Core issues

With the opening of the The Veritas Academy in Marietta slated for the upcoming school year, parents will be given another private school option.

Parents and educators will be leaving home school programs, public schools and even other private schools to come together to form and to enroll students in Veritas out of a desire for a different option that will operate free from the state and standards such as Common Core.

Several parents involved with Veritas say the decision had to do with St. Mary School in Marietta adopting Common Core standards. St. Mary’s administrators said the school would have lost funding if they had not made that decision, and that the standards are a positive change.

A charter school, like St. Mary, has to adopt the standards if they wish to remain a charter school, but the nonpublic, non-tax supported schools do not have to and instead have adopted other standards.

Private charter schools

St. Mary School, a Catholic grade school in Marietta, is chartered by the Ohio Department of Education and is staffed with teachers that hold ODE certification.

“Our diocese has always had its own standards, but a number of years ago, when Ohio adopted the (Common Core), we decided that we would follow those same standards,” said Principal Rita Angel.

Though the school officials chose to opt out of things like the PARCC tests that evaluate for career readiness, they adopted Common Core standards in order to continue to receive state funding and stay competitive with other schools.

Many objectors believe the regulations give too much control to the state and sets inferior standards of education.

“There is a core of parents that are very much opposed to the Common Core, but it’s a small group,” Angel said. “My teachers are discovering that they are very rigorous standards. It requires a lot more of students than the former academic content standards.”

Common Core is for math and language arts education, and sets specific standards for each grade level that outlines exactly what students should be learning.

Choosing Veritas

Instead of religious teachings, Veritas Academy curriculum will be based on the classics, where subjects are grounded in memorization and the ability to incorporate philosophies and literature into all subjects.

Steve Parlin, a Marietta Middle School teacher and St. Mary church member, is serving on Veritas’ advisory board. Though not part of the founding group, he decided to support the school as a response to St. Mary adopting Common Core.

In an email to those within the Marietta district, Parlin said the idea for a new school began last spring when a group of St. Mary School parents met with the school’s board and the diocesan Superintendent of Catholic schools to express concern about the school adopting the Common Core.

In the email, Parlin also clarified that his support was still for the community and its students, but like other parents, he was frustrated by Common Core standards.

Parlin noted that he will continue to teach for Marietta as a “conscientious objector” who “is ever hopeful for a better path forward, one that does not include the Common Core or a dehumanizing, utilitarian, workforce readiness approach to teaching.'”

As a parent who has decided to homeschool his children, Parlin said he will continue to teach to standards as he is required, but does not support the system, as it “disenfranchises parents (more than they already are), and it diminishes parental rights and responsibilities.”

Parlin said he was not available to further comment on his email.

Melissa Nyak is one of Veritas’ founders, and will be enrolling her two children there and then a third once Veritas adds higher grade levels.

“We feel the problems with education have been here long before Common Core. Fads come and go and they’re never really better than the last,” she said. “This is all about finding the very best education for our children.”

Nyak began researching classical education with her husband a year ago, and together with other founders decided that the area needed the option.

Caroline Waller, a Marietta native, is planning on enrolling her children, ages 4 and 6, at Veritas next year. They currently attend St. Mary.

“Classical education offers an opportunity to instill a real fire for learning and it also trains the brain in a way that makes sense to me in a way I wish I had when I was in school,” Waller said. “St. Mary is a wonderful school, the families are tight and I feel comfortable sending my kids there, but this is a different way to learn that I’m excited about.”

Other non-chartered, non-tax supported schools

Abbreviated NCNTS schools for non-chartered, non-tax-supported, these schools have to report to the ODE annually, but otherwise are independent from state control.

Belpre Christian Academy, like Veritas, is one of those schools.

“We follow certain guidelines for health, safety and building code like the public schools do and we adhere to the basics of a general curriculum, but outside of that, we do our own program,” said Ken Fullerton, pastor and administrator of Belpre Christian Academy.

The school employs an accelerated Christian education instead, which tries to avoid the concept that a student who is excelling in a class and a student that is struggling in a class are not moving on at the same pace.

“Every child is diagnosed so we can learn where they are at what time,” Fullerton said. “Then within a few weeks we can adjust learning individually.”

Wood County Christian School in Williamstown is also within a state that has adopted Common Core. Principal Robert Smith said it is important that the school’s independence allows it to operate separately from those standards.

“I could speak for the school’s body when I say they would not be happy with Common Core. We are happy we are exempt,” he said. “Educational standards from the top down would not be the appropriate choice for what we’re trying to teach.”

Fullerton said that just the idea of a universal set of standards is risky, because it gives the state yet one more thing to control, and if it can control this aspect of education, there is no telling what could come next.