Placeholder bill sets new standards

Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, along with fellow lawmaker Matt Huffman, R-Lima, recently introduced a new version of a house bill that would completely scrap Common Core standards in Ohio, an action met with mixed feelings.

House Bill 597, announced at a press conference Monday afternoon by Thompson and Huffman, will serve as a placeholder bill for Thompson’s House Bill 537 until it can be finalized, according to the Associated Press.

The new bill builds on the original plan to eliminate Common Core standards in Ohio schools but outlines what will replace the standards to appeal more to opponents while still fulfilling the wishes of anti-Common Core activists.

Originally a bipartisan effort by the National Governors Association, Common Core is a set of nationwide standards for core school subjects designed to keep all states on equal, consistent footing with guidelines that outline what students should be learning at each specific grade level.

“My original bill was dead in the education committee, and we wanted to try and give it new life,” Thompson said. ” What’s new is that we now have a path forward.”

House Bill 537 was continuously stalled in the House Education Committee, with its chair, Rep. Gerald Stebelton, R-Lancaster, in support of Common Core.

The new bill is not only designed to better safeguard student data and allow parents and local educators to heavily review curriculum, but will also be allowed to bypass the House Education Committee and go through the Rules Committee, where according to officials, it has a much better chance of passing.

“(This bill) sets new standards that are higher, and looks like the Massachusetts Standards, which are some the highest rated in the nation,” Thompson said.

Thompson echoed the voice of many Common Core opponents that said the standards are developmentally inappropriate and promote the “dumbing down” of reading and federal control of education.

“Ohio’s new repeal legislation is clear validation of the intensifying concerns surrounding Common Core and acknowledges the efforts of Ohio citizens to protect their parental authority in public education,” said Heidi Huber, spokeswoman for Ohioans Against Common Core, in a press release.

Educators tend to have mixed feelings on Common Core, but many are more notably concerned about such frequent changes.

“I won’t say that I’m an advocate or opponent of it, because my job is to make sure our teachers are following the curriculum that adheres to state standards,” said Fort Frye Superintendent Stephanie Starcher. “But I find the constant change in Ohio education legislation extremely frustrating, particularly for educators.”

Starcher said Fort Frye, like most school districts in Ohio, has spent a lot of time and money in both professional development and materials to adhere to Common Core standards, with implementation beginning in the fall.

“So every time we change standards, no matter what they’re called, every time you change the target, you keep doing an injustice to children and to teachers,” she said.

Thompson said the bill has the potential to go to a vote immediately following the November election.

“What bugs me as an educator is that we have these political power changes, and they start to throw a new emphasis on something, and they use good rhetoric, but it’s all politically motivated,” said New Matamoras Principal Bill Wotring.

Wotring said that he thinks Common Core actually has good intentions, but sees the argument for both sides.

“It’s not all bad by any means,” he said. “The original purpose of it is on sound footing, and parts of the program have gone a little too far, but the foundation of the program is well established.”

Ruth Kunze, director of curriculum for Marietta City Schools said it is always important for educators to research legislation thoroughly before jumping to conclusions.

“It sounds like that would be a lot of work as far as teacher training, and any time you have to start over that’s difficult,” she said. “But I would really like to know more about it before forming an opinion.”

Thompson said hearings are expected to begin for House Bill 597 within the next few weeks.

Ohio Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, said she thinks adopting the Common Core standards in Ohio is not an unreasonable measure, but does have some concerns with it.

“These are learning objectives, not some regimented curriculum, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable for parents in Ohio to know that if their kid takes Algebra II, they’re getting the same body of knowledge as say, kids in Arizona taking the same class,” she said.

But it is the technology required for a roll out of standardized tests and assessments that come along with Common Core that Phillips said might not be the best for her rural district.

“Many schools don’t have computers or bandwidth to manage this technology, and there may be some inequity where that’s concerned,” she said. “And generally, I think the country has gone too far with how far students take standardized tests.”

Currently, the 99-member Ohio House is made up of 60 Republicans and 39 Democrats, and just days ago, Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, a contender to be the new House Speaker, endorsed Thompson’s bill.