Governor Taft’s plan looks something like this: The "Ohio Core," as Taft calls it, would be four years of math, including Algebra II; three years of science, including biology, chemistry and physics; four years of English; three years of social studies; and at least two years of a foreign language The plan would make the completion of the curriculum a condition of admission to Ohio's state-funded, four-year colleges and universities. Sounds great doesn’t it?
Sure, high standards are great. We applaud this hollow effort to sound the call for rigorous academic standards. But, how does this proposal relate to the average Ohio student? Many students are already completing and exceeding this basic curriculum. Districts have been scrambling to align standards with the newer high stakes tests mandated by No Child Left Behind. While some students struggle to pass the test, the Governor has decided to create another hurdle and red tape for all students.
Furthermore, not all students will fit into the Governor’s square peg. Intellectual and mature students sometimes have other noble and laudable goals that do not include the over-indulgence of heavy science and mathematics. Painters, producers, artisans, chefs, psychologists, musicians, dancers, actors, singers, designers, and several other wonderful career fields and vocations do not require that a student major in upper level math and science courses. In fact, the Governor seems to believe that Algebra II is the only method of teaching critical thinking skills. Well, we have a message for the Governor and his ilk.
Higher order thinking skills, creative dexterity, and the development and encouragement of the human imagination are equally as important as physics or chemistry in leading a successful life. And the Governor might not realize that limited resources and a limited school day make it impossible for every student to complete his “Ohio Core” while accessing equally important and life altering, dynamic, and interactive courses in the so-called elective areas. As we strive to teach our students a core curriculum, we are also providing essential life skills, and teaching our students how to lead a productive life.
It is a daunting task, and the politicians never wish to pursue a complicated option, but a portfolio assessment for every high school student would be the most thorough and meticulous method of insuring success. A comprehensive assessment package would guarantee that students reach strong core curricular goals in tandem with a career path and artistic and creative pursuits. It’s easier to sell the public and the broad-brush politicians with slogans and neatly wrapped ideas that ignore the reality of today’s school and society.
It would be a fair and sensible sentence to require all of Ohio’s legislators and statewide officials to a year or more of public service in a school as a teacher with a classroom full of students. For a few days, it would be fun, and then reality would begin to set it on these talking heads.
It would be great to have new leadership in Ohio that would stop the unfunded mandates and rigid edicts coming from Columbus. It is time for a realistic assessment of Ohio’s schools and dynamic leadership to move us into the future. In the meantime, could we place a moratorium on propaganda, flimsy, un-researched ideas, and overblown, political cheap shots? Our students all deserve our best, not more out of tune warbling and despicable political posturing.
Scott Elliot of the Dayton Daily News is on the story
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