Ohio's New Learning Standards: Helping, not hampering

Daniel Navin

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post was first published on the United States Chamber of Commerce’s website on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

Ohio has had statewide learning standards in mathematics and English Language Arts in the past, but these standards were not rigorous and not aligned with the demands of college and the workplace. The outcome was low academic expectations which resulted in too many students not being college ready, and a short supply of graduates with the basic abilities needed for success in the workplace, including critical thinking and problem solving skills.

The dismal statistics below underscore to a significant extent the reality of the “quality of education” in Ohio:

  • Just 27% of Ohio fourth graders were proficient in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, compared to 83% who were deemed proficient on the state’s reading exam;
  • 31% of Ohio’s 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT exam met none of the college-ready benchmarks;
  • 41% of Ohio public high school students entering college must take at least one remedial course in English or math; and,
  • Nationally, more than 1 in 5 high school graduates do not meet the meet the minimum academic standards required for Army enlistment, as measured by the Armed Forces Qualification Test.

With the intent of reversing those trends of mediocrity (or worse), Ohio passed House Bill 1, which directed the State Board of Education to revise and issue new academic standards in the core subject areas of math, English, science, and  social studies.

The math and English standards, also known as the Common Core State Standards, were developed collaboratively by state education leaders, governors, teachers, and education experts from 45 states, including Ohio (NOT by the federal government). Then, after 18 public review meetings across the state and presentations to the Education committees of both the Ohio House and Senate, the State Board of Education adopted Ohio’s New Learning Standards on June 2, 2010.

The process of implementing these new, more challenging learning standards by many Ohio school districts began the following school year and has continued through the 2013-14 academic year. To be clear, these new standards do not mandate, stipulate, or presume to tell Ohio teachers how to teach. Local school districts and teachers remain the decision makers – again, not the federal government – regarding the curriculum, textbooks, and instructional materials that will help students learn best.

As a statewide business organization representing Ohio employers competing in a highly competitive and global economy, we know that one of their most important concerns is to have qualified, competent, and highly skilled employees. Building a college- and career-ready Ohio starts with higher, yet achievable, standards. The Common Core State Standards do this.

Turning back the clock – i.e., rejecting or delaying implementation of Ohio’s new learning standards – would only hurt students and disrupt Ohio’s schools, which have been implementing the new standards for the past four years. We need to look no further than Oklahoma to see how rejecting the standards would weaken our ability to ensure that Ohio’s students are prepared to compete with their peers across the country and around the world.

While we acknowledge that there are many other important steps in preparing Ohio’s students for the future, Ohio’s new learning standards are the foundation for student success, providing the academic baseline to succeed in college, career, and life.

 

Daniel Navin is Assistant Vice President for Tax and Economic Policy at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

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