Superintendent's Blog: 2018... An Exciting Year in Ohio Education
By: Paolo DeMaria
As we welcome the new year, it’s a great time to reflect on last year’s accomplishments. I’m proud of what Ohio’s education system achieved in 2018 and excited for 2019! Perhaps the best place to start is with an amazing undertaking that brought our state and local education systems together to set the direction for our future. Ohio’s new strategic plan for education, titled Each Child, Our Future, reflects the honest analysis and best thinking of Ohio Department of Education leaders, the State Board of Education, 120 Ohio-based organizations with direct interests in education, and 1,200 local teachers, administrators, community members, business leaders, parents and state lawmakers.
The Ohio Strategic Plan for Education
The five-year plan will enable our education system to organize its work around three core principles and 10 shared strategies that can ensure a high-quality educational experience for all children, promote equity and high-performing schools, and nurture the physical, social, emotional and intellectual child in each of our students. Each Child, Our Future can put us on a pathway to our goal: increasing annually the percentage of Ohio high school graduates who are experiencing education or career success one year after commencement.
I’m happy to say that so many of our other 2018 achievements aligned in one way or another with Each Child, Our Future. Here are a few highlights:
We have so many great teachers in Ohio, we wanted a way to honor and thank more of them. In 2018, the Department launched its #OhioLovesTeachers campaign to promote appreciation and recognition for our first-line educators. We asked people to share their favorite stories about teachers or teacher teams they admire on Twitter and Instagram, then shared our favorites on the Department’s social media channels.
A few months ago, we borrowed the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, Jonathan Juravich, from Olentangy Local Schools to serve as the Department’s teacher-in-residence until the end of this school year. We plan to continue the residency with each annual Ohio Teacher of the Year. Here’s more exciting news: we’re now developing an ongoing Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart (TORCH) recognition program in which each Ohio Teacher of the Year and that year’s finalists will evaluate TORCH nominations from the field and select winners.
Launch of the School-Based Health Care Support Toolkit
This year, the Ohio Department of Education and several state-level partners developed a School-Based Health Care Support Toolkit that offers guidance and resources to help districts bring these services to school campuses. Ohio already has inspiring, local success stories in this area. Pioneering districts like Alexander Local Schools in Athens County, Lima City Schools in Allen County, and Manchester Local Schools in Adams County have forged partnerships with local health care providers that have improved student health and led to fewer disciplinary problems, less absenteeism and higher graduation rates. Read their stories on our School-Based Health Care Support Toolkit webpage.
Grants to districts to promote literacy among Ohio’s highest-needs children
Ohio granted $33 million of a $35 million federal Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant to 46 school districts or partnerships of districts to drive literacy improvement for children from birth through grade 12. The three-year grants to these ambitious districts will help them improve learning prospects for their students living in poverty, students with disabilities, English learners and students with reading disabilities.
The Department also worked with a devoted group of literary educators and specialists from around the state to publish Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literary Achievement. The plan sets forth the ongoing work Ohio will do to improve language and literacy development in our children.
SuccessBound and inauguration of the OhioMeansJobs Readiness Seal
Launched in 2017, Ohio’s SuccessBound initiative strives to bring schools, businesses, students, families and communities together to adopt practices that move students seamlessly from school to postsecondary education or training and jobs. In 2018, the Department developed and posted toolkits for each of these partners to help them take active steps to become SuccessBound.
Ohio also initiated the OhioMeansJobs Readiness Seal, a designation high school students can earn on their transcripts by demonstrating they have the personal strengths, strong work ethic and professional experience businesses need. The OhioMeansJobs Readiness Seal gives a student the district’s endorsement that the student is ready to pursue work experiences.
Educators don’t need Ph.D.s in statistics to learn about data-driven evidence of successful teaching practices and bring about powerful change for their students. Ohio’s Evidence-based Clearinghouse, launched this year, can help districts and schools identify critical student learning needs; research and select evidence-based strategies; examine, reflect on and adjust those strategies; and support efforts to improve student success.
The powerful source for evidence-based teaching practices brings together resources from many clearinghouses and will continually change to meet the evolving needs of Ohio educators. Every evidence-based strategy in the clearinghouse meets one of three levels of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s criteria for evidence-based instructional practices. Users can find strategies aligned with the focus areas of the Ohio Improvement Process, which include curriculum, instruction and assessment, school climate, and supports.
Ohio's Arts Education Data Project
All Ohio students can benefit from a high-quality arts education to help them develop important skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive workforce. Ohio’s public education laws call for one credit hour of instruction in fine arts — music, visual arts, dance or drama — as part of the prescribed curriculum.
Because we know the arts are so important to our children’s development, the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Department of Education felt parents, educators, school administrators, and local and state policymakers need to know what arts education Ohio’s individual schools and districts are offering. Users can see the number and percentage of students enrolled in each type of fine arts education in Ohio schools and the number of students who have no access to arts education. The dashboard is searchable by county, school district, school type and location.
Ohio is proud to be one of the first few states in the nation to provide an online arts education data system available to the public.
Growth of the Purple Star Award program
If Ohio’s schools are to be sensitive to the cultural and circumstantial needs of all their students, a focus of Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education’s “whole-child” approach, we can’t ignore our 34,000 Ohio students from military families.
To recognize schools that are doing an exemplary job of serving students and families connected to our nation’s armed forces and inspire more schools to follow their examples, the Ohio departments of Education, Higher Education, Veterans Services and Adjutant General, created the Purple Star Award. Purple Star schools must meet specific criteria to demonstrate that they engage in practices that support students of military families. These schools receive a special Purple Star logo to display in their buildings.
In 2018, Ohio recognized 134 new Purple Star schools. What makes me even prouder is that six other states have adopted or are planning to adopt the Purple Star Awards program verbatim.
High school graduation requirements
The State Board of Education recommended and the General Assembly adopted a proposal that the alternative options for graduation be extended to the class of 2018, the class of 2019, and, with modifications, the class of 2020. Based on the experience of the class of 2018, thousands of students, particularly those who are challenged to demonstrate what they know and can do using standardized tests, were able to graduate and start a new chapter in their lives. These options will have a similar impact on the classes of 2019 and 2020.
Ohio, however, needs a permanent solution to this issue. In fact, during 2018, the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee for High School Graduation Requirements developed and the State Board adopted a proposal for a new graduation requirements approach. This approach gives students options to demonstrate what they know and can do through a variety of means — including both test-based options and non-test-based options. You can learn more about the proposal here. In the upcoming year, the Department will be working to support the adoption of this proposal. It may go through further revision during the process, but the fundamental objective of giving students the opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do without relying on tests makes a lot of sense and will benefit many students.
Looking toward 2019
Though 2018 has been a strong year of achievement, Ohio Department of Education staff and I have more in mind for 2019. Look for another ExtraCredit blog soon that highlights what we plan to undertake this year.
Paolo DeMaria is superintendent of public instruction of Ohio, where he works to support an education system of nearly 3,600 public schools and more than 1.6 million students.