The last couple of weeks have witnessed unremitting and well-coordinated attacks on the Common Core academic standards. States from New Jersey to Michigan to Ohio to Alabama have all been targeted by “a grassroots rebellion” against the Common Core. This rebellion has the backing and encouragement of national pundits such as Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin and Phyllis Schlafly. It also seems to have considerable cash behind it (though nobody will say from where). The Fordham Institute team has been drawn into the national fray, and in recent weeks we’ve been drawn into the battle in our home state of Ohio. Just yesterday, we had a long conversation/debate with a group that included individuals from Citizens for Objective Public Education (a Phyllis Schlafly inspired group), Tea Party groups, Religious Right groups and hard core local-control groups that believe standards, curriculum and assessments should be set by only your own town’s board of education..
These critics contend, inter alia, that the Common Core:
- is a national curriculum (critics of the Common Core confuse standards with curriculum);
- is a takeover of education by the federal government and the beginning of the end of state/local control;
- requires the mandatory collection of intrusive personal data about kids (including possible retina scans);
- de-emphasizes handwriting skills;
- favors “repair manuals” over classic literature; and
- isn’t nearly as rigorous as current state standards.
Ohio’s bright-eyed freshmen aren’t ready for college coursework. That’s the story from the Ohio Board of Regents, which reports that 40 percent of Ohio’s college freshman take remedial (high-school level) coursework in either math or English. Moreover, 14 percent of incoming freshman are required by their college to take both a remedial math and English class.
These are staggering numbers, with massive implications for students and taxpayers. For students who take a remedial course, Complete College America found that only 35 percent graduate in six years. This compares to 56 percent of all students. Similarly, the Ohio State University found that students who took remedial coursework graduated at a rate 30 points lower than their non-remedial peers. With these dismal results in mind, remedial coursework largely wastes the $130 million per year Ohio spends to support remedial education.
The chart below takes a closer look at the remediation rates for incoming freshman who attend an Ohio public college or university, by the public high school from which they graduated. The performance index generally indicates the quality of the high school. The chart shows three things:
- As expected, higher-performing schools tend to have lower remediation rates;
- A small portion of Ohio high schools have remarkably high remediation rates—above 70 and 80 percent—and four schools break the 90 percent mark;
- A modest-sized section of high-performing high schools also have high remediation rates. This is unexpected—and indicates that remediation is a problem for students
Since 1986, over 557 school districts throughout Ohio have taken advantage of a very generous program, courtesy of taxpayers, that allows school districts to pay for capital improvements done to their facilities. According to the Ohio School Facilities Commission, this program has funded over 952 projects, involving over 6,089 buildings, at a cost of over $1.25 billion, while saving taxpayers over $115 million. However, this privilege is open to district schools and their buildings only, and denied to charter schools.
The program, formally known as the Ohio School Facilities Commission Energy Conservation Program or the House Bill 264 Program, enables school districts to make energy-related improvements to district buildings that in theory would generate enough energy savings to eventually pay off the improvement bond from which the capital originated from its issuance, along with the cost of financing. The cost savings over 15 years for energy, operational, and maintenance must equal or exceed the cost of implementing the measures. The program allows energy-related improvements, as opposed to merely repairs. This may seem like semantics until the discussion turns on how exactly projects are paid for.
In Ohio, tax levies are typically raised in order to fund capital projects, including improvements to school buildings. Ohio law requires that such levies must be submitted to the voters of the school district for approval. Under HB 264, however, school districts can bypass this process of accountability by invoking the desired project as a qualified,
The last few weeks in Ohio have seen a torrent of anti-Common Core literature, comments, blogs, and letters aimed at lawmakers and state board of education members. Much of this chatter has been perpetrated by two organizations with a lot to say and claims to make. See here and here. Such critics and criticisms need a response, and in the following we provide rebuttals to four widely circulated fabrications about the Common Core.
It is well known that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has been a long-time champion of high academic standards and aligned assessments. We are also supporters of the Common Core standards in English language arts and mathematics, mainly because they are superior to what Ohio and most other states currently have in place for their schools.
There is no doubt that the Common Core and the PARCC assessments aligned to them will face challenges in the coming months and years ( e.g. preparing all teachers, getting the necessary technology in place, developing pacing guides). But, despite the challenges superintendents, school principals, and teachers are remarkably supportive of the Common Core in Ohio and across the country. For example, Fordham recently surveyed Ohio’s superintendents (344 of the state’s 614 superintendents – a 56 percent response rate), and discovered that 81 percent of the respondents believe that five years from now the Common Core standards “will be widely and routinely in use in Ohio.” Only one in ten