Teachers all over Ohio are peeking at the new Ohio Common Core Standards (CCS) to be adopted in 2014. While a few teachers stretch and yawn, thinking they have 2 years to implement these standards, most teachers are readying for change. The standards will transform the teaching strategy for Ohio teachers once again, and it could be for the best. The new standards seem to flow from grade to grade, unlike our current set of standards, and teachers are excited about the potential for the over-arching ideas to engage more students.
From kindergarten to high school, the new standards emphasize research. The smallest students will be challenged to ask questions and find answers. Students and teachers will work toward scaffolding research skills grade level after grade level. The old concept of the “big paper” isn’t completely lost toward the end, but teachers will be encouraged to allow the students’ self inquiry to drive the research topics rather than to impose a topic on the students. Most teachers welcome this idea, but a few old-school teachers reject the concept. The old-fashioned teachers wonder how they’ll grade a paper written on a topic foreign to them, and they query whether or not the topics will be “academic enough.”
Another new and exciting concept becomes apparent as we glance at the CCS charts. Students on the high school level are no longer freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They are 9-10 graders, and then they are 11-12th graders. Many experts have proposed that the linear design of our educational system inhibits many students’ progress. For example, the students who are interested in math and want to take more of it shouldn’t be held back simply because they haven’t completed all the standards in English. Hopefully, schools will take advantage of the less linear design to invent a way to engage our Ohio students. The CCS chart shows great potential to allow our high schoolers to grow at their own rate.
Every set of standards presents a different challenge, but it is becoming more and more evident that we need to engage students. This year in the United States, the Department of Education projects one million students will drop out of high school. Teachers, parents, and administrators note that we often keep the struggling students, but the brightest students drop out. Parents tell us their children are bored in school, and administrators can no longer simply argue, “It’s school, not entertainment.” Education’s new mantra needs to be, “It’s learning, so it’s not boring.”
Curriculum writers need to create assignments that will inspire learning. In Ohio, school work needs to grab our students’ interest. The new standards propose to engage students, and most teachers welcome the opportunity for change.
Written by: Tami Absi