GREENVILLE – Ohio’s Learning Standards outline the skills and knowledge that help students become ready for success in college and careers, according to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
Director of Curriculum and English Language Arts (ELA) Specialist of the Darke County Educational Service Center (ESC) April Hoying and her staff help to ensure that happens in Darke County. Hoying is in her ninth year working at the ESC and her second as director.
The ESC works with county superintendents, principals and teachers, overseeing all of the curriculum department issues, which include the content areas of ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Under Hoying’s direction, the ESC’s content specialists are connected with the ODE, and are proactive when it comes to staying on top of the ever-changing curriculum.
The ODE sends out information, but ESC employees also stay ahead of the game, by attending meetings in their content areas, Hoying said. In addition, some of the ESC staff are also members of different state curriculum advisory committees.
“We get involved, pay attention and watch for what is coming and advise our principals and superintendents.” Hoying said.
Many of the curriculum changes come from state legislation. In 2010, Ohio teachers worked in teams to suggest instructional strategies and resources that align with the Ohio’s Learning Standards in English Language Arts, according to the ODE. As a result of their work, the State Board of Education adopted English Language Arts Model Curriculum, in March 2011.
Since then, there has been some backlash about the Common Core standards, all across the United States, Hoying said.
“Ohio’s standards are based on the national standards in common core, but there have been some small revisions in the language arts and math standards, so that they are Ohio’s standards now,” she said.
Part of that ongoing effort for evaluative feedback, is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), that calls for public input on the draft state plan through March 6. ESSA was signed into federal law on Dec. 10, 2015, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the ODE, ESSA requires states to develop plans that address standards, assessments, school and district accountability, and special help for struggling schools to draw on experiences of parents and teachers.
Other evaluative measures come through the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, adopted Oct. 9, 2012, where each teacher is evaluated using the multiple factors set forth in the state Board of Education’s teacher evaluation framework. According to Hoying, this has some wiggle room if schools are aligning their evaluative rubric to the state’s.
“We work with the teachers and administrators to help them work with the students to better serve the population that we have,” Hoying said. “It does feel like sometimes we are jumping through these hoops and it is hard to see the benefit for the teacher and the student in it all. There can be many regulations and steps we have to go through in the process to get there.”
Teaching methods are not prescribed by the ODE, only meeting the standards. The ESC works with teachers to ensure sure that they understand the standards so the “what” of what they are supposed to teach is clear to them, Hoying said.
“That is where a lot of work from our office comes into play,” she said.”The standards can have many different interpretations. Coming together and having discussions about those standards and making sure that everyone has the same understanding of them is important in ensuring that the students reach the goals that are set out for them.”
Hoying said she likes the variety every day brings to her job. Calls to the ESC are for many reasons, such as: superintendents asking for professional development days to discuss a curriculum topic, principals requesting advice for a teacher struggling with a topic and teachers calling for advice on how to reach their students. Finding the balance between, knowing the standards and keeping important content in front of the students can be challenging, according to Hoying.
“There is more to teaching than just the test, but that test has a number that looms over us,” Hoying said.
Hoying said she understands the pressure, as she was a teacher at Mississinawa Valley Schools for five years, prior to working for the ESC. She said she is happy to be in a position to help.
“I like knowing the teachers will come to me and ask for help planning a lesson,” she said. “I love the opportunity to search for resources for them, and to find something that will hopefully help them.”