By Terry D. Wright
For the Daily Call
PIQUA — The State of Ohio has expressed a concern, along with other states, reasoning that a national educational standard is not equally representative of the nation’s students’ needs, successes or outcomes. Curriculum and classroom teaching methods vary widely across the United States. Because of past diverse teaching methods and standards across American, the United States doesn’t even rank in the top 20 nations anymore in reading, math and science, according to a recent study by the Program for International Student Assessment. According to this study, 29 nations placed higher than the United States in those subjects.
Ohio has adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative as a set of expectations which establish what students need to know at each grade level. The Buckeye State currently uses the Common Core Standards developed by a group within the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Ohio is a member of PARCC and state members sits on that group’s governing board.
What is the Common Core? Educational experts and teachers have been working for the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers explain that the Common Core “focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful.” As an example of what is expected under the Common Core standards, second- graders absolutely must know how to add and subtract by the end of the year and eighth-graders cannot move up without understanding linear algebra and linear functions.
Piqua City Schools has been working with the Common Core State Standards for three years according to Superintendent Rick Hanes. “The Common Core Standards came from a National Governors’ Association at the time who were in favor of using it,” Hanes said.
The Common Core State Standards were accepted across the United States as a clear, concise, understandable, and consistent order or learning and challenges whereby students nationwide will learn and be tested. As an example, students in California will learn and be tested on the same levels as those pupils in Maine. Also, the new standardized testing would be the same for all of the Common Core standards and subjects. Furthermore, specific states would not be able to give their own versions of tests to establish a national common base line. One of the criticisms in the past has been that some states have adopted an easier version of state tests to compare their children’s learning with other states. However, by the adoption of Common Core, school districts and teachers nationwide would no longer be expected to do little more than teach to the test the entire year or be compared with other states who offer easier testing assessments. The Common Core standards are aligned with college and career expectations; a process, many educators and administrators feel, has been needed for a long time.
There are costs to school districts implementing the Common Core Standards but those costs are not any different than the expenses related to any new adopted state standards, according to Piqua’s Superintendent Hanes. “Every five to eight years these are usually changes in the state’s educational standards which include a district expense for resources, materials and teacher training,” said Superintendent Hanes. Common Core Standards are no different.
“Graduation requirements have not changed under the Common Core Standards,” added Superintendent Hanes. “Under federal law, the states have the responsibility for graduation requirements.” Therefore, Common Core Standards and graduation requirements are not related because of federal law and state responsibilities.
Jeff Clark, principal of Piqua Junior High, reported that his building began preparing teachers for the transition to Common Core by utilizing their curriculum department. “The curriculum department began teaching the staff years ago in order to change over and merge with Common Core,” Clark said. “The difference the parents will see is that Common Core standards cause students to work on a deeper level of learning concepts.”
Piqua’s Junior High principal reported that the school had completed some piloting of the programs to examine results before Common Core became effective in the district. What they realized from those test programs was that they have a tremendous challenge of constantly monitoring, documenting and tracking students with Common Core Standards that was not as ambitious in the old regulations of standards. Additionally, Clark noted that the old system of standards of monitoring student success required more standards which caused students and teachers stress because there wasn’t enough time in a given school year to cover all of those numerous standards. Common Core Standards are fewer in number but go more in depth in learning concepts, establishing meaning and understanding methods and problem solvability.
Even though many consider Common Core as an improvement over No Child Left Behind, not everyone is in favor of the new standards. Reps. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) have introduced Ohio State House Bill HB 597, to voice their concerns about the national movement to implement a uniform educational standard in Ohio’s classrooms. That bill is currently in the hearings process in the State House. Most of those concerns, by opponents of Common Core, express a loss of state control over a national set of core educational standards, beliefs, values and principles.