Ohio Superintendent Paolo DeMaria presented an outline of the 18-page, five-year draft strategic plan, titled EachChild=OurFuture, to an audience of roughly 160 people Monday at the R.G. Drage Career Technical Center.

MASSILLON  The future of Ohio's education system will value students' social and emotional skills as much as their math and reading skills and will value job training as much as preparing for college, according to a draft version of Ohio’s strategic plan for education.

Ohio Superintendent Paolo DeMaria presented an outline of the 18-page, five-year proposed strategic plan, titled EachChild=OurFuture, to an audience of roughly 160 people Monday at the R.G. Drage Career Technical Center.

“We wanted to focus on the idea of each child,” DeMaria said. “A lot of times when people look at the data and numbers and think about what’s going on, we think about the average student and a lot of times the individuality of every student gets lost. … I think sometimes we really do a disservice to students if we think of them in terms of an average. Every student is different, every student is individual and we as an education system have the capability to deal with that individuality.”

The draft plan, which was developed by more than 150 educators, parents, caregivers, employers, business leaders and philanthropic organizations over the past six months, doesn’t call for any immediate changes to classrooms or Ohio laws, but offers a vision and overarching goal to guide education decisions for Ohio through 2024. Its proposed goal is to annually increase the percentage of Ohio’s high school graduates who, within a year of graduation, are: Enrolled and succeeding in a post-high school learning experience such as an adult career-technical education program, an apprenticeship or a two-year or four-year college program; are serving in a military branch; or are earning a living wage.

DeMaria said the state doesn’t yet know what percentage of current students meet the proposed goal, "but we’re going to work on it together to figure out how we can.”

The plan also calls for several shifts in how the state will approach some its primary educational challenges going forward. Two of the major shifts include emphasizing non-college options and deliberately supporting students’ acquisition of critical reasoning competencies and social-emotional skills.

Not included in the scope of the plan are issues such as school funding, charter schools and Ohio’s educational voucher program.

Student perspective

Among the educators and community and business leaders were 16 students. They represented the largest contingent of students the state has seen at its regional stakeholder meetings so far.

Students from Fairless, Massillon and Jackson school districts who spoke with The Canton Repository following the two-hour meeting expressed overall support for the strategic plan.

“I do like that the key points that us students discuss when we’re talking about school in general were pointed out in this plan,” said Nevaeh White, a junior at Washington High School. “For equity to be such a key point is really important because all students are individuals and need to be treated as individuals.”

Jackson High School students Mitchell Dillon, Christine Parshall and Clay Washington Jr. focused on increasing student enjoyment throughout the school day. Their suggestions included diversifying education programs, increasing career technical opportunities, offering more courses geared toward professions, as well as reducing the amount of homework.

"If we focus too heavily on (homework) and students don’t really have time to relax after school, that puts a negative connotation on learning in general," said Dillon, a senior. "If the plan is to focus on lifelong learners and we don’t incentivize (students) to enjoy school then they won’t become lifelong learners on their own."

Melody Harrison, an eighth-grader at Fairless, wanted the plan to provide an opportunity for students to have more input on issues, such as school safety.

Kaleb Carey, a sophomore at Washington High School, echoed the concerns of many participants when he questioned how the state planned to put some of its objectives into action.

"They talk about the social-emotional portion of the plan and I think if they implement it the wrong way, it could be something that a lot of students dislike," he said.

Carey suggested that social-emotional learning be incorporated into the student's day and not be presented separately where "they are giving us cliché tasks to do, tasks that students aren't engaged in and are tedious."

Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or kelli.weir@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @kweirREP