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Ohio School Board member Sarah Fowler talks Common Core in Streetsboro

by Bob Gaetjens | editor Published: March 12, 2014 12:00 AM
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Streetsboro received a visit Feb. 27 from Ohio School Board member Sarah Fowler, a 25-year-old from Rock Creek who represents Streetsboro and much of Northeast Ohio.

Fowler shared her background as a home-schooled student and explained how she wound up on the Ohio School Board.

She said she's a supporter of home schooling, private schooling, parochial schools and e-schools.

"I ran for the seat because the only person who had filed petitions was only adamantly for brick and mortar public schools," she said, explaining all those other types of schools and students deserve to be represented, as well.

Although she's now in an elected office, Fowler said she didn't plan to be politician.

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"I did not like politics, and I still don't," she said. "I'm grateful that it's a non-partisan race."

While Fowler described her job and duties, attendees at the town hall meeting, which took place at Camelot Village's Community Center, had a lot of questions about the Common Core Standards, which the state and district have adopted.

Fowler said adopting the Common Core standards was, in effect, a requirement for states that wanted to be eligible for federal Race to the Top grants.

"The standards were created by private organizations," she said. The government was more involved in the implementation."

Fowler also said the state of Ohio adopted the Common Core Standards before the final version was created to meet a Race to the Top deadline.

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"You had to sign on to it before you saw it," she said. "Ohio actually agreed to it during the second draft."

Parent Ren Fifik said she is not a fan of Common Core math, which she said she and her daughter struggle with regularly.

She said students have to break down math problems by drawing boxes to represent 10s and ones to show their work, which she said seems more complicated than solving math problems with the "stack" method, which most adults learned in school.

"I run a successful travel agency in town, half a million dollars a year in sales, out of my home and I can't figure it out," she said. "That's ridiculous."

Streetsboro Director of Curriculum Aireane Curtis said one place parents can go is pta.org for more information about how to help their children with Common Core teaching methods. She also said she, the teachers and principals are constantly combing online resources for helpful guides to the Common Core and that parents should reach out to teachers and administrators for help if they are struggling with new teaching methods.

"The biggest difference between when you and I were going to school and now is they're having them explaining their thinking and how it works," she said, adding that in the past, students were simply given formulas for solving problems, but now they must also be able to explain why a given formula works.

Fowler said dialing back the Common Core Standards at this point would be difficult because the legislature has "passed quite a few laws that further implements them."

Fowler said she's also concerned about how the language arts are being taught under the Common Core, explaining teachers are expected to have students read a greater mix of fiction and non-fiction.

She she's seen classes foregoing the actual literature in favor of literature guides. For example, she said a guide she saw to Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" included a page talking about the author, a page summarizing the book and another page or two talking about why the author wrote the book.

"Are we actually going to read the book and analyze it, or are we going to go off somebody else's interpretation?" she asked, rhetorically.

Resident Pearl Pullman said Fifik is representative of a lot of parents in town.

"This has been so stressful in so many households, and it's causing issues between parents and teachers," she said.

Fowler, attendees talk evolution

During the meeting, Fowler and several attendees discussed the debate over whether evolution or Creationism should be taught in science classes.

Streetsboro resident Brett McClafferty asked Fowler about her feeling regarding the debate over whether evolution or Creationism should be taught in science class.

Fowler said she views science as another form of religion -- secular humanism -- and that she believes it's appropriate for competing theories of our development as a species to be taught in science class.

"There are two primary aspects of education; the first is the communication and study of observable facts; the second aspect is the interpretation of those facts," said Fowler. "Interpretation of factual data is greatly influenced by religious beliefs; therefore, it's imperative that parents retain the right to choose their child's form of education."

Parent Carmen Laudato said evolution isn't a belief, but something "you can observe in a microscope."

McClafferty said he could envision a theology class taught outside science class, but not together.

"If you choose to take a theology class, it's going to give you an opportunity to learn about all religions and all beliefs," he said.

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whizzard Mar 12, 2014 12:55 PM

I would be all for the conventional method they used for teaching math, if it worked.  As far as the books, if  talking about the author, a page summarizing the book and another page or two talking about why the author wrote the book is what they want to use, then I'm fine with that.  If the summarizing is interesting, then I might read the book.  Sort of like watching previews of a movie or show.  When I read a book for pleasure, I'm not going to analyze it.  I'm am reading for entertainment.  

Even the Roman Catholic church promotes and accepts science and the evolution of the Universe.  And like Brett McClafferty said, I wouild promote a Theology course covering all the religions.  That would be a tremendous thing in our curriculum.

And I'm sorry, but I don't agree with her viewing Science as a religion.  There is a tremendous difference between the two that makes me believe she is currently in the wrong position.  Science is fact and Religion was created by man and all that goes with it.  Yes there is faith science but it has a basis for it's proven fact.   Religion is by word of mouth and man's written thought for what they believe or what they are told to believe with out real tangible proof or scientific fact.

I do believe in God but at times I question the word of man or his interpretation of what God is and the rules they say he has laid down.  I think I'll follow what I have read about Common Core and I support Common Core 100 percent.  It is in line and following the course I have spoke about for the past 12 years and it appears the ears it fell on were those of the government who has given each state the opportunity to subscribe to it if they wish or not.

Creationism and Evoulution.  They are actually both the same thing.  We say God Created man and gave him life.  Science also is creationism.  The only thing man has not been able to do is actually give life.  He can create new species or mix species can but he cannot give the gift of life of a brand new species.  He cannot create a new and separate organism that didn't exist before.

I will follow what I read what politician has said recently, "I believe little of what I read, and even less of what I hear" and he was making that reference to commercial media that would rather report the absurdities that are out there over the issue rather then help define the issue.  I don't blame them, for the entertainment you receive from these articles is most enjoyable at times and is what is making them money.  If they went into detail, it would no longer be enterainment.  They wouldn't be able to create an evironment that would cause people to disagree and make more news.

If you have read the what is required for Common Core from the state for yourself  rather than the interpretation of these so called experts (imagine an expert at 25 for something to doesn't like to do), and support of the old methods you would receive a better understanding of what Common Core is about.

I think many seasoned teachers, parents and the public are trying to twist this to be what it isn't.  They may be convincing some younger teachers but I think the younger teachers would be better able to adjust and make this work to where most senior teachers are just to set in their ways and too close to retirement to want to implement it.

Let's face it, our current methods are pathetic and our standings compared to the rest of the world is quite disturbing.  Students have to take remedial classes before they can begin pre-requisits in college?  We rank around 20th in the world in education and this tells me we have been failing our students for the past 30 years.

Wake up people, America is quickly becoming a nation that will not be able to sustain itself in the future unless we start taking a cold hard look at what we are doing now and have been doing in the past 30 years and bring our children into the times that are now.  Reduce the teaching staff, increase the use of computers immensly, increase the number of courses available to the student thrrough the use of these computers, use the teacher as the facilitators they are to broaden our abilites to get an education designed around the promising attributes of the child.  Reduce the number of unnecessary administrators for positions that have no value, such as Vice Principals, get rid of the consultants.  Put a higher value on your support personnel.

Martin Fleming