Administrators in area school districts say they are focused on completing the shift to statewide common core standards in 2014-15, not on wondering whether new legislation might derail them in Ohio.
“I’ve been surprised to see that movement getting any traction because we are so far down the road to the transition,” Kettering City Schools Superintendent James Schoenlein said.
“Opposition seems to be centered around a position that it’s government intrusion into people’s lives. That’s not a good enough argument to counter the benefits of common core, which will mean teaching the stuff that our kids need to know to compete in the modern world,” he said.
Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Lori Ward said “some people seem to feel this is a government-mandated, top-down approach.”
She sees common core as both an equalizer and an inspiration to offer something unique.
“In the National Football League, no matter what team you’re on or where you play, a first down is 10 yards, the field is 100 yards long, a field goal is worth three points and a touchdown is six. School districts are teams. How we achieve victory is laid out in our playbook. That’s the curriculum. We will still have control over that,” Ward said.
Jeremy Miller, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Centerville City Schools, said he wasn’t aware of a bill in the Ohio House that seeks to block implementation in Ohio.
He’s been immersed in “a two-year process of preparing our teachers and aligning our curriculum with the common core expectations. We’re nearing the end of that.”
Ward said districts can’t wait to see what might happen because common core “represents an institutional shift. Standard-based achievement is nothing new, but the previous standard was a mile wide and an inch deep. Now it will be an inch wide and a mile deep.”
Schoenlein said that while “the average citizen might not be aware these new assessments are on the horizon, we have to be ready. The experience of other states that have already implemented common core shows that test scores have declined by an average of 30 percent during the first year. We’re going to try to keep that from happening in Kettering. We’re out in front on this.”
James Kozarec, principal of Kettering’s Beavertown Elementary, said common core curriculum was instituted there last year in the primary grades. “This year, we’ve added grades three, four and five. We’re full-blown common core.”
Dayton Public Schools have instituted the new curriculum most widely in Edison (pre-K through 8) and Wogaman (grades 5-8) schools.
Miller said common core classwork “will increase rigor and depth while narrowing the scope.”
Lisa Minor, chief of school improvement for Dayton Schools, said relevance is another keyword.
She compared a previous elementary school health unit with one introduced this year based on the new standards.
“In the past, the curriculum might simply have included a lesson listing and labeling the food groups. Now, we’re taking it to the evaluation level. That same class will be required to assess the result of personal eating habits over time,” Minor said.
“A seventh-grade math class that would have covered ratio and proportion might now be required to apply that to water sources in the City of Dayton.”
Educators say it’s been a straddling act.
“We’re doing really well with current assessments, but those will be going away,” Schoenlein said. “I don’t think our parents would accept a 30 percent drop in test scores just because of that.”
“We’re between the old and the new, but we’ve always worked with our teachers to develop a local core for state standards,” Centerville’s Miller said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on a student-centered focus. We’re confident that we will keep that as we move forward.”
Districts have committed resources to the change.
Minor said Dayton selected eight to 10 teachers per building for “a full year of job-embedded training” Those teachers have now been coaching their peers.
“The best training is embedded in the classroom,” she said. “The best way to learn something and know it is to teach it.”
Schoenlein said all of Kettering’s 550 teachers have had several days of training over the past two years. “You hate to take teachers out of the classroom, but in this case it’s a necessity.”
The district has also “made a concerted effort to get our kids on computers because they will be taking the new assessments that way. You don’t want your kids to get lower scores because that’s new for them,” he said.
“First, you need to get enough computers. Then you have to help your teachers formulate assessments on them. I think we’ll be ready.”