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What You Need to Know Before the Hearing on Ohio's Anti-Common Core Bill

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 2:51 PM

State. Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) is the sponsor of HB 237.

State. Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) is the sponsor of HB 237.

Ohio's anti-Common Core bill will get its first hearing tomorrow.

The bill would void the Ohio Board of Education's adoption of the Common Core, a new set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do in math and English. It would also bar Ohio from using new nationally developed standardized tests aligned to the Common Core.

Here's what you need to know in advance of the hearing:

1. Quick history lesson: The Common Core isn't the same thing as No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top. 

The Common Core is a set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do in math and English at each grade level. It was developed by teachers, math and language experts and others in an effort organized by state school chiefs and governors. Ohio is one of 45 states that fully adopted the Common Core. Promising to use the Common Core helped some states, including Ohio, win federal Race to the Top education grants. (No Child Left Behind is the George W. Bush-era law that set ambitious goals for schools, particularly around improving outcomes for poor and minority students.) [related_content align="right"]

2. The Common Core itself is not a list of textbooks or lesson plans.

The Common Core is a list of expectations.

The Common Core says fifth graders, for example, should be able to "Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics." The Common Core standards don't specify what books teachers should use to teach that standard.

But the group that developed the Common Core created lists of text to serve as examples of the difficulty level of the material teachers should use at each grade level. Some people say that implies that the state of Ohio endorses the use of those texts. And some schools have used those lists as "Common Core Suggested Reading Lists."

3. Ohio schools aren't actually required to teach to the Common Core, but few are likely to break ranks.

Although the Ohio Department of Education recommends that schools align their curriculums with the Common Core, there is no state law that requires schools to do so. But schools do have to give state tests. And, starting next year, those tests will measure how well schools teach to the Common Core. And those test results are really important to school leaders and teachers. That means then school leaders are likely to stick with teaching to the Common Core.

4. Many teachers believe implementing the Common Core will be difficult and expensive. But many teachers also think the Common Core is a good idea. Go figure.

To actually teach to the Common Core, teachers need help learning about the new standards, planning new lessons and picking new materials. And some schools will need to spend more on technology in order to give the new, online Common Core tests.

About three-quarters of teachers responding to a national Scholastic/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation survey this summer said implementation would be "challenging."

And teachers unions are concerned about using results of the new Common Core tests for high-stakes decisions like teacher evaluations and identifying which low-performing schools must offer private-school vouchers.

But about 70 percent of Ohio superintendents believe the Common Core will improve education in Ohio schools, according to a Fordham Institute survey conducted this spring. And about 60 percent of teachers responding to that Scholastic/Gates Foundation survey said the Common Core will be positive overall for most students.

Still, some educators are concerned that the Common Core will push schools even further in the wrong direction. They say the standards could lead teachers to focus even more on a narrow set of subjects and skills--basically, on the math and English skills that the state tests.

5. Grassroots efforts to stop or pause the Common Core in other states have been successful.

In Indiana, a bill to withdraw that state from the Common Core was scaled back--but Indiana state lawmakers eventually agreed to pause implementation of the new standards pending a legislative review.

To date, 13 members of the Ohio House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of Ohio anti-Common Core bill HB 237, in addition to sponsor Rep. Andy Thompson.

Still, Ohio House Education Committee Chair Gerald Stebelton thinks Ohio should stick with the Common Core. (His actual words were that he'd fight for the Common Core "kicking and screaming.") Gov. Kasich has said he would veto HB 237 if it came to his desk.

Join WVIZ/PBS ideastream Education on Monday, Oct. 14 from 9-10:30 a.m. for An Uncommon View of the Common Core, a panel discussion of what you might not know–but need to know–about the Common Core. Register here.

Panelists include State Rep. Andy Thompson; Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins; Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper; Ohio Schools Council Director Bill Zelei; and Kirtland Local Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett. Follow the discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #ccssoh.


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