Common Core opponents spent a third day yesterday urging lawmakers to pass a bill to eliminate the education standards in Ohio, and a key sponsor said it could lead to high-performing schools being able to opt out of most state testing.
As written, House Bill 597 prohibits the state from withholding funds from a school district that chooses to not adopt new academic standards or state testing.
Some have interpreted that as allowing districts to opt out of graduation tests, which would leave students unable to get a diploma. But Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, a joint sponsor of the bill, said the intent is not to have schools avoid graduation tests.
The bill does not yet say it, but Huffman said high-performing schools could be allowed to opt out of tests given in grades 3-8.
“We don’t want them to have to keep taking tests just because they are an Ohio school,” he said. “There’s a group of schools where all the kids are high-performing and 95 percent of kids go to Ivy League schools. Do they need to take time on these tests?”
He did not name the schools he was referring to.
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The bill would eliminate Common Core standards in Ohio after this school year, implement Massachusetts standards for the next two years, and then impose new Ohio-created standards starting in the 2017-18 school year.
The math and English Common Core standards were developed by the nation’s governors and school chiefs to better prepare high-school graduates for college and careers. More than 40 states adopted the standards.
But in addition to math and English, the bill also calls for new science and social-studies standards. Asked why the bill also changes those standards recently developed by the state, Huffman said, “I’m not sure they are” state-developed.
“There’s been a suggestion that those aren’t Common Core. Someone said they are Common Core but they just aren’t calling them that,” Huffman said. “They were adopted at the same time in 2011. It’s unclear … exactly how those were prepared. It’s unclear whether those are the same kind of standards or not.”
More Common Core opponents testified yesterday, including James Stergios, who runs the Pioneer Institute, a conservative Boston-based research group.
He questioned whether the standards were really “state-led” because they were developed by a pair of nonprofit groups, including the bipartisan National Governor’s Association, that now hold the copyright on Common Core. He called the standards mediocre and said implementing them is costing states billions.
The House panel also heard from Common Core supporters for the first time when two leaders of Education First, a company representing the Ohio Business Roundtable, gave lawmakers a history lesson and rebutted arguments made by Common Core opponents.
“While the standards focus on what is most essential, they do not describe all that can or should be taught,” said Susan Bodary, a partner with the firm. “A great deal is left to the discretion of teachers and curriculum developers.”
Some concerns raised, Bodary said, stem from implementation decisions, not the standards themselves. “As schools and teachers gain experience with the standards and the materials that work best for them and their students, these issues will be resolved over time.”
She noted that a number of private schools, including all seven of Ohio’s Catholic dioceses, have voluntarily implemented Common Core, as have Massachusetts and Maryland, the nation’s highest-performing states.
Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, asked Bodary whether her firm has taken money from the Gates Foundation, which helped fund development of the standards. Bodary said Gates has been a client in the past.
Huffman questioned whether Ohio or anyone else can see the internal documents from the nonprofit groups that crafted the standards. That drew a response from House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard, D-Columbus, who said the discussion is “spiraling into a quagmire.”
“The discussion before us is are standards acceptable to us or are they not?”
Huffman responded that even if standards are perfect, it’s a poor way to make policy. “We want to know who we are in business with. We can’t do that in this situation.”
By Jim Siegel - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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