Event gets superintendents talking about new educational standards
May 21, 2007
By Elizabeth Boyle
Students who enter the ninth grade on or after July 1, 2010, will be the first to take on Ohio's new, beefed-up curriculum standards aimed at helping them secure jobs and admission to college. Between now and then, however, schools must determine how they'll implement the standards. On Friday, Ohio University helped them get started.
At the Ohio Core Summit, Ohio University partnered with Shawnee State University to host school superintendents in the 29 Appalachian Ohio counties. Speakers and facilitators from both universities as well as the Ohio Department of Education, local school districts and Hocking College helped participants begin strategizing how schools will implement the Core curriculum mandate.
Gov. Ted Strickland addressed the group by video, and Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, State Sen. Joy Padgett and State Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman spoke in person. In breakout sessions, faculty and staff from Ohio University and throughout the region explored participants' course content-specific questions.
The new curriculum is mandated by the Ohio Core, legislation that former Gov. Bob Taft signed in December 2006 and that Strickland also supports. The law stipulates that students take more advanced classes -- such as algebra II, science with inquiry-based lab experience and additional English -- both to graduate and gain admission to Ohio colleges and universities. In his remarks, Strickland captured the impetus for the law, saying, "There is an unbreakable link between education and economic opportunity."
Fingerhut seconded that notion, saying, "Talent is the currency of the new economy. Our objective is to produce the best talent so we have the most currency and the best currency possible to compete in this new economy," he said. "We are nowhere near in Ohio where we need to be with high school students taking courses that will help them down the road toward a college degree."
The Ohio Core is built on the idea that students who have more advanced classes in high school will enjoy more success in life. The Ohio Partnership for Continued Learning reports that students who complete rigorous academic courses in high school earn an average of 13 percent more income than their peers, regardless of whether they attend college. But only 24 percent of Ohio's students currently complete such curricula. Supporters also point to the fact that students must compete in an increasingly international economy.
While acknowledging many benefits, some educators have shared concerns about how details surrounding the law will shake out. Things such as devising exceptions under which a student could not meet the core curriculum and still be accepted to college, Fingerhut said, will be resolved with input from stakeholders. Others, such as funding, will become clearer when the state's budget is finalized in June.
Padgett echoed Fingerhut's sentiments, assuring superintendents that their input during the process will carry weight.
"This really is a bottoms-up appeal to you," she said, telling the audience she wants to hear what tools educators need.
Padgett and others encouraged the theme of the day: collaboration. Facilitators noted that participating superintendents seemed eager to discuss implementation and find ways to work together. One session hosted by Teresa Franklin, an Ohio University professor specializing in instructional technology, explored the possibility of putting materials online that could be shared across schools to facilitate student learning.
"Today is about bringing groups together -- how can we accomplish what the Legislature wants us to, and how can we do that together," said Linda Deeds, a breakout session leader from Hocking College's Office of Academic Affairs.
Renée Middleton, dean of Ohio University's College of Education, agreed.
"My hope is that we will build a network of support and allies in the community. The Legislature, the governor, the Department of Education, the superintendents all know they can count on our College of Education to continue conducting cutting-edge science, technology and math education research that will improve how Ohio's children learn," said Middleton, whose college helped sponsor the event. "This is our challenge, and we've got to do it together."