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Published: Tuesday, 8/19/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

House vote could mean demise for Common Core

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Opponents of new education standards in Ohio’s K-12 schools told lawmakers Monday that they take decisions out of the hands of local school boards, teachers, and parents and put them in the hands of unelected organizations in some cases are far from Ohio.

A vote on a bill to kill the Common Core standards after one year and replace them with yet-to-be-written Ohio standards could occur in the House after lawmakers return from summer recess in November.

Common Core sets minimum benchmarks for what students are expected to know in math and English at certain grade levels. It was developed in 2010 by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officials, subsequently supported by major business groups and the Obama Administration, and eventually adopted by most states.

Opposition didn’t really gain traction with Ohio lawmakers until schools began finalizing classroom curriculum under those broader standards and an incumbent Cincinnati-area House Republican lost a primary race to a Common Core opponent.

Among other things, opponents argued that one-size-fits-all standards are too geared toward standardized, high-stakes tests.

“We do not need people in offices hundreds of miles away making decisions that affect what children learn and the way children learn,” said Rose Stechchulte, a third-grade teacher at small, rural Fort Jennings Elementary School in Putnam County.

“We need to stop this federal takeover and put our children’s education back in the hands of those closest to them,” she said. “I believe in accountability — mine and my students. However, harder tests do not make kids smarter, just as raising the bar does not make kids jump higher. It only frustrates them.”

House Bill 597, sponsored by Reps. Matt Huffman (R., Lima) and Andy Thompson (R., Marietta), is being heard by the House Rules and Reference Committee, chaired by Mr. Huffman.

The move sidesteps the House Education Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R., Lancaster), supports Common Core.

“This is a big, big deal,” Mr. Huffman said. “I don’t want people saying 20 years from now, this is a big mistake.”

House Bill 597 would, after the 2014-15 school year, revoke the Common Core standards. It would substitute for the next two years pre-Common Core academic standards that were in place in Massachusetts, a state that has since adopted Common Core.

Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, the bill would implement Ohio-specific standards that would be developed.

At a preemptive news conference before the first of the three hearings scheduled for this week, Common Core supporters argued that the standards are more rigorous and emphasize problem-solving and critical thinking skills over rote memorization.

“We have very deep concerns as professional educators that, if we were to step away from this for political reasons, a generation of students would miss out on a more effective, more important, more productive education,” said Kirk Hamilton, executive director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators.

“If we change course, there’s a generation of teachers and educators who will be very hard to convince and, in my opinion, very hesitant to accept and prepare to implement a new set of standards,” he said.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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