Pulling an Indiana: How House Bill 597 mimics the Common Core

Hearings began this week for House Bill 597 (HB 597), the latest attempt to repeal Ohio’s New Learning Standards (which includes the Common Core in math and English language arts). The first of several days of proponent testimony began Monday. Sitting in on the hearings has offered me a chance to develop a better understanding of the opposition to the standards, and if it wasn’t clear to me before then it is now: These folks don’t want anything that even resembles the Common Core to be used in Ohio schools.

They could be in for a surprise then, because the language of HB 597 borrows, in some significant ways, from the Common Core. During testimony on the August 18 hearing, Rep. Andy Thompson explained that he wanted to avoid the “sleight of hand” he saw in Indiana, which infamously repealed Common Core only to replace it with standards that were remarkably similar. Judge for yourselves if Ohio’s lawmakers are proposing to break new ground in HB 597 or simply recycling.

What House Bill 597 wants

What the Common Core already has

“The standards for English language arts shall require the use of English phonograms and all of their sounds, using traditional phonics” —Lines 306-308

“Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words”

 “Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes)”—Kindergarten foundational skills

Standards that require grade-level knowledge and application of phonics and phonemes are found in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade.

“include significant instruction in English grammar” —Lines 308-309

There is an entire strand of the standards called Language that includes grammar standards for grades K-12.

“Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking”

Language Anchor Standards

“require that at least eighty percent of English study focus on imaginative literature” —Lines 309-310


“The standards require that a portion of what is read in high school should be information text, yet the bulk of this portion will be accounted for in non-ELA disciplines that do not frequently use fictional texts. This means that stories, drama, poetry, and other literature account for the majority of reading that students will do in their ELA classes.” —Myths vs. Facts

“Require that at least eighty percent of literary works taught in grades eight through twelve be complete works of classic British and American authors published prior to 1970” —Lines 310-313

       Note: After being challenged about how much students would miss out on if they weren’t permitted to study modern literature or literature from places other than Britain or America, Rep. Thompson claimed this is a drafting error. Until it gets fixed and a revised bill is posted, it’s a part of the bill. Furthermore, it is unclear what the “drafting error” is. Is it that works must be published before 1970? That authors must be British or American? Or that 80 percent of literature must be only certain types of literature?

The following British and American authors that were published prior to 1970 are already a part of the text samples that teachers could use to teach Common Core standards:

John Keats

Arthur Miller

T.S. Eliot

Robert Frost

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Edgar Allan Poe

Ray Bradbury

Jane Austen

Geoffrey Chaucer

Harper Lee

Herman Melville                        

John Donne

Emily Dickinson

Thornton Wilder



The following classic literature from countries other than Britain and America or published after 1970 would not be permitted for teachers to teach in depth if HB 597 became law:

Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes           

Odyssey Homer

The Iliad Homer

Aeneid Virgil

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Antigone Sophocles

Oedipus Rex Sophocles

War and Peace Leo Tolstoy

Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyesky

The Metamorphosis Franz Kafka

Candide Voltaire

The Cherry Orchard Anton Chekhov

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Count of Monte Cristo/The Three Musketeers  by Alexandre Dumas

Les Miserables Victor Hugo

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne

Works by Aristotle, Plato, Euripides, and Euclid (as a side note, HB 597 demands that geometry be taught as a “traditional Euclidean geometry course” which is interesting since he doesn’t fit in with what students are allowed to learn in English language arts.)

“Require a choice of literary works to be studied solely on the basis of literary merit rather than popularity or political considerations” —Lines 313-315

Text samples included in Appendix B “serve to exemplify the level of complexity and quality that the Standards require” but “expressly do not represent a partial or complete reading list.” 

“Teachers who have had success using particular texts […] should feel free to continue to use them.” —Appendix A

“The standards for mathematics shall require a mastery of the standard algorithm” —Lines 316-317

“Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation.” —Grade 6

“Require fluency with addition and subtraction of multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithms by third grade” —Lines 317-319

“Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms” —Grade 3 

“Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm” —Grade 4

“Require fluency with arithmetic operations on decimals and multiplication and division of multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithms by fifth grade”

—Lines 319-321

“Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm” —Grade 5

“Prepare students to take the first authentic Algebra I course by eighth grade” —Lines 322-323

Standards “do not mandate the sequence of high school courses” because “states may hand the transition to high school in different ways.” As a result, “the K-7 standards contain prerequisites to prepare students for Algebra I by eighth grade, and the standards are designed to permit states to continue existing policies concerning Algebra I in 8th grade.” —Notes on courses and transitions

“There are some students who are able to move through the mathematics quickly. These students may choose to take high school mathematics beginning in eighth grade or earlier so they can take college-level mathematics in high school.”  Appendix A

As you can see, several mandates in House Bill 597 are already covered by the Common Core. This is interesting, given that this same bill also asserts that Ohio cannot adopt any standards “developed by the common core state standards initiative or any similar initiative process or program.” In other words, although future standards can’t look like the Common Core, this new bill does. It also begs the question that if HB 597 is what Common Core opponents want, and the Common Core (which has been in place in Ohio for four years) gives them what they want, then why are we even going through this dog and pony show?
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.