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The Suburbanite
  • STEVE KING: Forget statistics, go with your gut

  • You don’t need someone in Columbus to tell you if your school district is passing muster. You’ve been in your district’s school buildings enough over the years. You know what you saw, what you experienced, what you liked and didn’t like.

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  • In every aspect of our lives, there are enough statistics – enough numbers, facts and figures – to choke an elephant.
    It’s dizzying.
    As you’re eating some low-fat cottage cheese, you look at the back of the container to see that per serving, the total fat content is 2.5 grams, there are 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of protein and a total carbohydrates amount of five grams.
    Are you doing something that is healthy? Or did you just write your own death sentence and would have been better off eating a whole container of frosting with a spoon? Who knows with all those numbers?
    Sports are the worst, though. Play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton tells us on Cleveland Indians broadcasts that the player the team just called up was hitting .307 overall with runners in scoring position at Class AAA, but only .179 with runners in scoring position and less than two outs.  However, he was leading the International League in intentional walks from the sixth inning on.
    Did the Indians just add the second coming of Rocky Colavito to their roster, or Rocky Balboa? It’s hard to tell. Your guess is as good as anyone’s.
    All those numbers. All those statistics. What do they all mean? Trying to figure it out is enough to make your head hurt.
    And, so it is with the state’s new grading system for Ohio school districts. The first report card was announced recently, and there are so many numbers and statistics that there is no way to tell if your district is turning your kids into the next Albert Einstein or if your children would learn more if they stayed home and watched the Game Show Network.
    What’s a person to do?
    Simple. Take the eye test. Your eyes won’t lie. Neither will your gut, your intuition. They will provide you with the real answers – the real facts and figures, sans all the convoluted gobbledygook.
    Sports coaches many times throw away the stat sheets and use their eyes to tell them if a player is worth keeping on the team.
    Growing up, a friend’s father was a middle school principal. When he interviewed teaching candidates, he would take a quick look at their resumes and then toss them into the garbage can. He would sit across the table from them, look them straight in the eye, ask them tough, probing questions and see how they responded both verbally and non-verbally. Then he would ask himself, “Do I want that person working in my building?”
    Using that same theme, then, you don’t need someone in Columbus to tell you if your district is passing muster. You’ve been in your district’s school buildings enough over the years. You know what you saw, what you experienced, what you liked and didn’t like. So ask yourselves these questions, knowing that your impressions may well be those of your children:
    Page 2 of 2 - • Is the landcaping out front cared for? Are you proud to have this school is in your area? Or does it look like a war zone?
    • Does the inside of the place look nice and smell nice? A good, clean environment is welcoming. But if children are afraid to touch anything, or to use the restroom lest they get some disease, they’re not going to learn anything other than how to keep from getting sick.
    • Is the person at the front desk friendly and sporting a warm smile?  Or is that person crabby and threatening, making you think twice about having any kind of interaction?
    • Are the teachers cooperative and ready, willing and able to do everything possible to promote learning? Or are they just waiting for the final bell to ring so they can blow out of there and head home?
    • Is the principal a good leader, someone who is hands-on, exhibiting just the right mix of caring and compassion with discipline to garner respect? Or is this person far removed from any interaction with students or teachers, building a wall between himself and everybody else?
    • Overall, do you get a good feel when you visit? Is it a positive experience? Do you walk out of there confident that your child is getting a good education? Are you satisfied that your tax dollars are being put to good use? Or are you frustrated that your child will fall behind others in his grade level or will struggle to be the best that he can be?
    Those of us who live in The Suburbanite’s coverage area are pretty lucky. No one and nothing is perfect, but our schools are top-shelf for the most part. I’ve never been in one yet that was a turn-off. Even the old buildings have a charm and a warmth that draws kids in and provides them with the impetus to do their best.
    So don’t be dissuaded by another far-off-base, hard-to-understand effort by the state to tell us what to think, how to think and why we should think it about our schools. That’s an insult to your intelligence.
    Use your own judgment, give your own grades and then let the people running the schools know what you think.
    After all, it’s the comments from the people who are closest to the action – who know the real deal – that are valued most.