Thanks to everyone who has been sharing their ideas for improving education in Columbus.
As the Columbus Education Commission moves toward making final recommendations, we wanted to respond to some questions we’ve seen online about the first batch of proposals.
Where’s the bold call to action on the core issues affecting students in Columbus?
We believe there are some bold plans in the first proposals, but we also recognize that there are some big topics coming up for the April 26 meeting, including teachers and principals, neighborhood schools, schools of choice, and implementation/governance. So we’re asking for a little patience as we finish those proposals. We’ll share them publicly when they’ve been sent to the commission for their review. We hope you’ll agree that the final package, taken as a whole, will offer a bold call for action on a variety of issues. One solution won’t solve every need, but together, these changes will improve the lives of our kids. As the first four proposals showed, the commission wants to pursue goals by tapping everyone in the community to help — parents, nonprofits, businesses and educators.
One note about the strategies that the commission addressed yesterday: They were on subjects that matter. It matters for every kid to start kindergarten on track. It matters that Columbus teachers and students have consistent, reliable access to technology that will allow them to customize what they learn. Community programs and a clear path after graduation matter, too.
Where’s the focus on neighborhood schools?
We heard loud and clear that people want good options in their neighborhoods. Our April 26 proposals will include ones to strengthen neighborhood schools. We know many parents want to see the details, and we’ll be posting them as soon as we’ve finished them. In the meantime, please understand that our final report is meant to address a variety of ways to improve education in Columbus — so the details of early recommendations shouldn’t suggest that other priorities are being ignored.
Why propose more arts schools?
More than 1,000 kids who applied to Fort Hayes Arts & Academic High School are stuck on the wait list. That shows deep interest. We know some members of the community have questioned whether that represents a strong interest in arts or a concern about their neighborhood schools. There frankly isn’t good data that would directly tell us what’s motivating parents to choose schools like Fort Hayes. The members of the commission have heard many times that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every family, so they’ve focused on offering a diverse set of solutions for the entire community.
We’ve seen recommendations on technology and tools, but not educators. Why not?
That subject will be a focus on April 26. Families and experts alike have talked about the importance of teachers and principals, and that’s been a theme throughout the commission meetings. Rest assured that we know good educators are the most important factor in a child’s education, and we plan to address it. We’ll post these recommendations as soon as they are finished.
Why support any recommendation around charters?
The short answer is because charter schools are a reality. Given state law — and the choice of thousands of families within Columbus — the question isn’t whether charters should exist. They do and will continue to be part of the options in our community. Given that, we need to attract the best charters possible and close ones that fail our kids. We also need the best district schools possible, so every Columbus child attends a great school.
Shouldn’t we focus our attention on K-12 instead of early childhood education?
The research on the benefits of early childhood education is clear — students who start kindergarten ready to learn do much better than ones who start behind. Of course, that momentum must be maintained once kids start school, so we have to make sure that K-12 education is working for kids throughout their education. In short, it’s not an either/or question.
Where are the details about implementation and governance?
We’ve tried to focus first on what would most help kids, and then focus on how to achieve those goals. The members of this commission have stated strongly that they’re interested in strategies that make a difference. They don’t want to produce a report that sits on a shelf. That’s why we’re drafting a plan on implementation and governance to discuss on April 26. When that proposal is finished, we’ll be posting it for the entire community to review.
Thank you to everyone who’s joined this conversation on ensuring a quality education for every child in Columbus. Good schools help our kids build successful lives and keep our city’s future strong.