At its core, an ongoing debate

While Common Core State Standards remain a debated topic, 48 states have adopted the standards – including Ohio in June 2010.

The standards in language arts and math have been fully implemented in the Tiffin City Schools district.

“The Common Core State Standards are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills students need in English language arts and mathematics at each grade level to ultimately be prepared to graduate college and (be) career ready,” Scott Urban director of instruction and personnel, said. “The standards establish what students need to learn.”

According to the website, Common Core State Standards Initiative, the standards were led by the nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief state School Officers. States collaborated with teachers, researchers and experts to design and develop the standards. It was each state’s decision to adopt the standards.

North Central Ohio Conservatives Inc., based in Tiffin, opposes the standards, claiming they hinder creativity, affect testing and affect the teacher’s professionalism, along with the students ability to learn.

“The new standards ask teachers to teach with more depth,” Urban said. “They are able to go much more in depth with the knowledge base, creating more rigor and relevance for the topic. The standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter where they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.”

Ashley Aichholz, fifth-grade teacher at Noble Elementary, said, “They actually allow for more creativity in how students develop their knowledge.”

“The biggest difference is when and how often skills are covered. The old standards cover many topics and they are reviewed every year,” said Heather Arnold, a second-grade teacher. “The new standards go in depth and teach for mastery. They build upon each other every year without reviewing skills. For example, in math, second-graders learn how to measure length and third-graders learn how to measure capacity.”

Barbara Bond, a member of the education committee for NCOC, said of the standards, “one size does not fit all.”

According to the Common Core site, in English language arts, the standards require certain critical content for all students, including classic myths and stories from around the world, America’s founding documents, foundational American literature, Shakespeare, and knowledge in literature and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Through research, Bond said NCOC feels the standards do not seem right; they teach the basics of reading and writing, but also teach students how to fill out forms, read technical manuals.

“There is nothing inspiring,” Bond said. “They do not go beyond, or teach students how look deeper or to dream or think.”

The organization has had speakers discuss the standards during their meetings. One such speaker was Heidi Huber, who began the website.

Bond said one of her major concerns about the standards are the tests. Students are to be forced to take more tests and assessments, Bond said.

“Those students who are 4.0 students, but are bad at taking tests, will suffer more stress including emotional, physical and mental stress,” Bond said.

“Currently, no new tests have put into place to measure the mastery of Common Core,” Urban said. “A new set of rigorous assessments will be put into place next school to measure student knowledge in all content areas.”

Concerned parent Juan Penhos said, “Harder tests do not make kids smarter. CCSS will push more kids out than prepare them for college due to plunging grades. There is simply no evidence that college admission will increase, and there are no pilot studies prior to implementation. Students will be over-stressed and under-prepared.”

The focus will be on passing the test, not learning, Penhos said.

Penhos has a child attending Columbian High School and two others who have graduated. He said that his interest arose from the observation that politics and money are now dictating children’s education and teachers’ livelihood and professional integrity.

Tens of millions of dollars are pouring into the battle over Common Core academic standards, which aim to set a course for students’ progression in math and language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade. Proponents would appear to have all the advantages, according to a release by the American Principals Project. The release also states the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pumped more than $160 million into developing and promoting Common Core, including $10 million in the past few months, and it’s getting set to announce up to $4 million in new grants to keep the advocacy cranking. Corporate sponsors are pitching in, too. Dozens of the nation’s top CEOs are to meet today to set the plans for a national advertising blitz that may include TV, radio and print.

Urban said, “We always encourage parents to know what is being taught in our classrooms. This will help them to be better equipped to help their child, if he/she experiences learning difficulties. The parents will also know what lays ahead at the succeeding grade levels.”

Penhos said what he also sees is “the most experienced and gifted teachers will leave the profession because they can no longer do what they view as ensuring learning and growth in the broadest and deepest way. There cannot be creativity to teach when so much of the evaluation depends on student scores.”

Bond, as a retired teacher, said teachers are too busy filling out forms to be able to talk to the students. She said the standards are good to a point; students should learn about real-world economics and know how to plan a budget and balance a check book. But, she said, with the standards, they will be concerned with knowing how to read a technical manual and fill out forms.

“It is important to be able to work in a group, but not to give up their identity for the group,” she said.

Bond said she encourages people to do their homework and know what is going on in their schools.

“That the state is in control of the standards is just an illusion,” Bond said. “That the local school board is in control of the standards is just an illusion.

“We came too late, there is no one to complain to, we are sinking and there is no way to get out. People must act now and know what is going on in their local schools.”