While Ohio’s children account for less than one-fourth of the state’s population, they represent 100 percent of its future, says the head of Battelle for Kids, a national not-for-profit organization that works on “bringing clarity to school improvement.”
“The efforts we make to develop the people who work with our young people are critical,” said Jim Mahoney, executive director of Battelle for Kids, during Ohio Farm Bureau’s Town Hall Ohio show.
The Columbus-based company was founded in 2001 through a partnership with the Ohio Business Roundtable and a $10 million grant from Battelle Memorial Institute to improve public education in Ohio. In 2005 it expanded to offer a wide array of school improvement services to educators nationwide. It receives philanthropic, public and private funds to support major education-related initiatives and research in more than 20 states and Hong Kong.
Mahoney said the key to student growth in Ohio is finding the right people, using the right measures and practices and getting the right messages out.
“There are specific things we work with to help teachers and principals be more successful with young people,” he said.For example, the Gallup Organization is a partner group that helps provide information to school districts on what to look for when hiring a teacher or principal. Battelle for Kids has been studying highly effective teachers over the last five years to see how they motivate students and manage classrooms.
“Everybody would like us to give a single test for a kid and take results and give every teacher a score of 1-10 and make it very simplistic but teaching kids is not simplistic … it can’t be narrowed down to a single number,” Mahoney said.Having the right principal in charge also is critical for a school’s success, he said.
“Having the right leader who knows how to support, encourage, push and pull to do all those things to create the kind of environment that a teacher can teach in and kids can learn in is a hugely important role,” he said.
Rural school districts can work together to find ways to provide more educational opportunities for students. In rural southeastern Ohio, 21 school districts consolidated their efforts and became the third largest district in Ohio.
“Most rural schools have a science teacher and basic curriculum and by combining and sharing virtually the expertise of faculty members, they can offer other choices that they didn’t have before,” Mahoney said.
Last year Ohio education and business leaders went on fact-finding trips to Finland, Hong Kong, Long Beach, Calif., Ontario, Canada and Singapore to find out how they have accomplished sustained success in student achievement. Their findings were shared during a global education summit.
“If we want our kids to compete in a world that is going to be dramatically different, we need an educated citizenry,” Mahoney said. “We need to do this well so they will have lots of opportunities in the future.”