Showtime's over, the hard work continues

Last Wednesday, the House Education Committee heard sponsor testimony on House Bill 237, legislation that would repeal the Common Core State Standards in Ohio. For those unaware, the Common Core is a set of academic standards that the State Board of Education voluntarily adopted for English and math in June 2010. The standards replace Ohio’s old, outgoing, and clearly inferior academic standards.

In front of a packed house, the 18-member committee heard testimony from the bill sponsor, Rep. Andy Thompson. Among the reasons cited for halting the new standards included concerns about the loss of local control of schools, doubts about the rigor of the standards, and worries about the process by which the standards were adopted.

Representative Andy Thompson (far right) testifies at the House Education Committee (October 9, 2013). Photo by Jeff Murray.

But the House Education Committee chair, Rep. Gerald Stebelton, put to rest these fears. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Stebelton referred to the positive feedback he’s hearing from many educators, remarking, “all of the educators and superintendents I’ve talked to think this is the best thing to happen to education in Ohio in years, because it gets rid of some of the fluff, focuses on real solid basics and has a structure that builds on itself each year.” In addition, he supplied the education committee with a myth-busting document that should ease the mind of the most hardened skeptic.

With this hearing, the anti-Common Core movement in Ohio may have run its course—at least for now. In addition to the House education committee chair, the Senate education committee chair, Sen. Peggy Lehner, remains in support of the Common Core. Ohio’s state superintendent for public instruction Richard Ross supports the standards. In April of this year, he told StateImpact Ohio that Ohio is “not budging” on the Common Core as long as “the local districts get to decide the implementation policies about their curriculum” (which schools do, under Ohio state law 3313.60). Likewise, state board of education president Debe Terhar supports the Common Core, telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “I remain completely supportive of Ohio’s new learning standards.”

Many teachers support it. District superintendents support it. The leaders of the superintendent’s association, school boards association, and the school business officers association support it. Business leaders support Ohio’s new learning standards. It’s fair to say that the Common Core critics and naysayers have had their 15-minutes of fame.

But even if the legislative battle is over for now, this represents only the beginning phase of a multi-year process of implementing the Common Core. The hard work of implementing the new learning standards continues in earnest. Schools in Ohio are (we hope) re-aligning curricular materials, preparing teachers to switch over to higher learning standards, and readying themselves for Ohio’s new online assessments. Some schools are even well ahead of the game in implementation. Elected officials, parents, and community members can lend their support for higher standards, as schools tackle the Common Core implementation challenges in the coming months.

Moreover, school leaders and elected officials should be communicating to parents and community members about the changes that are taking place within their schools and districts. One Fordham-sponsored charter school in rural Ohio, for example, is providing their parents with “CCSS Roadmaps for Parents,” which provides practical information to their most important stakeholders about the higher expectations of the Common Core. Are all schools doing something like this? And will parents be ready for different looking school report card grades when the Common Core assessments are administered in 2015? The answer is probably not if New York state’s recent palpitations as its “proficiency rates” fell after administering a new Common Core-aligned exam are any indication.

It’s no time for Ohio’s education reformers and Common Core supporters to declare “mission accomplished,” if indeed House Bill 237 goes down in flames. As Rick Hess urges in a recent National Affairs article, now is actually the time to double-down on implementation—what he calls the “missing piece” of the education reform agenda. Indeed: it’s one thing to win in the Statehouse, it’s another thing to do good for the kids in the schoolhouse.

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