Prepared Text for Board Meeting – March 31,  2008 (High School Reform)

Marc A. Schare  614 791-0646 Home

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I want to make a brief statement about High School Reform in general. First, to be clear, there is a lot to like about all of the proposals we’ve seen. The proposals that have been approved by district administration will materially change the lives of hundreds of kids in the next few years and do so in a very cost effective fashion. The teachers creating these proposals have done yeoman’s work to make this a reality.


But..  I have two  lingering concerns. They are  not concerns about any of these programs but rather, they involve process.


The first concern is that this board has not been involved at all in the approval process of these new programs and to be sure, there are policy decisions imbedded in some of these proposals. The one that I would seek to have input into is the policy decision whether or not to charge for credit recovery, however, I would hope that this and future boards have the opportunity for input into reform efforts at all three levels.


My second concern is more substantive. There are volumes written about high school reform and the phrase means something different to everyone in the room. When I first started discussing this issue  in 2005, I had envisioned a planning effort that would define what we wanted our district to look like 5 or 10 years out. Change in large organizations is best when it is incremental, so baby steps are good, but baby steps are only good if we are convinced that we are going in the right direction. I’m not yet convinced because I haven’t seen anything resembling a long term plan for our high schools.


I respect the RFP process for the creation of small learning communities however, if we attempt to do this year after year, it is likely that we will, after 10 years, have  chaos. Indeed, this year alone brings us 2 business programs which, despite the best efforts of the administration and the creators to differentiate themselves, are similar enough to create confusion, except that each will probably artificially draw students based on attendance area rather than program suitability for each student. 10 years from now, will Worthington really need two competing business programs or might we be better off creating a business program with twice as many seats, classes at both campuses and choice throughout the curriculum. It is also, in my opinion,  illogical to hope that a STEM school arises without some kind of top down directive. For all the positive virtues of PLTW, it is not a STEM school. If we want, in our five or ten year plan, to be able to offer STEM opportunities at the high school level in Worthington, we should incorporate STEM into a long term planning process which would take into account the demand and the funding for the program. The concept of “hope” may work for Senator Obama, but I prefer to rely on facts, data and planning. In the meantime, to all of the faculty who will be introducing new programs for the 2008-2009 school year, if you are successful, you will be part of whatever Worthington’s high school reform initiative looks like, so good luck and god speed.