Cleveland-area Superintendents Talk Back to Washington

Rep. Marcia Fudge, Cleveland-area school superintendents, and ED's Michael Yudin

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) convened Tuesday's conversation with Cleveland-area school superintendents and ED's Michael Yudin.

CLEVELAND—After a morning spent with students promoting school nutrition and physical education, Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin sat down Tuesday afternoon with superintendents from more than a dozen school districts in the Cleveland metropolitan area, including Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, who joined Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) as co-host for the lunchtime meeting in the district’s board room.

“We can’t just talk about education. We have to do something,” Congresswoman Fudge said in opening up the conversation. “If we really want to be a country that competes, we need to prepare our young people to do it.”

Yudin, who was joined by ED Special Counsel Julie Miceli, gave an overview of the Obama administration’s cradle-to-career education strategy and talked about the importance of addressing problems with the current No Child Left Behind Law. Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that the nation’s K-12 education system is on course for a “slow-moving train wreck” unless the law is fixed and a more realistic, meaningful and effective accountability system is put in place for America’s schools.

“I agree with the Secretary… It’s a slow-moving train wreck,” said Mark Freeman, the superintendent of the Shaker Heights district. Freeman added that, “I mentioned that to some colleagues on the way down, and they said, ‘No, it’s already a wreck.’ “

Yudin agreed. The current law over-labels schools as failures, does not reward growth and does not give states and local districts flexibility to focus on their biggest problems. “It just isn’t making sense. It isn’t working for too many school districts across the country,” Yudin said. In particular, “The ability to measure growth—and real, meaningful growth—is where we need to go.”

Yudin’s office will soon be announcing a package that will allow states and school districts flexibility within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind’s formal name) in exchange for commitments to college-and-career-ready standards, effective teaching and school leadership, and improving their lowest-performing schools.

Tuesday’s wide-ranging dialogue with local superintendents touched on special education and its financial costs, the Department’s program to turn around low-performing schools, high school graduation rates and how best to measure them, charter schools, and how to identify and nurture effective teaching.

As the superintendents thanked Yudin for visiting and taking their feedback back to Washington, he expressed his gratitude for their work in Cleveland’s communities. “Thank you all,” he said, “for your commitment to improving outcomes for kids.”

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  1. America needs to stop thinking small. The world is passing us by in educational performance of students. And, whereas I agree that class room size is a major-major road block to providing disadvantage children the quality education they are entitled to, a solution to the problem rest with not the number of students in a classroom, but the ratio of students to trained adults in that room. Parents who receive public assistance, the structurally unemployed can be trained to become instructional technicians trained to complement the classroom teacher. Of course all of the background checking and weeding out those of questionable character must happen. The Instructional Technicians (IT)should be trained to provide specialized assistance in math, science, language arts and intervene when disruptions occur. The key here that these newly trained personnel need not be college grads, or even have taken any courses in teaching, they must however to trained in particular areas of the curriculum in order to allow the teacher to maximize the time spent in actual teaching. In other words each IT will be trained in one or nor more than two areas of the curriculum. There are at least two barriers to overcome, e.g., teachers who have battered and bruised by the educrats in Washington and in state and local governments, and those myopic politicians at every level who view deficit reduction as more critical to America’s future than educating the children they leave behind. This can be done, but until something is done every elected official who spouts off about how great our country is and we can out produce any nation on earth should have his/her mouth glued to prevent them from polluting the air waves with political claptrap.

  2. Public school systems have always been challenged. While they move through those challenges, we should begin to explore many of the private charter school options which are becoming available. Many offer small classroom sizes and options the public school systems is not able to provide.

    • Seanna, I must ask why you say that the public school system is “not able to provide” small class sizes, while charter schools are? To the degree that “many” (not true) offer small class sizes, they are able to do so only because they get extra private money – or they restrict the number (and quality) of students. Small class sizes cost a lot of money. Teaching staff is by far the biggest expense in any school district (and rightly so). There’s simply no way to lower class sizes without hiring more teachers (this is true in charter, public and private schools). And there’s simply no way to hire more teachers when budgets are being cut (6 years in a row out here in WA state). And there’s simply no way to stop budget cuts while maintaining the current tax system which protects huge corporations and millionaires and billionaires from paying reasonable income tax rates.

      • Yes, the current tax base does not protect children by helping to promote the best public education possible for all students. Sheltering large corporations who don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes does nothing to promote high quality public education in America. High quality public schools, 21st century technology, computers, books and materials DO cost money. So do teacher salaries and there’s nothing wrong with that. Our children are our greatest resource. In this country we say that we value children, but perhaps many just say they do, but really don’t. It’s time that we “put our monies where our mouts are”.

  3. How can we focus on leaving no children behind when district budgets have been cut so severely in the past few years? It seems to me that we are talking out of both sides of our mouth when we say we care about the condition of our national education system, but we don’t care enough at the state level to fund it. In the past 3-4 years we have witnessed significant increases in the number of students eligible for free & reduced lunch, putting more students at risk of failure; while even Title 1 money is disappearing. If our children can’t read, they will never be able to pass a standardized test.

  4. How can we expect children to have a quality education with over crowded classrooms? There are reports that some schools have upto 40 children and not enough chairs and desk for each student. It appears that warehousing students is acceptable but we wonder why we are headed for disaster.

    • I agree with Perplexed. Class size makes a huge difference. When classes are overcrowded so much time is spent on discipline, that it prevents the lower academic students from getting much needed one-on-one attention.

      • What perplexes me is that society insists on blaming overcrowding as the cause of children’s lack of education. Is anybody considering other alternatives such as the following: school has become a dropping ground for parent’s, parents are no longer teaching basics at home…and yes, that includes discipline and respect, the Leave No Child Behind law has had a negative impact on our classrooms, and teachers are not allowed to “throw” a child out of class…we might psychologically traumatize him/her if we embarras them in front of their peers.
        Wake up! Stop blaming the overcrowding. Teachers spend more time babysitting than they do teaching.

        Lets start putting blame where it belongs. The parents! Start teaching your own kids the basics and making them do their homework. Make sure YOU as the parent is taking responsibility for your child’s learning and they will learn…even in overcrowded classrooms.

        Oh, and yes…I am a teacher and more importantly I am a mother…and I’m sick of parents coping out on their responsibilities. Teachers can only do so much. Parents need to do their part as well.

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