Dr. Paolo DeMaria
Superintendent, Public Instruction

Dr. John Richards
Deputy Superintendent, Public Instruction

Ohio Department of Education
25 S. Front St.
Columbus, OH  43215-4133

VIA EMAIL  on June 7, 2018


Sorry for getting back to you a little later than anticipated, however, there was a need to discuss my response with other unit presidents within the State.

I agree with you that the NAACP brings a different perspective on the multiplicity of issues facing our children in schools throughout the State.

First, I’d like to address the three topics from your email:

  • The NAACP has a resolution against State take-overs and we oppose Academic Distress Commissions if it is another form of State takeover.
  • This is the reason why we’re working with your office and staff to help those districts not in take-over mode, to avoid it.
  • However, each of our units must work with the power structure in charge (State Superintendent, State Board of Education, any commissions which may be in place, any CEOs that may be in place, and local school boards that have not been removed from direct control of the LEA).

The NAACP’s position on S.B. 216: The NAACP is against increasing the minimum group size from 10 to 30.  Please see both the letter from the NAACP State Conference and the letter from the national civil rights organizations that the NAACP is partnership with on ESSA.  These positions were taken based on Ohio working groups in collaboration with others across the Nation preceding the implementation of ESSA.

Regarding the NAACP’s three recommendations:

  • Addressing racial bias and low expectations, our first recommendation is to establish a collaboration between the Kirwan Institute (at Ohio State University), the Human & Civil Rights Division of NEA and the NAACP.
  • Specificity can be gleaned from the work that has already been researched and successfully completed in places where Academic Achievement is taking place, due to all the things you stated that should be in place to ensure unbiased, equal and equitable outcomes for our children. This collaboration would bring to the table Best Social and Academic models from across the State that could be duplicated/replicated without trying to reinvent the wheel.In previous communication with Dr. Ross, our members have suggested, and we concur, that Best Academic Practice districts/schools from across the State be studied/surveyed as a part of this process.
  • The NAACP has no theory that says “. . . threaten to remove teachers.” Also, there is no desired GPA quota.
  • The question is, does the State (as a legal entity) hold a person licensed by the State accountable for academic performance and outcomes – or is this the sole responsibility of the LEA? Also, does this apply to LEAs that have been taken over by the State?
  • The NAACP is interested in holding those accountable who are licensed by the State, and who entered contracts with the LEAs, accountable for performance and outcomes for our children. This can be accomplished by ensuring that the criterion materials used by the licensed classroom teacher results in outcomes (GPA) that qualifies our children to enter higher education, remediation free.
  • As stated before, the union contract negotiated by the LEA or State contains language that gives the licensed classroom teacher full authority to assign grade point averages (GPA). This being said, it would seem logical that the rigor of the criterion referenced material used would lead to a quality GPA which is reflective of what was taught, learned and mastered in the classroom.
  • The below points you made in your email are correct:

o   Leadership and extending to school culture (at the staff and student level)

o   Effective continuous improvement structures and practices

o   Careful curriculum selection and alignment, effective instructional practices, aligned professional development,

o   Effective student support,

o   Positive behavior interventions and support,

o   Trauma informed practices, and

o   A deep use of data to drive improvement.

  • In “normal” achieving school districts throughout the State of Ohio, the above points you made are consistently true. However, that “normal” is not present in Youngstown City Schools nor Lorain.
  • The State legislature took great pains to change the State law to deal with Youngstown/Lorain’s academic and social abnormalities, and all of the above points you made must be made “the norm” in not only Youngstown and Lorain, but in all of the other low performing Districts within the State.

You indicated that “. . . simply taking an approach of strengthening contract provisions around teacher performance may not be as effective as you think.”  Our approach is not simple, it is comprehensive.  It is based on current Best Academic practices in places in Ohio, run by Best Academic practitioners.  Our position is that the teachers’ and administrators’ contracts, especially under the abnormal situations in Youngstown and Lorain, should have what they do NOT have: academic performance indicators and outcomes consistent with high expectation,  quality and equitable instructions that are rigorous and relevant.

Paraphrasing Dr. Ross, whether it was the Academic Distress Commission, School Board or Administration, all of the things you pointed out should be in a “normal system”, failed our students in both Youngstown and Lorain.  That is why the State legislature changed the law and established the new power structure in Youngstown and Lorain.  That new power structure, according to the new law consists of the State Superintendent, an Academic Distress Commission and a CEO (hired by the Academic Distress Commission).

Example of Failure: When you contract administrators with Physical Education majors managing high school teachers in math, science, history and English language arts, you cannot expect anything but failure.  How can this person be expected to evaluate the math, science, history, English arts teachers, when they do not understand what the teacher is teaching?

Example of Failure: How do the students achieve academic growth when the licensed classroom teacher, who majored in music, is told to teach chemistry?  This does not work in normal situations, and most certainly does not work in abnormal situations such as Youngstown or Lorain.

Cost of Failure: Twenty years and $2.5 billion dollars (in the case of Youngstown) have produced failure.

The NAACP, in all of the units throughout the State, is committed to working with your office, and those over which you have influence or control, to rectify what the State Legislature has admitted was a failure.

We appreciate your taking time to hear us out, and working to agree on corrective actions—not just in Youngstown and Lorain, but in the many other Districts that are failing the majority of African American and other disadvantaged children.

RACE: Finally, according to the State Report Card race trumps poverty (see attached).  We must face this issue and close the race and opportunity gaps based on Best Academic and Social Practices that are evident in school districts where they have either overcome this problem, or made significant progress.  Such teachers, administrators, students, families and districts do exist, and we look forward to working with you and your staff to identify them so that their accomplishments can be duplicated/replicated in other low- performing schools/districts.

We feel the urgency of “now” and we’re looking to the State power structure (State Superintendent, State Board of Education, Academic Distress Commissions, CEOs and school boards) to correct the historical wrongs and use taxpayers’ money more effectively to deliver an unbiased, quality and equitable education to all disadvantaged children, especially African Americans.

Tom Roberts, President
NAACP Ohio State Conference

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