Eye on Education

Four Things You Should Know About Ohio’s New Standards, the Common Core

Cassidy Curtis / Flickr

By the start of the 2014-15 school year, Ohio schools will be teaching a new set of lessons. It’s called the Common Core.

The Common Core is a set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do in math and English. It was developed by teachers, math and language experts and others several years ago in an effort organized by state school chiefs and governors.

Promising to use the Common Core helped some states, including Ohio, win federal Race to the Top education grants. Ohio and many of the 45 other states that agreed to teach the Common Core expect schools to be teaching these new standards by fall 2014.

Ohio is encouraging schools to get started with the new lessons earlier. Some school districts, including Cleveland and Reynoldsburg, are already teaching the Common Core.

But the Common Core isn’t a rigid, “if it’s Tuesday, we’re learning adverbs” kind of lesson plan.

What else should you know about how Common Core?

1. Under the Common Core, graduating from high school will mean a student is ready for college or a job that pays more than minimum wage.

Today, Ohio’s current graduation tests measure what an eighth to tenth grader should know, the Ohio Department of Education says.

The Common Core is supposed to ensure students learn more complicated stuff, like the things a high school graduate should know. That includes the kinds of skills that colleges and employers say they want, like being able to interpret complex situations. And the new tests that are coming with the Common Core are supposed to ensure that high school graduates have those skills.

At least, that’s the idea.

2. Students will be tested.

“The tests are as important as the standards,” the Fordham Institute’s Emmy Partin says.

Ohio is working with 23 other states to develop the tests students will take under the Common Core. The states are doing that through a group called PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

“The tests are as important as the standards.”

Emmy Partin, Fordham Institute

All of the tests will be online, and there’ll be four of them each year: an initial test to see where students are at the start of the year, a midpoint test, and two tests given later in the year to see how much students have learned.

Ohio students could have to take all four, or just the last two: The Department of Education hasn’t said just yet. And there are still big, open questions about what kinds of technology schools will need to give the tests, what the tests will look like and what the scores required to “pass” will be.

The Ohio Board of Education will set the scores required to graduate from high school. And state legislators will decide how high students need to score for schools to earn different state ratings, Partin says.

Set them at a level most kids can reach and you’ll have plenty of high school graduates, but few who are college-ready.  Set them at a level that Ohio public colleges and universities would accept as “college-ready,” and every kid who graduates will be college-ready – but many kids likely won’t be able to graduate.

State Board of Education President Debe Terhar told a Columbus audience earlier this month that it’s the state Board of Education’s “full intention” to make the graduation grade the same as the college-ready grade.

3. The Common Core goes for depth over breadth.

In both math and English, the Common Core curriculum focuses on fewer concepts, but in greater depth. And it expects some teachers to change they way they teach.

Sample question from a Common Core lesson on the Gettysburg Address: “How does Lincoln use the idea of ‘unfinished work’ to assign responsibility to his listeners?”

For example, the Common Core requires that first graders learn to add and subtract up to 20.  That replaces four separate things that the current Ohio curriculum expects of first graders, including “model, represent and explain addition as combining sets and counting on” and “demonstrate fluency in adding and subtracting multiples of 10, and recognize combinations that make 10.”

And one of the big changes the Common Core brings to English classes is an emphasis on making students dissect and analyze writing, particularly nonfiction pieces.

For example, take a class reading the Gettysburg Address. Today, a teacher might ask the class “Lincoln says that the nation is dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal.’ Why is equality an important value to promote?” Under the Common Core, that question might be more like “How does Lincoln use the idea of ‘unfinished work’ to assign responsibility to his listeners?” (See other examples here.)

4. Teaching to the test is already a concern.

State Board of Education President Debe Terhar tells a story about visiting one school and asking about how they were starting to use the Common Core in classes. One administrator’s answer: “We’re waiting to see what the tests look like.”

“Whether we admit or not, [the tests] enlighten the standards.”

Eric Gordon, Cleveland school district CEO

She was not pleased. “Please, don’t wait,” she told district officials.

Teachers are dying to see the tests because the test scores are used to judge them and their schools. And it only makes sense for teachers to want to see the sample test questions, the Fordham Institute’s Emmy Partin says.

“It’s going to be a big shift from what we do now,” she says. The sample questions “are where you’ll get a practical example of how the standards will be applied.”

Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon put it like this: “Whether we admit or not, [the tests] enlighten the standards.”


  • Connie Hilty

    If teachers are teaching a rigorous course of study, the students are passing, and the administrator evaluating the teacher finds the work good, why, then, do the students need to take another test? As a teacher of 29 years, I have seen constant change in education; most of it has been good. Currently we are spending too many days either testing or preparing to test. Where has the love of learning and fun (yes, I said fun) gone in education? As a child, I couldn’t wait to get to school. Now students do not look forward to it with any enthusiasm.
    Connie Hilty

    • faeriemama

      Couldn’t agree more! When I was in elementary school, I loved it. My teachers wanted us to do as much hands-on learning as possible! Now it seems as though it’s the same old rote repetition. There’s no thinking about the facts, it’s just memorizing facts. I think THIS is why we see so many children with ADD/ADHD — there’s *always* been kids that are more hyper, but if they had a curriculum suited to THEIR needs rather than expecting the same assembly-line mentality to work on all children, ADD/ADHD wouldn’t be viewed as a problem, it would be viewed as just a different personality type. They need a different approach to their education that doesn’t involve sitting at a desk listening to a lecture. When I started getting into high school and college, I was always better at the labs than the lecture classes.

  • http://twitter.com/Visalusbodybyv Visalusbodybyvi7

    It looks like there is more to Common Core than meets the eye, read this… http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/14/is-the-common-core-initiative-dumbing-down-americas-students/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Colditz/1590676830 Ken Colditz

    So they will create a nation wide standard, so they will have to dumb up the good students so the students who cannot compete will be able to keep up? Dumbing up of America set a new standard folks. All student will be made stupid together.

    • faeriemama

      “No child left behind” because all of them are left behind.

  • Douglas Oliver

    Traditionally, capable eighth-grade
    students take Algebra I. Under the Common Core, schools will not
    offer algebra to eighth-grade students. Without this early
    preparation, students will be unprepared to take calculus as seniors.
    It is my experience that engineering students who have completed
    high school calculus are much better prepared to enter rigorous
    college courses in science, math and engineering than are those
    without high-school calculus.

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