In November, I was elected to serve as a member of the State Board of Education representing the 10th District which encompasses 17 counties in southwest and south central Ohio. I am one of 10 newly elected or appointed members to the 19-member board.
The current membership of the board reflects varied experience and expertise — including retired teachers, college professors, an engineer, a former Ohio governor, and former local school board members. Under the inclusive leadership of our new board president, Tess Elshoff, discussion during our monthly meetings has been respectful, collaborative and unencumbered by the influences of party politics.
The State Board of Education conducts a large amount of its work through delegated committees, which allows new education policies and proposals to be adequately drafted and revised, and ensures that interested parties can provide feedback along the way.
Starting in 2017, the State Board of Education consolidated the number of committees which has made it easier for board members to attend the committee meetings and participate in discussion. I have been assigned to the Educators and Student Options Committee, which reviews the standards, licensure and conduct of teachers and the educational options available to Ohio’s students, including career tech, non-public, scholarships, among other choices.
In December 2015, the United States Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. One of the primary goals of ESSA is to reduce federal control of primary and secondary education, by giving more authority to the states and local schools. ESSA also requires all states to submit a plan to the federal government to address standards, assessments, school and district accountability, and special help for struggling schools.
Over the past year, the Ohio Department of Education has received extensive feedback in preparing to submit the Ohio ESSA plan. In particular, the department has heard about the over reliance on high stakes tests in student education. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria has decided to submit Ohio’s ESSA plan in September instead of April to allow for more collaboration in formulating the plan. Additionally, Superintendent DeMaria created an Advisory Committee on Assessments to focus on the full range of testing issues, including state-required tests and district-level tests.
Lastly, the Graduation Requirements Workgroup, which was created this past December, is working to address the overwhelming numbers of high school juniors who are not on the path to graduate next year due to failure to meet current graduation standards. The Workgroup is scheduled to submit their plan to the board in April. So far suggestions for the plan have included the use of a student’s attendance records, grade-point average, and community service related projects to count towards the requirements to graduate.
The 10th District includes 17 counties (15 completely and two partially) for an estimated overall population of one million people. The list of counties is as follows: Adams, Brown, Clark, Clermont, Clinton, Fayette, Gallia, Greene, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Madison, Pickaway (partial), Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton (partial).
You can contact Nick Owens via email at Nick.Owens@education.ohio.gov or on Twitter @Nick_Owens.