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Restore the 5 of 8 Rule in Ohio

April 29, 2018

 A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
~American Pie by Don McLean

Dr. Yohuru Williams, an education activist and professor of history at Fairfield University, composed a powerful essay about how Ohio’s governor, in league with his party’s majority in the General Assembly, had been targeting education budgets with deep cuts, precipitating a crisis similar to other states where cuts have forced districts to make impossible choices between hiring nurses, librarians or instructors in the music and the arts.

Former state school board chair, Debe Terhar, admitted as much when she told the board that better state funding of schools would prevent the furor over the 5 of 8 rule.

Why are our public schools being starved to the point of having to make choices about vital services that students need and deserve? That can be answered with a four letter word: ALEC.

ALEC is the acronym for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a clandestine organization of corporate members and lawmakers who believe in privatization of public entities, such as our nation’s public school systems. ALEC has a very powerful legislative impact in states like Ohio, where its members control the Statehouse.

ALEC’s education bills can be seen in current Ohio policies that mandate more vouchers, charter school expansion, extensive teacher evaluations, TFA teachers and BRIGHT principals, extra online classrooms, Common Core, additional high stakes testing, and obsessive amounts of data collection.

Everyone, especially educators, should take the time to learn about ALEC’s education agenda and how it affects public education in the United States.,_Higher_Ed_Policy,_and_Teachers

ALEC uses questionable research and pretentious rhetoric from its think-tanks to impact public perception. To drive its education agenda, it misleads people with nice-sounding words like reform, school choice, accountability, and local control.

The Buckeye Institute is a “think-tank” tied to ALEC and placed in Ohio to influence public opinion. The Buckeye Institute’s policy analyst, whose job is to defend and promote ALEC, wrote a 2015 op-ed that was published in a major Ohio newspaper the day before the state school board was scheduled to vote about the controversial elimination of the minimum staffing requirements. Not surprisingly, he agreed with sacking the 5 of 8 school staffing standard.]

He called the 5 of 8:
*a worn-out rule
*a rigid staffing requirement
*a top-down mandate that favors and protects certain classes of employees at the expense of others
*an autocratic and outdated relic of Columbus-knows-best thinking
*the mindset of an education bureaucracy that has forced local officials to spend taxpayer dollars in ways that they would not otherwise choose and for programs and teachers

He concluded his opinion piece by saying, “Revoking the rigid staffing requirements artificially created by the 5 of 8 rule takes a good first step toward reclaiming local control and accountability in the education of our children.”

Unfortunately, the majority of the state BOE members did just that and voted to revoke the 5 of 8 rule in mid-April of 2015. No matter what false rhetoric was marketed by ALEC stakeholders, this course of action was not about reclaiming local control and accountability. Those were disingenuous words used to manipulate Ohioans into agreeing with this unreasonable and unnecessary initiative.

Eliminating the 5 of 8 minimum standards is enabling school districts to balance their depleted budgets by cutting licensed educators and contracting with private companies to provide the lost services- a calculated move to encourage privatization. Research from Policy Matters Ohio shows that the controversial elimination of the “5 of 8” rule has further strained the state’s already stressed public school system.

The change in operating procedures has also compromised the “thorough and efficient education” standard in the Ohio Constitution, which was adopted to protect school children from substandard or non-existent educational programming.

More importantly to education profiteers, it has enabled ALEC to expedite its education task force goals of further diminishing teachers’ unions and privatizing public education in our state.

In response to the 5 of 8 controversy, Yohuru Williams penned an appropriate parody of McLean’s original song:

In the three places where the music was first to go
Philadelphia, Detroit and Ohio
They drove the teachers out and left the students low
The day the music died

On Monday, April 13th, 2015, the music died in Ohio public schools- so did art, physical education, library/media services, nursing, guidance, and other important support services.

How sad that our children’s education and health continues to be at risk – all because of a network of greedy people who continue to put profits before kids.

NOW is the time to restore the “5 of 8” school staffing standard in Ohio public school districts!

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Melissa’s Story

I am Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith, a parent activist from Cleveland who’s very concerned about excessive testing- so concerned that I spoke to the Board of Education of the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and requested that the board adopt a policy that accommodates families who refuse to allow their children to participate in high stakes standardized tests. Without hesitation, I conveyed this sincere message to the Board:

As evidenced by the easy passage of the last school levy, this community and its parents support Cleveland schools, and that respect and support deserves consistent reciprocity. I don’t believe that I need to rehash recent media reports in order to justify bringing attention to this issue.

As I briefly share some reasons why families have refused to allow their children to participate in high stakes standardized tests, I hope that you will consider adopting a policy that is respectful and supportive of families who express the desire to direct their children’s education, as protected by the 14th amendment.

This is why we refuse…

Because children should not have to attend a school labeled “failing,” or labeled anything at all.

School buildings shelter children with vast amounts of untapped potential. Not failures.

FAILURE should never be the name of a monster hovering over a school building making children afraid of how they will do on a test.

Children shouldn’t have to be afraid of how their teacher will be hurt by their performance on a test.

Or how their school or community or city will be labeled because of how they do on a test.

What sort of sane society that supposedly cherishes its children puts that sort of pressure on a child?

We refuse because without the data, they can’t label our children or anyone else’s children.

We refuse…

Because we know that standardized test scores have only been good at proving one thing: children’s life experiences and backgrounds far outweigh the impact that a school or teacher has on their test performance.

We refuse…

Because we don’t want our children’s privacy violated, and we don’t want test companies profiting from our children.

Because we know that things like art, music, gym, and recess have been shown by research to increase academic success and shouldn’t be reduced or eliminated because kids need to take or prepare for more standardized tests.

We refuse…

Because we know that the emotional and social growth of children in school is not measured on a standardized test.

Because the teacher who delivers groceries to a family in need, advocates for a student, or becomes a student’s confidant, counselor, or role model will never have that data show up in test results, and we trust our children’s teachers to assess their progress.

We refuse…

Because struggling students should not be made to feel like less than the developing human beings that we ALL started out as, because tests are used to label.

We know that the long term consequences of labeling and retention are profound.

NONE of our children are “limited,” “basic,” or “common.”

Words that label can and do. Hurt and Divide.

We refuse…

Because over 2000 education researchers, experts, and professionals signed a letter pleading with our President and Congress to stop relying on high stakes standardized testing to improve education – we have a decade of data proving that it doesn’t work.

Because there are mountains of research that provide more effective and research proven methods to educate our children and to evaluate teachers and schools.

We refuse…

Because when we look at our children, we see their smiles, their talents, their goofiness, the crumbs around their mouths, the dirt on their skin, and the hope in their eyes.

And when we look at our kids,

We never see them as data or test scores…

And neither should you.

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