By Denise Dick
Ohio’s public-education system doesn’t prepare children for the work force or for college, the state’s top educator says.
While the skill sets kids need to secure good jobs are the same as those needed to get into college, students aren’t getting those skills in schools, Stan Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction, told Mahoning Valley educators at a gathering Tuesday at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.
“I don’t blame the teachers and I don’t blame the administrators,” Heffner said. “I blame a system that’s out of date. Good enough is no longer good enough.”
Schools have been playing by the rules set by the state.
“The problem is we’ve been asking them to do the wrong thing,” the state superintendent said.
While 57 percent of Ohio school districts are designated excellent or better on the state report card, 41 percent of the students from those school districts need remediation in their first year of college English, he said.
“Do you think there’s some grade inflation happening?” Heffner said.
According to a report by the company that administers the ACT test, only 28 percent of students are ready for college in all four content areas: English, math, reading and science.
“We’re telling kids they’re doing a great job when they’re not, we’re really shortchanging them,” he said.
Kids need to be asked to do more, Heffner said. When they are given expectations, they’ll rise to them, he added.
The standards are being changed to be more challenging, demanding and rigorous and to prepare students for the work force and for college.
“The last time I checked, ‘Beowulf’ was not a response on a job application,” the state superintendent said.
The new math content standards will be based on reasoning and problem-solving skills, he said. Students will have to show their work.
While the new standards don’t take effect for a couple of years, Heffner recommends schools begin teaching them. As far as concerns about needing new textbooks and their costs, he questions why textbooks are needed in the world of Google.
“This is a new way of thinking,” he said. “Kids should be the pursuers of knowledge rather than the receptacles.”