Friday, March 14, 2008

The Light at the end of the Tunnel ...

"I love my work, I love this state and I'm confident this will all work out," the state schools superintendent told The Plain Dealer Friday. "I'm not going to stop until Ohio is seen as the best state in the United States in terms of offering a world-class education." - Susan Zelman,

I've had personal conversations with Susan Zelman and I can honestly say that she is so far removed from reality when it comes to understanding the needs of children living in Ohio school systems, mainstreaming, and proficiency testing, I would go as far as saying that this system she created was ingenius at capturing how children do on test but it does not fully measure the direct application of this newly found knowledge which is keystone to learning processes.

My children, for example, score in advance levels of the proficiency tests, but do poorly explaining how they arrived at the answers outside of showing me how they figured out how to answer the question from all the practice tests.

For our children who are excluded from a individualized education based on their ability, for our children who are mainsteamed but not included, and for the ones who are given alternative assessments, it's a political white wash.

Here's the report from Cincinnati's Enquirer:

Strickland rips schools chief
Governor wants control of state education department

Gov. Ted Strickland slammed Ohio's top education official Thursday, saying the independently appointed state superintendent lacks the vision to take the next step in school reform.

His unsolicited, strongly worded criticism of Susan Tave Zelman came a month after he proposed taking control of the state Education Department, a move that would relegate her to an advisory role.

Until Thursday, the governor had not publicly assessed her abilities.

"I like Susan Zelman, she's a nice person," Strickland, a Democrat, said during a meeting with The Enquirer's editorial board. "But she's not a leader, she's not an advocate, she's not a good manager.

"She's an academician, a psychometrician, a statistician. But she's not an Eric Fingerhut, a visionary leader."

Fingerhut, a former state senator, is Strickland's hand-picked higher education czar after his successful takeover of the state's network of universities and colleges last year.

Strickland continued on Zelman: "She's a very bright person who contributes a lot to education, but she's not carrying out that vision," the first-term governor said.

Zelman was traveling Thursday and unavailable to respond, Education Department spokeswoman Karla Carruthers said. Her supporters, initially stunned by Strickland's comments, rose to her defense.

Jennifer Sheets, the Republican-appointed president of the Ohio Board of Education, said Zelman's record as superintendent is outstanding. She called Strickland's comparison to Fingerhut "ridiculous."

"I certainly have to disagree with him entirely on this issue," Sheets said. "He is absolutely mistaken if he thinks Dr. Zelman is not a leader."

In his State of the State address Feb. 9, Strickland proposed creating a cabinet-level director of education who would report directly to him. This would effectively neuter, but not eliminate, Zelman's position and the state school board, which has 11 elected members and eight members appointed by governors.

Since then, Strickland has defended his proposal as a way to bring more accountability to the state's educational bureaucracy. In making his case, he had previously focused on what he called the unwieldy and splintered educational system, not the individuals currently serving.
Thursday, he radically changed course.

"I want to find someone who can serve elementary and secondary education like Eric Fingerhut serves higher education," Strickland said.

Strickland has also promised to present a major education funding overhaul proposal next year, and he said Thursday that he can't do so credibly if he doesn't have a closer tie to the department.

State Sen. Joy Padgett, R-Coshocton, said it was unfair for Strickland to compare Zelman, a veteran of the system, to Fingerhut, who only has one year under his belt running a very different higher education system.

"I have a very high opinion of both of them," said Padgett, chairwoman of the Senate education committee.

Zelman has overseen Ohio's rise from the middle of the pack to seventh among the states in Education Week magazine's Quality Counts reports, Sheets said. The superintendent also commissioned a study last year that compared Ohio to international educational standards for the first time, with some findings Strickland himself has embraced, she said.

She said the governor's comments are only his next step in ginning up support for his takeover plan after his initial attempts at persuasion yielded little support.

"It's totally unfair for him to make unfounded personal attacks in an effort just to support this desire to change the educational governance system," Sheets said.

Strickland said his plan already has significant legislative support.

A spokeswoman for state House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering, declined comment.

State school board member Sam Schloemer, of Wyoming, said he suspected that Strickland's motive from the beginning was to oust Zelman. If that's true, he'll have an opportunity to do that at the end of the year, when as many as 11 seats on the 19-member board could turn over. Strickland will get to directly appoint four.

"If he wants a change in the superintendent, and he wants to discuss those things with the board, then I'm quite sure the board would be open to that," Schloemer said.

Sue Taylor, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the state's second-largest teachers' union, would not say whether she agreed with Strickland's comments, only acknowledging that Fingerhut and Zelman have different styles and skills.

The union has expressed tentative support for Strickland's takeover plan.

"Perhaps he feels the need to educate the public on his assessment of the situation," she

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