Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Common Core Standards

I really hadn't given a lot of thought about the Common Core Standards since they were approved in Ohio in 2010.  What I recall disagrees distinctly with some of what I have been reading since hearing about HB 597, an effort to repeal them here in Ohio.

If memory serves, the Common Core Standards initiative was not a Federally-driven program, but one driven by several states who were looking to set a common set of high standards for Science, Math, and English.  It was not part of the No-Child-Left-Behind nor any other Federal initiative.  Ohio adopted them primarily because of the high level AND the ability to have a common set of standards across the state.  These were standards, NOT curriculum, not teaching methodologies, and also not a ceiling.  Local school boards and districts could use the standards as a starting point and go even further.  The objective was preparing students for both college and their future.

What I have been hearing is that the standards dumb everyone down to the lowest common denominator.  I don't recall that at all.  In fact the minimum required level in most Ohio school districts went up when the standards were adopted.

I've also been hearing how the common core injects too much Federal Government into the local school systems.  Again, this was a STATE initiative, not a Federal program.  A number of States got together to pull these standards into a coherent set.  It has never been, nor is there any intention to mandate this at a Federal level.

Check out the CCSSO website for more information.  CCSSO stands for Council of Chief State School Officials.  The standards are a joint effort with the National Governors Center for Best Practices.  I think all of the made-up objections to the standards are politically driven!

Here's why I think that.  (1) If your district thinks the standards aren't high enough, raise them!  You have that right and in my mind that responsibility.  Don't whine, set a higher bar!  (2) Read the article about HB 597, the words say that they authors want to return school standards to the local level.  HELLO!  That's one reason why Ohio adopted the Common Core in 2010, because at the local level Ohio had a mixed set of some high, mostly low standards that were inconsistently applied and the results were poor, at best. (3) Now read more than just the words of the bill, but read the comments made to reporters questions by one of the bill's sponsors.  Political and religious ideas are going to be put on the podium alongside scientific ideas and the teachers are going to be prohibited from contrasting the ideas for any applicability or validity.  How many times do we have to face tactics designed to put pseudo-science like Creationism/Intelligent Design on par with real actual science?

Let's sum things up.  We give schools a limited budget, limited time frame, and we expect them to bring students to the point where they can be successful at college and in the job market following school.  And HB 597's sponsors want to saddle teachers and school districts with a methodology that was failing 4 years ago and further handicap them by letting school districts bring in their political and religious disagreements about science and use valuable resources presenting these concepts as if they are a core part of the curriculum.  How is this doing anything but a disservice to our students!

I recall a comic strip from 2012 that sums it up pretty well:  Doonesbury!  The final student comment in the strip really brings it home to me:  "Please stop, I would like to get into a good college."  Yes, Ohio lawmakers, please stop HB 597 so our children can get into a good college, so they can get a quality education, so we can compete in the future with other countries whose school standards are putting us to shame!  Please stop allowing a few to use our children to push a political or religious agenda!  Please Stop!

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