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Common Core Curriculum Debated In Columbus

Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio

The set of education standards known as Common Core is under attack just as schools around Ohio begin to implement it. Hearings began this week on a bill to repeal the standards in Columbus.

The Common Core is a set of benchmarks created by a group of education experts from around the country, including some from Ohio, in 2010. The standards were then adopted by the state along with more than 40 others.

Robert Hill, superintendent of Firelands Local Schools in Lorain County, says a great deal of research went into crafting the standards.

“Ohio’s new learning standards provide a path for students to drill much deeper into each learning to apply more knowledge and skill in the subject than ever before,” he said.

But for years a group of state lawmakers have clamored for a repeal of Common Core. They argue that the standards take away local control, and they question the teaching techniques and where and how it was created. Several opponents visited the Statehouse to show their support for a repeal, including Richard Ringo of Cincinnati.

“Most important thing is not just that it dumbs down the standards for our children, but it infringes on our freedom,” Ringo said. “The less control from the federal government the best.”

Intervention from the federal government was the main sticking point from opponents of the standard, but there seems to be disagreement among the opponents on whether the standards are too harsh or not strong enough.

Stephen Thompson, superintendent for Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools, says the problem is that opponents don’t have all the facts.

“There was this understanding that you couldn’t do different things: You couldn’t do STEM education, you can’t do problem-based solutions, you couldn’t do inquiry learning if you have the Common Core,” he said. “Well, that’s simply not true it’s just based on misinformation.”

Republican Representative Matt Huffman of Lima is a co-sponsor of the latest attempt to repeal Common Core, and chairs the committee where the repeal bill is being heard. As he explained during a committee hearing, it’s not about whether or not the standards will be effective, but about how they were created.

“This is a bad way to make public policy,” Huffman said. “Ceding important decisions to national organizations, whatever the influence of the federal government may be, is a bad way to make policy.”

Common Core has been a major topic of debate around the country, especially among conservative media personalities and blogs. But in Robert Hill’s opinion, those against the Common Core standards represent a small minority of the state.

“As has been the case countless times before education stands at a crossroads where the voices of the few may disrupt the path that I believe to be associated with success.”

School superintendents emphasized that districts have invested a lot of money into implementing these standards, with figures in the hundreds of millions of dollars around the state.

If the bill were to pass, it would allow Common Core to continue for this school year, then the state would implement standards used in Massachusetts while Ohio leaders create a third, all-new set of standards in 2017.

The House plans to hold several more hearings on the bill in the coming weeks.

Andy Chow is a reporter at the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau.