement

Good morning:

As anticipated from our communication yesterday, here is a link to the Auditor of State’s Interim Report on Student Attendance Data and the Accountability System released this morning. The report also is available here on our Quick Links page. We are pleased that the report shows that most districts visited to date by the auditor’s staff are compliant with legal and reporting requirements. However, as the report indicates, the investigation is ongoing and the Auditor’s Office will continue to review attendance data for all schools. Regardless of your participation to date in the ongoing investigation, I encourage you to read the interim report to reinforce the attendance policies, administrative guidelines and reporting requirements required by your school or district.

Next Monday during their regularly scheduled meeting, the State Board of Education will hear a report from the Auditor of State’s Office, which will result in discussion related to the impact of the interim report findings and the Local Report Cards. I will update you next week on the status of the Local Report Cards and access to the Secure Data Center.

Thank you,

Michael L. Sawyers
Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction

Final Interim ADM Report 10052012

Stan Heffner involved in major ethics violantions

The head of ODE and State Superintendent Stan Heffner, has been found in violation of state ethic laws according to an Inspector General report issued today. This investigation was prompted by Plunderbund reporting.

CONCLUSION TO THE INITIAL ALLEGATION At the time of his testimony before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee, Heffner had already interviewed and secured a position at Educational Testing Service (ETS). Heffner negotiated the conditions of his employment with ETS, signed an offer, and began the process of transitioning from Ohio to San Antonio, Texas. He had met with ETS officials out of state and allowed them to pay for his travel; he took time from attending an out-of-state conference on behalf of ODE to meet with ETS officials. Heffner’s testimony supported legislation which would result in an increase of testing for Ohio’s school teachers. Based on the prior relationship between ODE and ETS, it was inappropriate for Heffner to give testimony in support of this bill given the strong likelihood that ETS could stand to profit.

Ohio Revised Code Section 121.41 defines at division (G): “Wrongful act or omission” means an act or omission, committed in the course of office holding or employment, that is not in accordance with the requirements of law or such standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and thereby subverts, or tends to subvert, the process of government.

By providing testimony to the legislature as the state’s principal employee for leadership in education, in support of a bill that could and ultimately did benefit a corporation with which he had entered into an agreement of employment, Heffner failed to meet the standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and subverts the process of government.

Accordingly, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General finds reasonable cause to believe wrongful acts or omissions occurred in these instances.

The report further details other violations uncovered during their investigation, including the misuse of state time and resources.

While investigating the initial allegations, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General found during the course of negotiating the employment agreement between Heffner and ETS, Heffner advised associates at ETS to use both his state-issued cell phone and his state email account as the preferred method of contact to conduct non-state business arrangements.

Further evidence has Heffner directing state employees to make personal arrangement for him, as he was looking for a new job. Here's just one of many examples uncovered

In addition, Heffner’s former executive secretary also provided documentation of email instructions addressed to her by Heffner for preparing an envelope to send an employment application to USD. (Exhibit 13) She also stated that Heffner instructed her to coordinate a flight to Washington, D.C., for a meeting between Heffner and ETS. She stated that though ETS scheduled the flight, she was instructed to convey the details of the flight to ETS’s executive search company, JRS.

He directed his assistant to prepare and coordinate his move to Texas and the subsequent mortgage arrangements

Heffner’s executive assistant recalled on one particular day, Heffner brought in a brief case full of personal documents which were related to the potential purchase of a home in San Antonio, and for the sale of his home in Westerville. The new executive assistant explained Heffner instructed her to organize the documents and assist in getting the process “finalized” for the mortgage company. She described the documents as Heffner’s personal records such as tax returns, bank statements, letters of financial debt, and anything you would need for a mortgage company. She stated that from the personal documents given to her by Heffner, as mortgage companies would contact her, she would provide whatever documentation they were seeking and would utilize whatever state equipment was necessary to send or transmit them. Occasionally, she stated, Heffner would inquire as to how the process of his home purchase was proceeding and would want to know about “timelines.”
When asked if she believed that she had an option to refuse to perform this work she replied, “. . . and keep my job? Probably not.” She stated she was in “disbelief” that Heffner was instructing her to perform these personal tasks. She said, “My only option was to do what he needed and try to do it well so he, you know, so he would, so he would keep me.”

The Office of the Ohio Inspector General asks the State Board of Education of Ohio to consider whether administrative action is warranted and respond within 60 days detailing its decision.

The full IG report can be read here.
Exhibits from the investigation can be found here.


According to a Dispatch Report, the Superintendent is appologizing but refusing to resign

Ohio schools Superintendent Stan Heffner quickly apologized for ethics allegations outlined in a state watchdog investigation released today but stopped short of stepping down from the post he has held for a year.

“I accept the findings of the Inspector General’s report. I was wrong and I’m sorry for my lack of judgment,” Heffner said in a statement released by the Ohio Department of Education.

“I’ve apologized to my staff, my friends and colleagues at the department, and the board. I have learned from my mistakes, and I will work with the board to take whatever steps they feel are necessary to resolve this matter and move forward.”


555. That's the new number that Ohioans interested in education policy will need to watch next. H.B.555 is starting life out as a placeholder for the school ratings policy that was stripped from SB316 due to strenous oposition. According to Rep Stebelton, the bill will have substance around imd September, after aseries of meetings with law makers, DOE, school admins and superintendents and OSBA.

H.B.555 is also likely to be piled high with other edcuation policy changes. Report cards for drop out schools, charter schools and peformance standards for eSchools are likely to be included. Gongwer is also reporting that ODE has drafted recommendations it intends to present to the General Assembly, and Rep. Stebelton said H.B.555 could be their destination.

Stay tuned.

Union members spotlight - day 3

This is day three of our spotlight on union members who have decided to run for the Ohio general assembly. Candidates spotlighted on day one, can be found here, and day 2, here.

It should be noted that the districts listed below are new as a consequence of the legislative redistricting process that happened last year.

House district 61 - Susan McGuinness (D)
House district 61 - Susan McGuinness
Susan McGuinness is a member of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA). A Registered Nurse and Chair of the Lake Health Board of Directors, she has said, “Lake County deserves a vigorous voice in Columbus. A voice that, like the people of the county itself, doesn’t address issues from only a political perspective. We need a voice that speaks for the people, not just the party in power. I will be that voice.”

McGuinness added, “We have had our fill of out of touch career politicians who don’t answer to their constituents. I will build on our great assets and work to improve economic, educational, and health opportunities for every citizen of Lake County. I will make sure our government works for us, not against us.”

She is unopposed in the primary and will face Rep. Ron Young who was one of those voices against middle class people when he cast his vote for SB5 and HB153.

House district 68 - Brad Schaff (D)
House district 68 - Brad Schaff
Brad is a member of the United Steel Workers (USW). If he is successful in the primary he is likely to face Rep. Margaret Ruhl who herself is facing a primary contest. Rep Ruhl voted for SB5 and the budget bill (HB153). You can learn more about Brad Schaff, here.

House district 69 - Judith Cross (D)
House district 69 - Judith Cross
Judith Cross is a member of OEA (Ret.) and former Common Pleas Judge. Judy taught elementary school in Brunswick for 12 years. During that 12 year period Judy became involved in the Brunswick Education Association and helped to secure collective bargaining rights for public employees.She will challenge Republican Batchelder, who is speaker of the House. Both are running unopposed in the March 6 primary.
Learn more about Judith Cross, here.

House district 71 - Brady Jones (D)
House district 71 - Brady Jones
Jones has been a pipefitter for 17 years and a member of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 189. “I’m tired of seeing the middle class get beat up,” he has said, "someone needs to be in office who will represent the core values of the people who elected them."

He is unopposed in the primary and will face incumbent Jay Hottinger, a career politician who supported SB5 and the budget bill that slashed school finances.

House district 73 - Eric Spicer (R)
House district 73 - Eric Spicer
Eric is a member of the FOP, and running in the Republican primary to replace disgraced Rep. Jarrod Martin. In addition to volunteering as a firefighter and medic, Eric Spicer has served as a police officer for over 21 years. He currently serves as Captain of the Greene County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigative Services Unit.
Eric is endorsed by Sheriff Gene Fischer and Treasurer Dick Gould, Sheriff Richard K. Jones – Butler County, Sheriff Brent Emmons – Champaign County, Melissa Litteral – Beavercreek City Councilwoman, Dona Seger-Lawson – Bellbrook City Councilwoman, James Hapner – Fairborn City Councilman, Robert Wood – Fairborn City Councilman, Ralph Fussner – Retired Bellbrook City Council, Phil Oakley – Fairborn Ambassador, Jay McDonald – State FOP President, Chuck Canterbury – National FOP President, Mark Sanders – Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters.

His opponent, Rep.Martin, along with his voting for SB5 and HB153 has been dubbed "America's drunkest legislator".

You can learn more about Eric Spicer, here.

Tomorrow we will spotlight 4 more union members who are running for the Ohio general assembly.