It is no secret that our current standards in our local school districts are overreaching, overbearing and overburdening. As a staunch conservative, I have long been an advocate for abolishing federally-driven mandates and replacing them with locally-developed strategies. The ultimate solution requires a complete overhaul at all levels.
The Ohio House is currently considering two very similar pieces of legislation, House Bills 176 and 181, which would help our overworked students, teachers and administrators by shifting from the detrimental top-down approach that is currently in place, and, in the case of HB 176, to a more grassroots, bottom-up approach.
Each bill helps deal with the problems of Common Core. House Bill 181 prohibits its existence in schools and counts on the State Board of Education to come up with alternative, norm-referenced standards. House Bill 176 replaces the current state standards with tested and proven standards that Massachusetts used prior to the implementation of Common Core. House Bill 176 permits schools to choose their own standards, including Common Core, if they wish to continue that pursuit, as should be their right, if we believe in local control. Both bills require norm-referenced exams instead of the PARCC, AIR or other Common Core-related tests.
The U.S. Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the “Every Student Succeeds Act” during President Obama’s final year in office. House Bill 181 is designed to ensure compliance with that act, under the assumption that it provides greater discretion to states and localities; HB 176 supporters believe that ESSA further empowers the federal government to control the educational destiny of states and localities. There have currently been 17 states who have submitted their draft ESSA state plan to the U.S. Department of Education and Ohio intends to submit in September. House Bill 176 also eliminates the digital learning that has been the source of very troubling data mining that is intrinsic to the Common Core system.
Certain achievement and diagnostic assessments, graduation requirements, teacher and principal evaluations, and career advising policies would also be made permissive under House Bill 176. Flexibility for students, teachers, administrators and even parents is key for a successful education system, and giving districts as many options as possible allows them to tailor their educational environment to best serve their students.
Both bills also acknowledge the need for cutting waste that fails to benefit students or teachers. As state legislators, we have heard from countless parents about the onerous amount of testing that our students endure relentlessly throughout the academic year. We have also heard from our devoted teachers about the cumbersome Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). House Bill 176 and 181 both contain provisions that would eliminate the mandate on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, the fourth-grade and sixth-grade social studies assessments, and OTES.
Lastly, under House 176, a 13-member Academic Content Standards Steering Committee would be established consisting of members ranging from parents of students enrolled in Ohio schools, primary and secondary education teachers, curriculum experts, provosts, or deans of higher education institutions. This committee would be tasked with the development of new academic content standards, a process which must include public hearings for input from all Ohioans. The best part is that, working from the base of the Massachusetts standards, they would be more likely to not end up with just a rebranding of the Common Core standards, as has happened in many states across the U.S. that thought they were abolishing Common Core.
Either bill would move Ohio in a positive direction. House Bill 176 seems to achieve the added goal of restoring local decision making, eliminating nearly all of the data mining, and cutting the ties to the federal government, so that Ohio can map out its own educational future, free from the enticements and bullying that federal control implies.