Columbus -- Paul Imhoff compared legislation being considered in the Ohio House to repeal Common Core standards to trying to build an aircraft while in flight.
The move, the superintendent of the Upper Arlington school district in suburban Columbus told lawmakers Aug. 26, would mean three different sets of academic standards in five years -- "five years in which teachers and other dedicated professional educators must scramble to build a new educational product at the same time they are attempting to teach it," he said. "That's a lot like building a plane while flying it, and that is not what we want for any child. It doesn't make sense, and it isn't good for students."
Imhoff was among more than three dozen school officials, researchers, teachers and others who testified in opposition to HB 597, which would repeal Common Core standards in math and English language coursework and replace them with new standards to be developed over the next few years.
The legislation had three hearings last week, with proponents of a repeal saying the standards represent an overreach of the federal government and corporate interests into local classrooms, with resulting textbook lessons so convoluted or awkwardly phrased that students and their parents don't understand them.
Two hearings scheduled for this week and one next week are open to those who oppose the repeal. Supporters of Common Core said Aug. 26 that the standards were developed with input from teachers and others, that curriculum, textbook and other decisions are still made at the local level, and that the setup is providing students with a better foundation for future college courses and careers.
"We can no longer be satisfied with teaching students basic facts and formulas that can be Googled in a matter of seconds," Imhoff said. "We must also teach them how to develop the critical thinking and collaboration skills that enabled us to create things like Google. The professional world has new standards for its workers, and we need new and higher standards for our students.
He added, "Our students are competing globally for the best jobs; they need competent instruction based upon a solid, stable foundation. The Common Core provides that."
Speakers also said Aug. 26 that the standards are ensuring "rigorous" classroom instruction, with increased emphasis on critical thinking.
"I am not aware of a single teacher in our district who feels that the standards expect too little of students," said Kimberly Yoak, a licensed teacher and former mathematics consultant for Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools. She added, "I hear many teachers saying that they wish they had had the chance to learn mathematics like this because it would have made so much more sense to them. … And I wonder how many fewer adults in the general population would have such a strong distaste for mathematics if they had also had this kind of learning experience."
Dawn Henry, Oregon City Schools, director of teaching and learning, said HB 597 would take away some control over curriculum decisions from local districts.
"I'm also troubled by the hypocrisy of calling for local control, then usurping that control with an over-reaching and capricious mandate that demands teachers take a specified amount of time to teach a specified type of text, written by a specified group of authors of a specified nationality and from a specified period of history," she said. "The legislation even regulates how school districts can choose their literary works, and specifically includes language that prevents books from being read for their political or cultural value. Indeed, if I was in a district comprised mostly of African-American, Hispanic, or Asian-American students, I might be offended by a legislative mandate that forces my students to read mostly white authors from before the Civil Rights Movement."
Jeff Patrick, superintendent of Franklin Monroe Local Schools in Darke County, added later, "If you pass HB 597, you are doing a huge injustice to the students of Ohio. … We will be returning to lower standards with lower expectations of our students."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.