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Common Core House Bill receives mixed opinions

Those working in education in Athens County are unsure of how a bill to repeal Common Core in Ohio would affect life at work.

Ohio’s New Learning Standards, better known as Common Core, first hit the books in Ohio four years ago, but state legislators are already at work trying to repeal them.

Ohio House Bill 597 seeks to repeal and replace Ohio’s new Common Core school teaching standards, which overhauled classrooms throughout the state in the name of improving student performance.

Although Gov. John Kasich said at a news conference about a week ago he supports Common Core and the local control of the standards, he added that he is in favor of legislation and hearings that analyze and reflect on their impact.

The Ohio House of Representatives’ Rules and Reference Committee has held six hearings on the bill and dozens of educators and advocates, including Athens City School District Associate Superintendent Tom Gibbs, have shown up to testify.

Gibbs told legislators that he found no faults with the standards, and said repealing them would backtrack on the four years it took the district’s teachers to fully prepare.

“I have yet to encounter a teacher who has questioned me about Ohio’s current learning standards,” Gibbs said, in his testimony.

Though educators elsewhere in Athens County aren’t overjoyed about the standards, they say a repeal would likely cause more harm than good.

Trimble Elementary sixth grade science and social studies teacher, Chris Snoddy, has strong opinions about the proposed repeal.

“Since teachers in Ohio have been trying to learn and use the Common Core for two years now, and statewide tests are being redesigned, I think the repeal of Common Core would be disastrous,” Snoddy said.

But Snoddy isn’t without concerns about the standards as they are now. She is worried schools aren’t providing enough training for teachers to help them become acquainted with the new material and discover the most effective way to teach it.

“The new standards themselves are not horrible and may even be very good if they were properly implemented,” Snoody said. “The problem with them has been the lack of funding from the state to properly train the teachers and properly buy the resources.”

Teachers at Trimble Elementary were given new teaching material aligned with Common Core standards, Snoddy said, but they were given no time to prepare the material before classes began. Teachers also were not consulted before that material was purchased, she added.

Kasich said Common Core standards are more complicated than one may think.

“It’s not a simple thing,” Kasich said. “I think all Ohioans want high standards but they want those standards to be met by local school boards deciding what it is that they can teach students to get them to meet those high standards.”

Adjunct Professor of Early Childhood Education at Ohio University and Doctoral Candidate in Early Childhood Education, Curriculum and Instruction at OU Angie Gibbs said that new standards are more rigorous than the ones previously set.

“This is not to say that the standards are necessarily overly rigorous or developmentally inappropriate, but they are a substantial change over prior iterations of state standards,” Angie Gibbs said.

If H.B. 597 passes, teachers would have to learn new standards all over again, she urged.

“I don't think it takes much imagination to consider the situation this will present for teachers and children, having constantly changing standards over such a short period of time, but it is not a condition under which I prefer to place anyone,” Angie Gibbs said.

There is a popular misconception that Common Core is a curriculum, Gibbs said. A curriculum provides teachers with materials and activities to teach, she explained, but standards are a combination of basic skills students need to know at each grade level.

“I have great concern that, if this bill passes, it will create a very negative learning environment for our students that is further exacerbated by the culture of testing under which schools currently exist,” Angie Gibbs said.

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