What Ohio’s Learning Standards Mean For Students, Teachers, and Parents

On Tuesday Char Shryock, a parent and teacher of 30 years, shared what’s been happening in Ohio’s public schools.

As an expert in standards and curriculum, Char felt compelled to share her expertise with the House Education and Career Readiness Committee –and what she said so perfectly captured what Ohio educators have been doing that we had to share it with you.

Char spoke out about the value of high standards because the Ohio legislature considering a bill – HB 176 – that would “repeal and replace” Ohio’s Learning Standards. Expert teachers have put thousands of hours into developing strong lessons that challenge students and meet certain learning goals that will put Ohio’s kids on a better path to success.

Please read Char’s testimony below to see why it’s so important that HB 176 is not pass and Ohio stick with its current academic standards.

shyrock“Chairman Brenner, Vice- Chairman Slaby, Ranking Member Fedor, and the members of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee, my name is Char Shryock and I am serving in my 7th year as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Bay Village City Schools. My job responsibilities also include serving as the District Assessment Coordinator, and overseeing our Resident Educator program for new teachers. My testimony today represents my professional judgement and is not meant as a statement from the Bay Village City Schools. I also serve as the State Lead for the Ohio Standards Advocates, a network of teachers, administrators, parents, instructional coaches, educational support team members, and education leaders working together to support Ohio’s teachers by increasing their knowledge, skill, and confidence in making the instructional shifts that are central to Ohio’s Learning Standards. This is my 30th year overall an Ohio educator. I spent 23 years teaching middle school and high school science and English and serving as a technology integration specialist in a public school district. Now, as a Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I work daily to ensure our K-12 instruction is based on Ohio’s Learning Standards and our locally developed curriculum is meeting the needs of all our students so that they will be successful once they leave our K-12 public school system. And most importantly, I have been a parent for the past 18 years, supporting my own daughter on her learning path through her K-12 public education and into her freshmen year at Ohio University. Now, more than ever, I can see the positive impact of Ohio’s Learning Standards on my own daughter’s readiness for college and career.

“I have been fortunate to be involved in the work of standards revisions and assessment development at a district and a state level. I would like to share my experiences with you in the hope that it will inform your own decision making. Over the past 7 years I have invested hundreds of hours of my own time in addition to the time spent in my district position to implement and support Ohio’s Learning Standards because I firmly believe they are rigorous, age appropriate, challenging to all students, and focused, going beyond shallow learning that encourages rote memorization and instead allowing time for deeper learning, enabling students to develop a solid base of knowledge and skills. Ohio students are equipped to ask informed questions, persevere in solving problems, read a wide variety of both literature and informational text across all subject areas, communicate their ideas supported by evidence, and think mathematically and scientifically. Our Ohio Learning Standards are equitable. They help to set a level learning playing field for all students, regardless of which district or districts in Ohio they may spend time in as a K-12 student. This shared set of knowledge and skills has allowed for educators to collaborate within districts and across districts. It makes a strong statement to all of the stakeholders in our state that Ohio is committed to the learning success of all of our students.

“Our current Ohio process for standards revision has allowed thousands of teachers, parents and community members to contribute suggestions to inform the work during public comment windows. This year, I served on the Operational Working Group for the Science Standards revision, along with than 30 science educators and content experts. An additional Advisory Committee made up of 20 science education leaders and content experts from across Ohio initially reviewed every comment and made decisions to refer the comment to the working group. It was the task of the Operational Working Group to write the revised standard language, while being scientifically accurate and age appropriate. We looked closely at the progression of science learning from K-12, making sure that each grade concept built on prior grade learning, without being repetitive or leaving gaps. My colleagues who served as the Advisory Committee co-chairs for the ELA standards revision followed this same thoughtful process, as did the Math Standards Revision team. Those that I have spoken with have agreed that the work resulted in revisions that strengthened our Ohio Learning Standards and made them clearer for teachers, parents and students. I can say with certainty that the hours spent in discussion around our Ohio science standards were some of the best professional dialogue I have had as a science educator in our state. The revised Ohio Learning Standards for Math and ELA adopted in 2017 and the draft Science and Social Studies revised Ohio Learning Standards that are currently going through the adoption process are uniquely Ohio’s. The strength in our Ohio Learning Standards comes from their coherence. If you look closely in any content area, you will see that the standards are meant to be a progression of learning from grade to grade. Our local control model permits districts to then work from these coherent standards as the starting point to develop curriculum, defining how to best support the children in their community, in their buildings and their classrooms in learning the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in that grade, the next grade and eventually in college or careers. Ohio teachers have spent thousands of hours over the past 7 years on selecting, creating and implementing instructional materials that are based on our Ohio Learning Standards. Ohio Districts have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on purchasing instructional materials and providing teachers with collaborative time and ongoing professional development to best utilize these resources.

“Suggesting that we should now walk back all of that work, and instead begin the process of implementing a completely new set of standards, that were developed with no input from Ohio educators, parents and community members, is not in the best interest of Ohio’s students. As an illustration of the time commitment you would be asking Ohio educators to undertake, it takes a full year for district curriculum teams to go through the process of cross-walking old standards to new standards. It takes 2-3 years to fully implement the standards, update instructional materials and have local school boards adopt new courses of study. To be in compliance with Ohio laws around the adoption of instructional materials, districts must include some form of a community input into the adoption process, including time for piloting and review of materials and the community input leading to local school board adoption takes a full year or year and a half. Standards are not plug and play, not if we view them as an important equity factor in our state and a way to ensure all students are prepared for college or career readiness.

“Our Ohio State Tests are also an equity factor. Our Ohio State Tests are built around our Ohio Learning Standards. This is important because they are also aligned to what our teachers are focusing their instruction on and what our students are learning, regardless of district location or type. Our tests are designed to give all Ohio students an opportunity to demonstrate where they are in their learning mastery of our standards. Our current Ohio State Tests, which are administered online on the AIR platform, or in a paper pencil format, have been developed with Ohio educator input. They are meant to be given in the year or in the course that the student has currently been enrolled in, rather than grade banded tests that incorporate material from multiple grade levels or courses. Our current Ohio State Tests are criterion referenced tests, not norm referenced. As legislators, I think it is important that you understand the distinction between these two assessment terms. This is an important distinction to make. We want our Ohio State Tests to be criterion referenced. Criterion referenced tests are equitable in that they give all students the opportunity to show mastery of standards at a high level. The criteria for meeting each level of learning mastery are spelled out in a rubric-like tool call Performance Level Descriptors. Student results are shared in a way that allows educators to make valid inferences about their curriculum and instruction and how it supports student mastery of the knowledge and skills we have identified for each grade level. The results are a report of what that student was able to know or do at the time of the test. Norm referenced tests, like those being suggested in HB 176, are based on learning objectives determined by the test designer, which may or may not match what is being learned in a particular grade level or course in Ohio. They are meant to rank order students not to determine mastery. One example is our criterion referenced state Biology test that is aligned to Ohio’s Learning Standards. We understand what knowledge and skills we want Ohio students to know in biology. We give the Ohio State Test for biology to students for the first time when they are in a high school biology course. If instead, we gave the norm referenced ACT science test, we would be able to see how accurate students are in reading a scientific article in relationship to other students who are at multiple age and grade levels, with multiple science skills sets that do not pertain to biology, who have answered that question set in the past. The ACT science test does not measure mastery of science content. This ranking information is not helpful to me as an educator who is working to refine instruction or curriculum to ensure my students have learned biology. As a parent and an educator, I am much more interested in my student’s mastery of content and what the next steps in learning should be.

“HB 176 seeks to set aside the quality work that Ohio educators, in local districts across our state, have been doing to plan and teach locally created curriculum that supports the knowledge and skills defined in Ohio’s Learning Standards. This work started in 2002 with our first statewide standards, continued through the adoption of Ohio’s Learning Standards in 2010 and now the Revised Ohio Learning Standards for ELA and math adopted in 2017 and the draft Science and Social Studies standards that are currently being presented to the state Board of Education. This bill sends the message to teachers that all the collaboration, research, planning and instruction that they have done in the evenings, over the summer, over lunch, across the hallways and across districts for the past 7 plus years will now need to restart from the beginning. A huge waste of time.

“I thank you for the opportunity to testify to you today. I am happy to answer any question from
the committee.”


Char Shryock is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Bay Village City Schools in Ohio. She also serves as the chair of the Ohio Educator Leader Cadre and as a leader in the Ohio Core Advocate Program. She spent 22 years in the classroom as a middle and upper grades English and science teacher and also as a technology integration special. Follow her on Twitter: @edtechgirl.