Updated Tue, Aug 26, 2014 4:12 pm
The Common Core education standards are the topic of a major debate being waged in statehouses across the country, but in Ohio, the argument is heating up.
However, many Ohioans may be confused about just what the Common Core standards are and why it has become a topic of contention schools, meeting rooms and statehouses around the country.
What is the Common Core?
- -National standards for K-12 education in English language arts and math that aim to promote college- and career- readiness.
- -Developed by National Governor’s Association and promoted by many lawmakers and education officials including President Obama.
- -Approved by the 45 states in 2010 aiming for full implementation over the next several years.
The Common Core standards, in the initiative's own words, are:
"A set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics."
What this means is that adopters of the standards who have some degree of the same curriculum that includes annual benchmarks for student performance in order to promote college-readiness and job performance.
In the state of Ohio, this means new yearly student assessments that would replace state-developed testing methods.
Who supports the Common Core and why?
- -Democrats and many education officials support the standards as a way to keep America competitive in education internationally.
- -Endorsed by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
- -Approved by the Ohio Board of Education in 2010 with the backing of state school officials and politicians.
The Common Core was initially spearheaded by Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security for President Barack Obama. She, along with the National Governors’ Association, worked with education research and professionals to develop the standards beginning in 2009. That same year, President Obama incentivized adoption of the Common Core in his 2009 "Race to the Top" competitive education grant initiative.
The Common Core is largely the work of Democratic lawmakers who see education as an issue that needs national attention. Many of them see the standards as a way to improve achievement of American students nationwide and as an investment in college-readiness and job growth in the future. They think a top-down approach to the issue is the best way to ensure success across the entire country.
In June 2010, the Ohio Board of Education was one of 45 states to choose to integrate the Common Core standards into its K-12 education, aiming for full implementation by the 2013-2014 school year. For students in the 2014-2015 school year, this means a new standardized test system that assesses students' performance and growth annually.
Who is protesting the standards and why?
- -Many Republicans see the Common Core as “big government” taking control of education away from the states.
- -Conservatives see the standards as potential wasteful and expensive without actually increasing student achievement.
- -Ohio Republican State Reps are pushing legislation to repeal the standards before the end of the school year.
Many Republicans and conservatives have been publically critical of the Common Core Standards. They see the push for national standards as an active attack on state's rights. The states have historically been largely autonomous in setting their own school standards for their students in ways that they see fit best for their state.
That has certainly been true in the Ohio state legislature. July, Republican State Representatives Andy Thompson and Matt Thompson introduced legislation to void any changes to the Common Core standards. If passed before the end of the school year, it would mean that Ohio students would be back to taking the Ohio Achievement Assessments and the Ohio Graduation Tests instead of assessment standards modeled after Massachusetts’s implementation of the Common Core.
Other opponents say the standards are an overly expensive measure that will generate waste while not necessarily producing actual success in schools. There are concerns that many of the plan policies have been developed in a bubble, not being tested or compared to international standards Many of these opponents are the same conservatives who say that leaving education to the states is the best way to educate students as efficiently as possible.
What’s next for the Common Core?
Superintendents and state officials are testifying before the Ohio Houses’ Rules Committee on their assessment of Common Core standards in Ohio. Next week’s testimonies from people like Athens City Schools Associate Superintendent Tom Gibbs will concern the cost of implementing these measures and the practicality of the new planned assessments in the state. Some education officials agree with the standards, but disagree about the manner and speed with which Ohio is implementing them.
Will the Common Core soon be a thing of the past? Will it actually serve students in providing a competitive education? These are questions that may be now in the hands of the Ohio state legislature.