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Five Key Takeways From an Ohio Common Core Debate

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 6:35 PM

You know it's about to get real when the PBS people think about calling security.

StateImpact Ohio and WVIZ/PBS ideastream education presented a panel discussion on the Common Core Monday.

StateImpact Ohio and WVIZ/PBS ideastream education presented a panel discussion on the Common Core Monday.

You know it's about to get real when the PBS people think about calling security.

That's what happened before this week's WVIZ/PBS ideastream Education panel discussion on the Common Core, the new standards for what students should know and be able to do in math and English that Ohio and 44 other states have adopted.

The standards themselves are just goals for reading and math instruction. But putting them into place in schools comes with a host of tricky questions. And as opposition to the standards that the state Board of Education approved in 2010 has grown, the debate has become contentious.

As it happened, the panel discussion Monday was calm. The panelists--including a Tea Party legislator who wants to pull Ohio out of the Common Core and the presidents of Ohio's teacher unions who very much want Ohio to stay in the Common Core--debated. And we moderated the discussion and emerged unscathed to present you with five key takeaways from "An Uncommon View of the Common Core."
[audio href="" title="Listen to the Panel Discussion"][/audio]

1. On training teachers to teach to the Common Core.

Kirtland school district Superintendent Steve Barrett says his district increased spending on Common Core teacher training:

"i don't think it's ever been harder to be a teacher and we owe them as much coaching and professional development as we can, but we're never doing enough of it because every time we take them out to do that they're missing class and they have to make plans for a substitute and we've heard form parents that 'I'm tired of my daughter having a substitute.'"

Former Ohio Department of Education Associate Superintendent Bill Zelei:

"We surely don't do as much professional development as any business in this country when they're rolling out something new. They would be doing 10 times [or] 20 times the professional development we do."

2. On Ohio's old standards.

[related_content align="right"]State Rep. Andy Thompson, the sponsor of a bill that would void Ohio's adoption of the Common Core and bar Ohio from using new Common Core-aligned tests designed by a group of states:

"I agree that Ohio had very very mediocre standards before. I agree that there was a problem that needed to be addressed. My question is whether we've done so effectively with Common Core and whether in the process we've yielded our state sovereignty to some interests who aren't, frankly, Ohio interests."

Former Ohio Department of Education official Bill Zelei:

"The new standards are going to be much more rigorous than our current standards. Kids are going to need to think more deeply and...they'r going to need to apply knowledge to real-world situations."

3. On testing.

Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins says she talks to a lot of teachers who are stressed by the number of changes coming to Ohio schools, including the challenge of being evaluated based in part on student performance on new, Common Core tests:

"But mostly it's not about the standards--it's never been about the standards. They believe in the standards. It's the implementation. It's the time. They need the time and the space."

Kirtland Superintendent Steve Barrett noted that schools are supposed to be teaching to the Common Core this year, but students will take state standardized tests aligned to Ohio's old standards:

"A year without tests might be good to prepare for the PARCC assessments," the new online, Common Core tests that Ohio and a group of states are developing together.

"When people think there's states pulling out of the Common Core, what they're mainly pulling out of is PARCC... It would have been good if we didn't have assessments this year and we could actually get ready for the Common Core and take the assessments in 2015 but even that timeline is very, very compressed."

4. On public input.

Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper:

"It wasn't just from Washington. States had a lot of input into this. I believe there were over 10,000 responses when [the standards were] put out to peer review. We had teachers right here in Cleveland who were involved with reviewing the standards and helping to make adjustments to the standards. So [the standards] have been put out there for public response and they have been changed and developed over the course of time."

State Rep. Andy Thompson, a Republican from southwestern Ohio:

"The people who were in the know knew about [the Common Core], but it was a very limited group who were in the know."

5. On building the plane while we're flying it. (Metaphor alert: The plane represents the new Common Core standards and associated tests and policies.)

Kirtland Superintendent Steve Barrett:

"We are building the plane as we fly it. And it's a plane that I support building because we need to ramp up rigor."

Former Ohio Department of Education official Bill Zelei:

"We're building the plane while we're flying it... My grandson is in school and I don't want somebody to land the plane for 2 years, get it right and then put it back in the air because my grandson is only going to be 4 once, he's only going to be 5 once... We need to build it while we're flying it. And if we don't get it right we can modify it. "

Stay tuned to StateImpact Ohio for answers to Common Core questions submitted by audience members at Monday's panel discussion.

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