Latest threat to the Common Core in Ohio

The recent repeal of the Common Core State Standards in Indiana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma has given renewed the hopes of Ohio’s Common Core detractors. During the just-completed Mid Biennium Review (MBR) process, the legislature agreed to a number of compromises to address their concerns, but critics remain unsatisfied. This small but vocal minority is now agitating on behalf of a discharge petition for House Bill 237, which would repeal the state’s adoption of the Common Core.

A discharge petition is a little-used legislative tactic that, if the petition is signed by fifty House members, allows a bill that fails to get committee approval to move directly to the floor for consideration by the whole chamber. Supporters for HB 237 have, thanks to the leadership of Chairman Stebelton and other members, found little success in the Education Committee and have resorted to the discharge petition process.

It’s worth noting that even if the discharge petition is successful (i.e., if it gets fifty signatures and removes the bill from the Education Committee), HB 237 would still need to secure approval from the House, Senate, and governor to become law. Although these chances are slim, consider the potential consequences.

Consequence #1: If the Common Core standards are repealed, Ohio must find something to replace it. Shockingly, shortly after South Carolina chucked the Common Core, a state administrator admitted, “We don’t have time to do that [i.e., write new standards].” It seems like the Palmetto State will substitute standards that closely follow the Common Core, just as Indiana has done. Oklahoma is supposed to write its own new standards, but in the meantime it will revert to old standards (which did earn good grades from Fordham.) Should Ohio—whose earlier standards earned a C in both English and math from Fordham—follow one of these paths? Each is fraught with difficulty and risk. And nobody should want to go back to the bubble-sheet assessments associated with the earlier standards. So, again, what is Ohio’s plan for standards if Common Core opponents get their way?

Consequence #2: If the Common Core standards are repealed, millions of dollars will be wasted. Many Buckeye superintendents and school boards have worked diligently to make room in their budgets for new textbooks, professional development, and technology. They’ve done this in the name of higher standards, because they believe the investment will eventually pay off for their pupils. If Ohio repeals the Common Core, new textbooks will sit unused and even more money will be forked over to cover new materials and teacher training. Detractors of the Common Core like to cite its cost. But what about the cost of backing out?

Consequence #3: If the Common Core standards are repealed, teachers will be scrambling to alter lesson plans…yet again. So far, Ohio teachers have been striving to implement Common Core in responsible ways. They’ve sat through hours of professional development. They’ve changed the way they plan, the way they assess students’ work, and the way they teach. They’ve worked hard so that Common Core aligned lessons are ready for use in September. Now, politicians will tell them to throw all that away. Repealing Common Core, at this juncture, would send a clear message about the value of teachers and their time and efforts.

There’s more, of course. What happens to districts that have been carefully and faithfully implementing for years now? What assessments will they use, given the new graduation requirements that focus on end of course exams? What does that mean for teacher evaluation? How can principals encourage teachers to devote themselves to new standards when the threat of another change always looms on the horizon?

The education system should be changed only for educational, not political, reasons. The members of the House should think carefully about what repeal could mean before making any rash decisions about signing a “discharge petition” that serves as the first step for Common Core repeal.

Jessica Poiner
Jessica Poiner is an education policy analyst in the Fordham Institute’s Columbus office. She was a 2011 Teach For America corps member who worked and taught in Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District.