The second hearing for Rep. Andy Thompson’s bill, HB 237 to repeal Common Core in OH took place last night before the House Education Committee, along with two other bills relating to Common Core, HB 181 and HB 193, which were basically attempts to “fix” some of the problems of the Common Core Standards.
Initially, the hearing had been set to begin at 5 PM, but as soon as we arrived at the Statehouse (after braving the rush hour traffic in Columbus!), we found that due to an extended vote in the House, the hearing could not start until 6:30PM. It was expected that a large crowd would be attending, but instead of simply using a larger space, like the atrium, for the entire proceedings, the smaller hearing room 313 was engaged for only the Education committee and those giving testimony. The many supporters were funneled off to chairs set up in the atrium (see above) or a side hearing room, where only audio was available.
Also, Rep. Thompson had been told that this hearing would be a proponent-only hearing, but Chairman Stebelton decided to also allow those who opposed HB 237 to testify, albeit, after two hours of the proponent testimony. Considering that Rep. Thompson had arranged for a number of education/curriculum experts to attend (some of which had flown in from Georgia and other states at their own expense) and the reduced time for their testimony, the hearing definitely got off to a dubious start with actual HB 237 testimony not starting until almost 8 o’clock. Then the Chairman further narrowed the proponent testimony time by allowing one of the opposition testifiers, C. Todd Jones, a current member of the State Board of Education, to use up more of the time allotted to Thompson, because he had another meeting to attend!
After the bills of Rep. Brenner were heard, the testimony for HB 327 finally started with Jane Robbins of the American Principles Institute. She centered her remarks on the dangers of the student data collection required by the Common Core testing consortium PARCC and the federal government’s end goals for that data.
Bill Evers of Hoover Institute followed to talk about the “sloppy, inefficient” methods used in teaching math the Common Core way. He contended that it would not make US students “leaders, but laggers”. Mr. Evers stated that national standards were designed to limit competition, not stimulate better education.
Thomas Hunter, a 12 year old boy, was the next testifier, who explained how difficult it was to transition from the “old” style of learning math, to the Common Core methods. He found the new methods confusing and so tedious that he started hating math class, which before had been his favorite subject. Thomas’ mother also testified that their family decided to remove Thomas from his math class and home school him in this subject using tradition methods. This was a difficult decision involving more time and money, but one that they do not regret, seeing that their son is once again happy to do his math homework.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a curriculum expert who was largely responsible for the “miracle in Massachusetts” (making that state tops in public education), shared next and gave an inspiring testimony centered on the problems inherent in the English standards of Common Core. One of her main problems with Common Core was the fact that they encouraged more writing, rather than reading and put more emphasis on informational texts, than on great literature. Dr. Stotsky was the single English Language Arts expert on the final validation committee for Common Core, but had too many objections that went unanswered to sign off on the final draft. She also offered some recommendations, after Chairman Stebelton very rudely told her to shorten her presentation, she said that Ohio could easily implement the English standards of states like California or Indiana, which have proven to be higher and better than Common Core. Other suggestions, included to let the teachers speak out on Common Core without the fear of being fired, to provide a pathway to STEM again, and get rid of the mantra of “college readiness” for all, as not every child wants or needs to go to college. Lastly, she stated the vital need for the better education of teachers, that the 50 year trend of lower quality teachers, especially in elementary education, must end!
Next, a superintendent from the Fairborn school district spoke out about how the feedback from his teachers about Common Core was very negative, that the compliance to the standards have involved more red tape and cost for his school. However, as his school will be graded according how well the students do on the Common Core assessments, he must “go along to get along”, or his school would suffer.
Finally, Dr. Terrance Moore from Hillsdale College gave an informative exposition on the language used in the standards. He contended that the standards were impressively written, but filled with the newest educational “buzz” words that are not really understandable to a parent. He gave some interesting examples. Dr. Moore also questioned why parents send their children to school, it is just so the child can go on to college or is it to learn knowledge and virtue? The new English standards do not call for any Christian literary works, which means no Paradise Lost by John Milton or Dante’s Inferno and there is also no mention of reading of Benjamin Franklin’s Biography. Instead of the great literature that teaches students knowledge and virtue, new standards concentrate on the “modern” authors, like Toni Morrison, etc. To Dr. Moore this is more like programming than teaching!
There was one more proponent testimony, but seeing that it was already after ten and we had an hour and a half drive home, we decided to depart. Even then the filled “overflow” atrium was still a quarter full, but I imagine these stalwarts also left as the opponent testimonies began. I understand that the committee was there until 1:30 AM. Hopefully, a transcript or video of the entire hearing will be made available.
Even with this outpouring of support for the repeal of the Common Core, there is no guarantee of another hearing, or if HB 237 will ever receive the vote it deserves.