Because I am apparently a glutton for punishment, have a macabre sense of humor, and want to continue to expose the Ohio legislature and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for the inept bureaucracies they are, I like to periodically read about the education initiatives being discussed by the folks comprising both bodies.
I stay abreast of legislative discussions even though I long ago gave up any illusion that our state politicians have the interest in or the ability or courage to engage in meaningful discussions about how children attain success in school and in life.
But, I had (kind of) maintained a slight hope that at some point the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the sole purpose of which is to provide quality educational leadership to educators, parents, and community members alike, might actually step into the leadership void by presenting relevant, perhaps even groundbreaking ideas about how we can help children become successful.
OK, I just lied. I also long ago gave up any notion that the ODE would be a positive, driving force in education and, as is the case with the Ohio legislature, the ODE has not disappointed me. Not only do they not lead, but the simplistic discussions they engage in are embarrassing.
As if to prove my point, on the ODE website, the education “experts” populating that organization have apparently recently concluded that there is a correlation between children coming to school and succeeding in school. Now, since this is apparently a groundbreaking discovery that I’m certain never entered your mind, please take a couple of seconds to allow this to sink in.
To reiterate, the ODE is actually proudly proclaiming, as if it has stumbled onto something revolutionary, that for a child to succeed in school, he or she must actually BE in school.
This is akin to an automobile mechanic telling you that your car will travel better if you put gas in the tank.
Apparently fearful that those who read this revelation may be leery of its validity, data is posted on the ODE website to convince us it is true.
We are assured that chronically absent children are 89 percent less likely to graduate from high school; they are 65 percent less likely to be reading proficiently by the third grade; and more than 260,000 school children in Ohio were chronically absent during the 2017-18 school year.
Nothing surprising there.
So, as to not be left out of the foolishness, a couple of years ago the Ohio legislature, in its infinite wisdom, dumped more of its bureaucratic nonsense on school district personnel to solve the attendance problem, because it has to be the school’s fault, right? It can’t be the parents’ responsibility to get their kids to school.
The ODE web site also contains the following statement: “Over the last decade, educators, parents, community leaders, and other key players have come to recognize the importance of shining light on what was once a hidden issue: chronic absenteeism.”
Hidden to who? Certainly not to superintendents, principals, teachers, and anybody else with at least two working brain cells. In the more than four decades I spent as an educator, not a single time was there any confusion about the importance of kids coming to school if they were to succeed in school. I would also wager that the importance of good attendance has not been lost on the multitude of parents who actually send their kids to school every day.
But, to members of the two entities that are responsible for developing educational policies in this state, apparently the revelation that coming to school is important for students to succeed has occurred only within the last decade.
In today’s vernacular, I can only say, “OMG!”
Apparently, my wife, whose entire career was spent in the medical field and whose last few years were spent working in Dayton, had a better understanding of the importance of school attendance than our so-called educational leaders were. Fifteen years ago, after several days of seeing school-aged kids walking the streets when school was in session, she asked me one evening, “How can kids who don’t go to school do any good in school?”
According to the ODE’s own website, she figured this out about five years before our “leaders” did.
How sad is that?
Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.