Common Core on the horizon as new thresholds for remediation are introduced

Grace Murray

Changes coming down the pike could cost college students more in the short term without bolstering their grade point average.

As Ohio prepares to implement a standards-based educational reform into public schools beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, presidents of Ohio colleges and universities established new thresholds to ensure “remediation free” status.

According to Kent State University’s curriculum guidelines, remedial classes are below college-level courses that cannot be applied toward degree requirements, though the courses are eligible for financial aid.

Remedial classes teach college students coursework that was intended to be learned in high school, and in an effort to reduce the number of students in these courses and to standardize subject matter, Ohio approved the Common Core Standards in June 2010.

Mark Bauerlein, professor at Emory University and contributor to the Common Core Standards, said the standards would better prepare students for college if laypeople ensure they are implemented correctly.

“The standards are pretty broad, and so people who are committed to one type of curriculum are going to do everything that they can to try to preserve that kind of curriculum.” Bauerlein said. “People committed to another kind are going to try to preserve that kind of curriculum. It is not clear whether the Common Core is going to shake them out of their common procedure.”

Angela Thi Bennett, Ohio Board of Education member, said though Common Core presents a change in traditional teaching methods, Ohio teachers have been receptive.

“From [the Ohio Board of Education’s] perception of the field, districts and teachers are welcoming the Common Core Standards,” Bennett said. “It allows them to focus on fewer areas and delve deeper into the content.”

However, Ohio’s implementation of the standards relies on school districts – not the state – because Ohio is a “local control state.”

According to the Ohio School Boards Association website, “Local control includes control over financial matter, curricula and educational programs, personnel, school calendars and educational priorities based on the unique needs of local communities.”

Though local control allows school districts to tend to the needs of their own communities, Bauerlein said he believes it could result in a vague interpretation of the Common Core Standards.

“What if the lesson plans don’t align with Common Core? Does Common Core have any regulatory or statuary status? I don’t know of any,” Bauerlein said. “Really it just depends on the good faith of those involved, but I would say good faith should only go so far.”

Emmy Partin, director of Ohio Policy and Research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said although the Ohio Department of Education does not have the authority to force local districts to meet the Common Core Standards, schools will be affected based on their performance.

“Districts could very well choose not to teach the Common Core to the fullest,” Partin said, “But their students are going to be tested on it. Districts are still going to face bonuses or penalties based on how the children perform.”

Statewide assessments will be introduced as part of the new standards in the 2014-2015 school year and will test students on English, science, social studies and mathematics, according to the ODE website.

“If we are able to empower our students to engage in high level learning, these assessments will not be an issue,” Bennett said of the Common Core.

Jim Herroltz, associate superintendent of ODE’s Division of Learning, said the Local Report Card is one way to measure student understanding of the new standards.

“The Local Report Card is an annual overview of individual district and school performance in various areas,” Herroltz wrote in an email interview. “The LRC is used to identify schools or districts that may need support and/or monitoring from ODE.”

In addition, Herroltz said student assessments, teacher evaluations and graduation requirements are another way ODE can assess the implementation of the Common Core.

If schools do not meet these standards, “students assigned to low-performing schools are eligible for vouchers, which means they can leave their assigned public school, and the school loses some state funding” wrote Molly Bloom, reporter for StateImpact Ohio in an email interview. “Charter schools that are consistently low-performing face closure.”

Whether or not the standards are effective in preparing students for college will become clearer following the first set of assessments in the 2014-2015 school year.

For now, Bauerlein said, “The judgment of Common Core is less important than the judgment of curricula being developed out of Common Core. We need to move over into judging specific state-by-state reading lists, assignments and lesson plans.”

Contact Grace Murray at [email protected].