Ten things Ohio Common Core opponents don’t want you to know

Representative Andy Thompson and Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman have introduced new legislation to repeal the Common Core, and hearings start today (Monday, August 18). But they’re not telling you the whole story. Read on to find out what they don’t want you to know and why their reasoning doesn’t make sense. 

[All opponent statements are direct quotes from this press conference]

1. Ohio was ahead of the game in wanting change: It began reviewing its academic standards back in 2007—long before governors and state superintendents started to talk about creating Common Core.

What opponents said:

[We] want to make sure Ohio is in the driver’s seat in this process.

The truth: By the time the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) started work on replacing state standards that were sorely lacking, the Buckeye state had already begun to respond to educator concerns about Ohio’s standards. In fact, the Ohio Department of Education conducted an international benchmarking study in 2008 (published in 2009) that laid out some guiding principles for revised Ohio standards—principles that Ohio stuck to when they started considering the Common Core.

2. Ohio played a significant role in crafting and revising the Common Core.

What opponents said:

Ohio’s kind of been […] tied to the railroad tracks here on this mission.

The truth: Two members from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) represented Ohio in Common Core workgroups for math and English language arts standards. They took the research mentioned above and shared it with their respective groups; in other words, Ohio research played an influential role in the development of the actual standards. When a public draft of the K–12 standards was released in March 2010, there were opportunities for people across the nation to offer feedback. Ohio provided the largest number of responses from any one state. Read more details here and here.

3. Ohioans had several opportunities to share their opinions and give feedback before Common Core was adopted.

What opponents said:

It was a four year process that a lot of people in Ohio were not aware of. Done in this kind of […] closed circuit. It was all ready to roll out upon people without any real ability for them to react.

The truth: In June 2009, two meetings were held to solicit feedback and propose revisions to the draft standards. The meetings included fifty-five education stakeholder groups and 200 teachers from four content areas. A July 2009 web survey gave more stakeholders an opportunity for feedback; 700 responses were received. The ODE’S English and math teams (made up of people from state teacher unions, higher education, special education, gifted education, content-specific professional organizations, and parents) reviewed and provided feedback on the standards. Ohio was the first state in the nation to hold regional public awareness and input meetings. There were five meetings; more than 500 people participated. The ODE also presented to the House and Senate Education Committees in May 2010 before the state board of education adopted the standards at a public meeting in June. (One of the sponsors of the repeal bill was even on the education committee at the time.) Read more details and see a timeline here.

4. Ohio’s local school districts have always had control over curriculum, and Common Core doesn’t change that.

What opponents said:

We want state control, we want local control.

The truth: Ohio’s recently passed 2014 mid-biennium review (MBR) made sure that school districts retain control of selecting curriculum and textbooks, creating reading lists, writing lesson plans, and choosing instructional materials. This was already a part of Ohio law, but the MBR serves as reinforcement. Furthermore, Ohio also will now develop review committees to examine Ohio’s standards (in English, math, science, and social studies) and make necessary changes.

5. Parents had a say in Common Core adoption and they have a say in curriculum decisions.

What opponents said:

We want “local control that recognizes parental authority.

The truth: Parents were a part of ODE advisory and work teams that reviewed and provided feedback on the standards. Parents were also invited to attend the five regional public awareness and input meetings to voice their concerns. The recent MBR also requires school districts to establish local review committees that provide an opportunity for parents to review the selection of textbooks, instructional materials, and curriculum.

6. Ohio has strong privacy and data protection laws in place.

What opponents said: Common Core doesn’t “safeguard student and family data.” We “continue to hear serious concerns about the confidentiality of student data.”

The truth: Ohio state law expressly forbids sharing student-specific data with the federal government. The MBR reaffirmed existing state laws and rules that protect student privacy and personal education information. Common Core does not change how educational data is collected or shared.

7. Support for Common Core in Ohio is diverse and widespread.

What opponents said:

When Common Core was adopted, a lot of folks weren’t at the table.

The truth: Common Core has had a lot of backers from the start. This includes teachers (the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers), school and district leadership (the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio School Boards Association), business groups (the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Columbus Partnership, the Cincinnati Business Committee), parent and community groups (several urban leagues and the Ohio PTA), and reform groups (School Choice Ohio, StudentsFirst, the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools). Click here to read a list of Ohio organizations and people that support the Common Core.

8. Ohio teachers support the Common Core.

What opponents said:

One of the things you’d be maybe not surprised to hear is how many teachers are leaving the profession because of Common Core.

Teachers’ reaction to the above statement went something like this:

The truth is that Ohio teachers support Common Core. Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, explains that “teachers who are already using [Common Core] in their classrooms see that students more easily learn the material, retain it and apply it in other aspects of their learning.” You can read their entire response to the new legislation here

9. Part of the reason teachers support the Common Core is because it offers them freedom and results.

What opponents said:

One of the comments I hear is that all the joy has been taken out of teaching.

The truth: Back in 2007, when Ohio first started looking for better standards, educators were especially concerned that Ohio’s previous standards were too numerous and lacked complexity—instead of studying subjects in depth, shallow learning was repeated year after year. During a recent Ohio radio show (starting at the 31:34 mark), a Cleveland first-grade teacher explained that with Common Core, “I am much more narrowly focused on specific topics and I’m able by these standards to go more in depth.” This means that “students are able to engage with a topic in different ways […] instead of it just being rote.” On a more personal note, I’ve also taught Common Core, and I wrote curriculum using Common Core. Common Core didn’t cost me any joy. In fact, the joy and the achievement I saw from my English students thanks to Common Core were pretty darn good. For more details, check out this piece, where I talk about how I found freedom in the Common Core. You can also find teacher perspectives here, here, and here.

10. The Massachusetts Department of Education believes that Common Core is better than their previous state standards—which are the standards that Ohio bill sponsors want to adopt.

What opponents said:

Massachusetts prior to Common Core had the number one standards in the nation […] one of the questions that logically comes up is why would they go to Common Core when they had the best standards in the nation and the answer is a lot of federal money. They’re going downhill in Massachusetts as a result of Common Core.

The truth: In this 2010 press release, the Massachusetts Department of Education explains that they adopted Common Core due to its “increased academic rigor and stronger expectations for student performance.” While Massachusetts certainly had excellent standards prior to the adoption of Common Core, then-Education Secretary Paul Reville stated that the Common Core was an “opportunity to improve upon our already high standards.” In fact, external review teams of educators and academics completed an analysis of Common Core and Massachusetts previous standards and found that they were equal in quality and strength. Both review teams recommended the adoption of Common Core over Massachusetts previous standards. This begs a pretty serious question: Why would Ohio cause financial and academic chaos by switching between two sets of standards that are equal? (As a side note, the press release also mentions “distinguishing factors within the Common Core” that prompted their adoption of Common Core over their previous standards.)

Bottom line?

Repealing Common Core looks like this:

Keeping Common Core looks like this:

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.