January
4

House Rules and Reference Committee

Hon. Chairman Huffman, Vice-Chairman Batchelder, Ranking Member Buddish, and members of Committee, thank you for the privilege to submit testimony to the Committee regarding the repeal of the Common Core State Standards.

My name is Jim Rigano. I am an elected school board member for Springboro City Community School District located south of Dayton, OH.  I am in the third year of my second term on the board.  I am also a registered Professional Engineer in Ohio.  While I agree with many that Common Core State Standards should be repealed because they will result in a loss of local control, because they are not as rigorous as other existing standards, and because they will weaken American culture, I want to focus my testimony in another direction that I hope is different from the other witnesses you will hear from.

First, let me state that I do not agree with the position of the Ohio School Boards Association and their sister organizations OASBO and BASA with respect to Common Core.  While they may purport to represent all school boards and elected board of education members in Ohio, the truth is their opposition to HB 597 is derived from their leadership and not from the opinions of the member school districts or the thousands of elected school board members in Ohio.  OSBA leadership established their position on CCSS Common Core long ago attempting to rally school board members against Representative Thompson’s HB 237 when it was introduced.  It was just two weeks ago, presumably in preparation for their testimony to you, that I received the first ever OSBA correspondence (a web survey) seeking opinions of the membership about the CCSS.  This occurs after months of activism trying to rally support for the Common Core.  In their latest bulletin they “urge members to oppose HB 597” because “there is neither time nor resources” for a change.  However, according to our Superintendent our recently purchased curriculum materials will support whatever standards are eventually put in place because they are but one tool in his education toolbox.  And as you recently confirmed in HB 487, a local board is free to teach to whatever standard it chooses – if they like their Common Core they can keep their Common Core. My larger point is that although our school district is a member of OSBA, we were not consulted by OSBA leadership about our opinions either as a board or as individual members except as an afterthought.  Please be aware their agenda is driven by their leadership and not OSBA members at large.

As an engineer, I am trained to deal in facts, logic, and reason.  As a profession charged with public safety and responsibility for ensuring the prudent expenditure of capital, Engineers insist that important decisions be based on proven solutions.  Some lesser decisions are left to professional judgment, but for large expenditures and for the BIG decisions we demand, and our clients demand of us, some clear evidence that the intended goals will be achieved.  Mr. Chairman, the education of Ohio’s children and their future is an important decision that demands hard evidence that CCSS will improve their knowledge, skills, and ability. Unfortunately, the CCSS proponents have no such evidence, and a decision of this magnitude cannot be left simply to the judgment of so-called experts.

In 2001 Ohio rolled out new educational standards and state-wide testing.  In the following years, millions were spent aligning curriculum, training teachers, and implementing tests.  We were told by the experts these things are necessary to “raise the bar” on academic performance because we need to do more for Ohio’s children.

Now, we’re being told by the Common Core proponents that those standards did not make children “college and career ready”, did not “prepare them for a 21st century global economy”, and were not sufficiently “rigorous” after all.  I don’t know whether those 2001 Ohio academic content standards were pilot tested.  My guess is they were not, but even if they were, the CCSS proponents tell us today that those standards are not good enough and that new, improved standards must be implemented.  They tell us we need these new Common Core standards, and they assure us that this time we can trust them.  Of course everyone is in favor of higher standards, but may I observe that many of these “experts” would benefit greatly from a renewed procurement cycle in the education industry.

My point is this.  We’ve traveled the road of unproven (or at least inadequately tested) standards before.  Those 2001 standards were foisted on millions of Ohio’s children, and according to the CCSS proponents for the last 13 years we’ve provided them an inadequate and insufficiently rigorous education.   Their solution: to implement a new set of unproven and untested Common Core standards.  They tell us we are to spend millions (billions?) to implement those new standards and the associated achievement testing, but with respect to whether these new standards will actually improve academic achievement we are told to simply trust their good intentions and judgment.

As an engineer dealing in the realm of reason I am often frustrated by Common Core proponents who constantly deal in emotions and slogans.  For example, try to get even the most rudimentary explanation of “increased rigor”, “college and career ready”, and what is a “21st Century education”.   While these sound like laudable goals, my research shows these are empty phrases used to pitch an untested and unproven set of standards developed without public hearings, public reviews, and public input.  In science, new work is subjected to peer review, then published and subject to critique.  Inexplicably, CCSS was rolled-out to the nation’s schools void of any such scrutiny.

Thanks to grass roots efforts some independent peer reviews have been done and CCSS does not measure up to other standards in place today.  Even CCSS advocates agree. The Fordham institute, a common core proponent, rates Massachusetts 2001 English Language Arts standards as superior to the CCSS.  These standards have been proven superior by virtue of Massachusetts’ perennial position at the top rankings among the 50 states.  Achieve, one of the founders of CCSS, rates Singapore Math has superior to CCSS.  Singapore has topped all nations in international mathematics benchmarks.  And no one can call a set of standards that omit pre-Calculus “college ready” or “rigorous.”  For some inexplicable reason, the authors of Common Core feel that by teaching less, students will learn more.

Mr. Chairman, when it comes to the future and education of Ohio’s children, who are the future of Ohio, I cannot understand why any decision maker would choose an untested, unproven alternative when superior proven and tested alternatives are available.  Elementary reason tells us to choose a doctor who has a proven remedy for an illness and to run from the one who wants to experiment with an untested, unproven treatment on you or your child.
I urge the committee and House to repeal the Common Core State Standards and to replace them with a tested and proven solution that protects Ohio’s children and our investment in Ohio’s future.  They are the ones who will sustain Ohio’s economy and our culture into the future.

Respectfully submitted
Jim Rigano
Board of Education Member
Springboro Community City Schools

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