Arguing that Common Core was created by education experts and will push Ohio students into advanced learning, school officials and national specialists told a House committee today why the standards should be kept. School districts leaders said they have spent four years putting Common Core standards in place for math and English/language arts, and they are in no mood to spend more time and money fixing what they don't see as broken.
Educators: Standards are just fine
Eliminating Common Core standards in Ohio would hurt students and chart a path of chaos, school officials and national experts told an Ohio House committee yesterday.
School-district leaders said they have spent four years putting Common Core standards in place for math and English/language arts, and they are in no mood to spend more time and money fixing what they don't see as broken.
"Why start over?" asked Paul Imhoff, superintendent of Upper Arlington Schools, who praised Common Core. Implementing new standards, he said, takes a lot of time for teachers to translate them into a meaningful curriculum. "It also costs money - money that most districts don't have."
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House Bill 597 would eliminate Common Core standards starting next year, replacing them for two years with Massachusetts standards. Ohio then would develop its own new standards in time for the 2017-18 school year.
"We in Worthington are confused by this legislation. Perplexed, really. Baffled might be the right word," Marc Schare, vice president of the Worthington Board of Education, told a House committee that might vote on the bill next week.
The standards, developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are designed to provide states common benchmarks to improve college and career readiness and critical thinking. More than
40 states adopted the standards, including Ohio, which has spent four years implementing them.
Critics have argued that the process of developing the standards was secretive and that they invite federal government intrusion into local education while stifling flexibility and creativity among teachers and students. Some also say the standards are not rigorous enough in some areas but too tough in others.
Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, a main sponsor of the bill, made repeated references to Gates Foundation funding and Common Core ties to federal Race to the Top funding. He said the goal of the bill is to restore more local options and local control, eliminating the one-size-fits-all nature of Common Core.
"This would seem to be the most serious criticism and would be alarming if true, but it's not true," Schare said, echoing other teachers and school officials who say they can create their own curriculums under Common Core.
Worthington's high-school math curriculum is "radically different" than neighboring Dublin's and Westerville's, Schare said. "Not only is Common Core not one-size-fits-all, it's not even one-size-fits-all in my ZIP code."
Tom Gibbs, associate superintendent in Athens, shared similar thoughts. "I have concerns about federal overreach. But this bill doesn't address that," he said.
"I cannot comprehend why we are discussing this topic. There are things in this bill that honestly frighten me," Gibbs said, pointing to bill language that says the state cannot financially punish districts that opt out of state testing.
As for Race to the Top, Schare said that even if Ohio approved Common Core standards in 2010 to get that federal money, it does nothing to change the legitimacy of the standards or the disruption that would be caused by getting rid of them.
Dawn Henry, director of teaching and learning for Oregon City Schools, just east of Toledo, called Common Core the "most significant educational change process to occur in Ohio in four generations."
That drew reaction from Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, who said Common Core is half-completed and unproven, adopted without true knowledge of who wrote the standards. "Don't you think it should have been given more vetting?"
"I'm not sure how much vetting it takes to know that you want kids to learn more," Henry said, noting that educators already have a lot of knowledge about how kids learn.
Last week, the committee heard some sharp criticism from Common Core opponents, including some teachers, about the math standards, including geometry and algebra. Asked specifically about the geometry concerns, William McCallum, a mathematics professor at the University of Arizona who helped developed the Common Core math standards, said criticism is "based on complete misconception of what is in the standards."
One criticism is that students get credit for some mathematics questions even if the answer is wrong, as long as they show their work. McCallum said that is "completely untrue," but the standard does require that students show they understand what they are doing.
"Knowing how you got the answer gives you a flexible knowledge … that you can apply to situations in the real world," he said.
Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Oxford, asked why Ohio can't create its own quality standards. It can, McCallum said, but "why would you, when you have good standards already?"
Jeff Patrick, superintendent of the Franklin Monroe District in Darke County, said teachers there started implementing Common Core in elementary grades four years ago. The district had no third-graders held back as a result of the state's third-grade reading guarantee.
If lawmakers pass the bill, he said, "you are doing a huge injustice to the students of Ohio."
Buchy asked a few times about parental involvement in the process. He asked McCallum if there were any "ordinary" parents on his panel - those who were not math experts. The answer: no.
Later, Buchy said, "A large percentage of parents in my district have come to the conclusion that the problem in education is the elitist attitude of the profession."