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Education Reporter

Final Curtain Falls on
Model OBE Program

Crisis in the Classroom Crisis in the Classroom
Eagle Forum's video documentary opens with six minutes on crime in the public schools. When this video was released in 1996, some wondered why this aspect of public education was given such prominence.

The subsequent school crimes in Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Colorado have proved the importance of this issue. As parents and law enforcers seek causes for such crimes by schoolchildren, we suggest that they review Crisis in the Classroom. The groundwork has been laid for many years. Available for $19.95 + $3.00 shipping from Eagle Forum, P.O. Box 618, Alton, IL 62002, 1/800-726-8096.

JOHNSON CITY, NY - Dr. Aldo S. Bernardo, Ph.D., predicted in an interview on Eagle Forum's video documentary Crisis in the Classroom that Johnson City's Outcome Based Education (OBE) "will be remembered as a failed experiment." The final eulogy was just delivered by the self-described "change agent" who created it, John Champlin. In the Winter 1999 issue of his own publication, Journal of Quality Learning, he proclaimed the death of Johnson City's OBE, which was called Outcomes-Driven Developmental Model (ODDM).

Johnson City, one of the most famous OBE models ever funded by the U.S. Department of Education, was called the "jewel" of the OBE movement, the so-called "reform" that has dominated the schools since about 1990. Johnson City's OBE became a national model when it received the prestigious national Program Effectiveness Panel validation in 1985 and again in 1994. It also enjoyed the reputation of being the keystone of the Mastery Learning movement (ML). Throughout the 1980s and '90s, busloads and planeloads of teachers and administrators from most states came to Johnson City to behold the wonders of the model.

John Champlin was appointed Johnson City superintendent in 1971. Veteran teachers and administrators told horror stories of how he ruthlessly brushed aside anyone and anything standing in his way. In an article he wrote in 1994 entitled "Leadership: A Change Agent's View," he described with relish the ruthless methods he used to establish ODDM. In the last paragraph, he proudly boasted that, like Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way."

Professor Bernardo wrote a guest column in January 1994 in the local newspaper pointing out the shortcomings of the program and calling it "nothing more than OBE in sheep's clothing." After publishing a report showing the poor results on the state tests taken by the students at every level, he was ostracized by district officials.

Champlin left Johnson City in the early '80s to establish a national center for OBE in Scottsdale, AZ, the name of which was recently changed to Institute for Quality Learning. There he established and still publishes a journal dedicated to the promotion of OBE/ODDM/ML/QDM (Quality District Model) through articles and conferences. The journal recently changed its title from Quality Outcomes Driven Education to Journal of Quality Learning.

Champlin's 1999 article reflecting on the demise of Johnson City's ODDM called it a "dream," a "vision," and "truly Camelot." He blamed its failure on the loss of will to "sustain significant change." He complained about a "toxic takeover" that occurred in the district, fingering the "Christian Right that descended on the district" and the "Quislings" who assumed "new behaviors to please the occupying forces."

The shambles that Champlin created is documented on the video Crisis in the Classroom, where outraged parents, who were promised their children would get "a world class education," discovered later that their 3rd graders couldn't spell simple words like "was." Parents objected to report cards emphasizing social skills while giving no grades for academics. One mother observed that "the schools have traded places with parents." She noted that schools now try to take care of the physical and social needs of children while neglecting academics, and as a result, parents are forced to hire tutors or provide basic skills instruction themselves.

Dr. Bernardo, a Johnson City resident, says: "We now have the inventor of an early form of OBE delivering the coup de grace to his own offspring, causing embarrassment and consternation in such supporters of ODDM as William Glasser, William Spady, and several others. Hopefully, this is the first of the many dominoes constituting current school reforms to fall."

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