A dose of reality: education professionals show the way in discussion of the Common Core

State Representative Gerald Stebelton and the Pickerington Chamber of Commerce convened an education summit this morning at Ohio University’s Pickerington Center. Nearly 100 people gathered to discuss education in Ohio and in their own communities, and Representative Stebelton—the House education committee chair—began with an overview of the education provisions in the just-enacted state budget.

Rep. Stebelton addresses the education summit meeting.

Fordham’s Terry Ryan gave a presentation (which can be downloaded here) on the history and development of the Common Core State Standards, the process of their adoption in 2010, and some insight into the early stages of its implementation across the state. His presentation was eagerly awaited by many in the gathering as questions began early and persisted throughout. Terry’s review of academic standards in Ohio going back to the mid-1990s proved enlightening to many. Terry urged the attendees to read the standards carefully, compare them properly to Ohio’s previous academic standards in English and math, and to “speak out loudly” if there is anything within the Common Core that they do not want their children or grandchildren to learn.

Terry Ryan describes the history of the Common Core State Standards.

But the true highlight of the event was a panel discussion in which three stellar superintendents explained how the Common Core has been implemented in their quite different districts, and what they see as the benefits for the students in their charge.

Some highlights:

  • Steve Wigton of Lancaster City Schools brought up the notion of time vs. depth, noting that his teachers are perpetually concerned about time: how to teach all that must be taught within the constraints of available time. Under Ohio’s old standards, too much has to be covered superficially, with neither sufficient depth nor sufficient opportunity to check in with children to ensure they’ve “got it” before moving on.
  • Robert Walker of Pickerington Local Schools echoed the benefits his teachers find in the Common Core in regard to their concerns about time. But he also argued passionately and eloquently about the “straightforward approach” to education that the standards represent, the standards’ emphasis on higher-order thinking, and the importance of proper teaching and learning versus the futility of relying on memorization and recall.
  • Steve Dackin of Reynoldsburg City Schools is a familiar figure on this blog and leads a district at the forefront of reform. According to Dackin, for his district, many of the reforms related to the Common Core are just “business as usual.” He explained that Reynoldsburg long ago concluded that current state standards were too low and represented a “false sense of security” that children were learning. As such, Reynoldsburg embraced higher standards long before the Common Core came into being. He noted also that during a high school overhaul more than two years ago, the district decided to adopt the ACT Quality Core standards, and he has found them to be very similar to the Common Core. Reynoldsburg has chosen – as is its prerogative – to stick with ACT Quality Core.

From Left to Right: Steve Dackin, Steve Wigton, Robert Walker.

The superintendents – all with members of their Boards and/or curriculum directors on hand – explained clearly the importance of high standards for their students and staff, of clear accountability measures and teacher evaluations, of supports to enhance and improve teacher practice, and of teachers and parents “knowing what their students know” through properly-aligned testing and reporting.

The meeting opened with remarks by Jim Smith, Dean of Ohio University Lancaster/Pickerington, but his thoughts – echoed by every other speaker on the agenda – are also applicable in closing: K-12 education is preparation for college, career, or military service. It is preparation for the future lives we want our children to have, and it must be adequate to the task. The education professionals carried the day – in the face of vocal criticism and concern from the public -- in showing that Ohio is seriously attempting to address the issue of effective K-12 education for all its students through many channels, not least of which is implementation of the Common Core.

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