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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Published: Monday, 8/11/2014

EDITORIAL

Keep Common Core

Huffman Huffman
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Just what Ohio needs: Statehouse politicians telling public schools what and how to teach.

Ohio is one of 45 states that adopted the national Common Core academic standards in 2010. Educators have worked hard and the state has spent a lot of money to put them into effect. The standards define the basic knowledge and skills in reading and math that American students are expected to master in every grade.

They emphasize critical thinking, lots of reading and writing, and depth of understanding over rote learning. Each school district writes its own curriculum to meet the standards, which will help prepare better workers and citizens.

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Such radical notions were too much for the state governments in Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, which voted this year to scrap Common Core. Now two Republican members of the Ohio House, reciting Tea Party talking points, are bringing the backlash here: They are sponsoring a bill that would replace the standards with — well, with nothing they can identify.

Leaders of the GOP-controlled House support this reckless stunt. They appear to be working with the sponsors to keep the repeal bill out of the House Education Committee, which is headed by a Common Core advocate (and a Republican).

Worse, a spokesman for Gov. John Kasich says the governor “shares a lot of [the] concerns” of the measure’s supporters and “is looking at their ideas closely.” That’s an ominous election-year change of tone for the administration.

State schools superintendent Richard Ross told The Blade’s editorial board in April that Ohio is “better off to have these standards.” Last year, Mr. Kasich said he would veto a previous effort to repeal Common Core; it never reached his desk. But that was before a GOP House incumbent from Cincinnati lost his primary in May to a Common Core opponent.

One of the repeal bill’s sponsors, state Rep. Matt Huffman of Lima, offers the canard that repudiating Common Core will get “the federal government out of the business of education in Ohio.” Common Core is not a Washington program: It was initiated by the bipartisan National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and endorsed by private employers nationwide.

The Obama Administration gives states money to create Common Core tests, and provides financial incentives to maintain the standards. That’s enough to render Common Core intolerable among partisan advocates of repeal.

Some teachers’ unions have expressed reservations about Common Core, but not because they oppose the standards themselves. Rather, they fear some states and school districts will use poor performance by students on tests designed to assess mastery of the standards as an excuse to penalize teachers.

The way to address such concerns is not to eliminate the rigorous standards, but rather to give school districts the needed time, support, and flexibility — and teachers the training — to make Common Core work.

During the upcoming school year, Ohio districts will start giving tests based on the Common Core standards. The results of these tests should be used to address problems in the classroom, not to determine, or cut, school funding.

Two of every five Ohio high school graduates who enroll in the state’s public universities and colleges need remedial instruction. That suggests the urgency of tougher academic standards in Ohio elementary and secondary schools.

If Common Core can be improved in Ohio, parents and public officials should be part of that process, along with academic experts. But meddling and showboating by politicians who play at being educators won’t advance that goal.

The General Assembly is a conspicuous example of the failure of education in Ohio. Lawmakers shouldn’t condemn the state’s young people to similar failure because they consider it more important to pander to an extremist partisan base.

Common Core should stay. Its politicized opposition should go.



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