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Published: Friday, 10/25/2013

EDITORIALS

Keep Common Core

The curriculum is essential to keeping Ohio’s public schools competitive; it mustn’t become prey to a Tea Party backlash

Ohio high school graduates shouldn’t have to take remedial courses in college. They should be equipped to compete across the nation and the world. Their education should be rigorous, no matter how poor or rich their school district is.

That’s what Common Core, the national education standards set to take effect in Ohio and throughout the country next year, is about. Nothing should impede its rollout in our state.

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Common Core has drawn the ire of Tea Party types whose familiar tactics include demonization, disruption, and destruction. They call the curriculum an anti-American, dumbing-down conspiracy intended to wrench education from local, parent, and teacher control, to homogenize instruction, and to promote standardized tests.

A bill before the state House would void Common Core standards in Ohio. Fortunately, the chairman of the House Education Committee, state Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R., Lancaster), isn’t buying into the nonsense.

At a recent legislative hearing, Mr. Stebelton declared the conspiracy claims ”don’t make sense.” He predicted the anti-Common Core bill will go nowhere. Let’s hope his colleagues in the Republican-controlled General Assembly are paying attention.

Common Core is a uniform system of standards for English and math instruction. They are meant to replace the patchwork of standards and tests that now exists among the states.

Under Common Core, not every school will teach the same thing. Districts still will select their own curricula and train their own teachers. But the standards include uniform expectations of what students should know at what ages.

Far from being a Washington plot, Common Core was developed in a process led by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. These groups heard complaints from employers that too many graduates seeking jobs weren’t well-educated.

The curriculum has the support of the Ohio Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — hardly left-wing advocacy groups. They assert that the nation has “50 sets of inconsistent standards.”

Common Core has been adopted by 45 states, including Ohio and Michigan. Adoption was voluntary, although the Obama Administration offered strong incentives to do so by linking the curriculum to its Race to the Top grant program. That means billions of dollars in federal aid to states for school reform.

To meet the more-rigorous standards, Toledo area school districts have had teacher teams and curriculum directors rebuild how and what is taught in every grade in English and math.

Kay Wait, a teacher and instructional planner, worked to help align Toledo Public Schools with Common Core. “Local districts have the freedom to design the curriculum,” she told The Blade’s editorial page. “Teachers can use their own craft.” The standards, she added, “do not tell teachers how to teach.”

Adam Fineske, executive director of curriculum and assessment for Sylvania Schools, noted that under the new standards, what was previously expected from eighth graders now is expected from seventh graders.

That sounds more like smarting up than dumbing down. State lawmakers should be equally smart.



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