This is the weekly memo that George Wood, principal of Federal Hocking High School in Stewart, Ohio, is sending to his staff on Friday. Wood is executive director of the n on-profit Forum for Education and Democracy, a collaboration of educators from around the country. Next year, he will serve as superintendent of his school district as well as principal.
Wood’s Staff Memo:
April 1, 2011
This just in from Columbus: The governor has announced that he is no longer in favor of Senate Bill 5. He has decided that it insults public employees and creates tension between teachers and local school boards that is not helpful to our overall mission. Instead of mandating changes like merit pay and cutting insurance subsidies, he is going to base all of his educational policies on research that shows that well prepared and supported teachers are the most important factor in student achievement. New bills on this will be introduced shortly.
Additionally, the budget hole that has been so worrisome and has led to the cuts in education, health, and child welfare will be closed in a way that has a minimal effect on social services and education. Based on a recent study from the University of Dayton, the first $7 billion in savings needed to close the budget deficit will come from simply closing loopholes in the Ohio tax code. This will make the tax structure fairer for business and provide revenue without taxing individuals. The remaining $1 billion in short fall will be covered by keeping the Tangible Personal Property tax and by returning to the individual tax rates in place in 2006.
Finally, on the education front, the Department of Education has announced that next fall all on-line charter schools that have been rated as ‘academic watch’ for the past three years will be closed. This will bring thousands of students back to the public schools along with the millions of dollars that these schools have squandered.
Nationally, a recent news story indicates that both Republicans and Democrats have united in opposing the imposition of federal accountability standards on local schools. The AYP target of ALL CHILDREN BEING PROFICIENT by 2014 has been revoked. Now schools will be asked to develop thoughtful performance assessments for transitions from elementary to secondary school and from secondary school to graduation. These will be developed and scored by teachers, similar to the grading of the Advanced Placement examinations.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education has just announced a pilot program to support the preparation of teachers. Using the money they will save from abandoning Teach for America, they will create pilot programs in all states that follow the model of Finland (the nation that ranks the highest on international comparisons). Entrance into teacher education will be open only to the most qualified students after their first two years of college. The following two years they will be involved in intensive, field-based preparation during which time their tuition will be free and they will be paid a stipend. After successfully completing their training, they will do a two-year fully paid internship under a master teacher before getting their first classroom.
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