Home Sweet Home and HB 597

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In my home state of Ohio, the General Assembly is currently advancing a Common Core repeal and replace bill. We’ve seen these in other states like Oklahoma and North Carolina. The bill in Oklahoma led to the repeal and replacement of the Common Core in the Sooner state and the loss of the state’s NCLB Waiver last week.

Ohio’s bill, HB 597, calls for repeal of the Common Core and proposes adopting Massachusetts’ standards that were adopted 14 years ago (and consequently dropped in favor of the Common Core). The old Massachusetts standards would be in place until new Ohio standards can be developed. This is problematic on many fronts, obviously from implementation to textbook alignment, teacher professional development to teacher evaluation, student assessment to textbook alignment. On top of that, there’s the fact that the new school year just started, and the fact that students and teachers would have their third set of standards in a very short period of time. This, too, is simply about politics on the eve of an election.

In the 1990s, Massachusetts was widely considered one of the leaders in implementing high standards and aligned assessments, when former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David Driscoll led an effort to raise the standards. But are 14-year-old “high standards” high enough for students in today’s world? How many of us would give up our current iPhones for 14-year-old Nokias? Of course not. Life moves on and advances and so should our knowledge and skills.

Last year I heard Mitchell Chester, current commissioner of education in Massachusetts, discuss why his state adopted the Common Core Standards and is currently implementing them. Chester offered that the state has extremely high passage rates on its end of course exams in math, ELA and science that are based on the state’s high standards. However, 40 percent of students from Massachusetts high schools who enroll in public universities in the state need remediation. Massachusetts, again viewed as having high standards, needed to raise its standards because students weren’t prepared for college and career. Do legislators in Ohio really think that if they adopt the “high” standards from Massachusetts from 14 years ago that Ohio will have the highest standards in the land? (See: post hoc ergo propter hoc) So what does this really mean for Ohio? And selfishly, my three kids who are in Cincinnati Public Schools?

The Ohio business community has recently gravitated to the standards because they raise the bar for all students and focus on developing students that are college and career ready and, most importantly, globally competitive. Michael Hartley of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce said the following in testimony in support of the Common Core, “Turning back on a set of standards that have been benchmarked with the best of the best would not only be detrimental for those in education, but also for … the 1,600-plus business owners in the Columbus region that rely on a highly skilled workforce to compete in a global market.”

Developing and implementing educational standards is tough work. I’ll write again as I’ve written before: We still are not asking the right questions as we remain wrapped up in politics and demagoguery. The questions include:

  • Are our teachers and leaders prepared and ready?
  • What does high quality professional development look like?
  • Is our technology infrastructure ready and able to support the assessments?
  • How much better, if any, will the new assessments be?
  • Will more states migrate away from the aligned assessment consortium tests to one developed by ACT and College Board?
  • How will our students perform?
  • Will the standards and the implementation fears thwart movements such as competency education or deeper learning?
  • Will it be a boon for more innovative practices and pedagogies?
  • And very importantly, what sort of interventions and supports will be in place to support our most vulnerable learners?

These and many more are viable questions that are actively being addressed. Ohio must turn its attention away from politics to focus on what’s best for children and the competitiveness of the state’s economy.