The Foundation for Student Learning

Each year in the spring, Brookhaven High School always has a crop of education majors completing their student teaching with our students. During the week that the Ohio Graduation Test is administered, our class schedule is put on hold and our soon-to-be teachers see the real-life impact of standardized testing on our students.

At some point during the week, after testing has concluded for day, I always ask our student teachers the same question.

“If one of these students doesn’t pass the test they took earlier today, whose fault is it?”

After posing the question to them, I tell them there’s no right or wrong answer, that I’m interested in hearing their opinion.

Some answer quickly, others take a bit longer. As a group, their collective answer to the question always incorporates the usual suspects. A few say parents are to blame, while others say the students’ teachers are at fault; other student teachers place the blame of potential failure on the students themselves. Interestingly enough, in the many years that I have been posing my query to Brookhaven’s student teachers, not one of them has placed the blame for a student’s potential failure on elected officials.

While I tell the pre-service teachers that there is no right or wrong answer to the question, there has to be a right answer because our students’ future is on the line. Each child’s success bin the classroom is something that we as teachers are deeply committed to.

For me, I believe the right answer to the question is D, “all of the above.”

I understand that I am my students’ teacher, but my efforts alone are not enough to help my students be successful—everyone must work together for this to occur. In fact, all of us—teachers, students, parents and our elected officials should be held accountable for our students’ success.

I could be the greatest teacher in the world, but if a student in my class chooses not to take my class seriously, if their parent can’t guarantee that their child attends school regularly or if our elected officials don’t consider students’ needs when making education policy decisions, the impact I have on my students could be neutralized.

School finance reform might not be an ideal topic for party conversation, but it is a very real concern for Ohio’s more than 600 traditional school districts. Ohio is the only state in the nation without a permanent school funding plan, and recent news reports indicate we won’t see a new one proposed until next year. Whatever plan is proposed must put students at the forefront and invest in classroom priorities that build the foundation for learning.

If we as a state are able to ensure that parents, teachers, students and elected officials are working together and truly make it a priority to invest in whatever is necessary to build the foundation for our students’ learning, there’s just one thing left that could hold our students back. We need to make sure that there is a caring, committed and qualified teacher in each of our students’ classrooms. Just because I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night doesn’t mean I can safely practice medicine, nor does attending a six-week training course impart the skills necessary to be a teacher to those who want to be one for a few years.

As a state, we’ve got a lot of work to do, and we can do it the right way or the wrong way. The right way to do it is by working together and putting our students’ success first and foremost.

By Phil Hayes, Columbus Education Association

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