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HB 171 – Curriculum Made in Ohio

June 13, 2023

Public Education Partners is strongly opposed to Ohio House Bill 103. HB 103 seeks to replace curriculum created in Ohio, for Ohio’s schools and students, with so-called American Birthright social studies standards created by out-of-state interests to indoctrinate children with partisan political views. Social studies standards included in American Birthright represent extreme efforts to overhaul public K-12 curricula to align with the dictates of culture war ideology.

The National Council for the Social Studies has determined that the suggested social studies American Birthright standards developed by the Civics Alliance do not align with best practices related to the development of social studies standards, and it does support the use of these standards.

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is an American politically conservative education advocacy organization aimed at “reforming higher education” by advocating against multiculturalism, diversity policies, and courses focused on race and gender issues. In 2021, NAS created the Civics Alliance to promote the 1776 Curriculum, published by Hillsdale College, to “reform K-12 education.” One of its initiatives is the American Birthright set of K-12 social studies standards.

According to a detailed investigative report about the American Birthright curriculum by Kathryn Joyce, much of American Birthright reflects recent education fights. Read Kathryn Joyce’s report for more ludicrous examples of “standards” included in American Birthright social studies standards.

Dr. Mary Lightbody is an experienced educator and true scholar on the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Committee who has sponsored House Bill 171 to bring multiculturalism to social studies lessons in our K-12 classrooms. Lightbody’s made-in-Ohio bill would include information about the history and contributions of cultural minority groups into a model curriculum for social studies classes.

HB 171 has been assigned to Ohio House  Primary & Secondary Education Committee for its first hearing on Tuesday, June 20, at 4:00pm.

Considering House Bill 171, Honesty for Ohio Education shared on its website: Ohio has a rich history of contributions and contributors, at the local level, around the state, nationally and internationally. We deserve social studies model curricula that reflects our diverse histories and communities.

Diversifying our social studies means more students will see themselves in their curriculum. Multiple studies show that culturally relevant instruction is more engaging to students, resulting in better academic outcomes. A 2020 study from the National Education Association showed that students of color, in particular, who participated in courses that reflected different identities, cultures, and backgrounds had a greater sense of belonging and sense of self.

Students care about themselves and others more when diverse histories and identities are taught. When students’ identities are reflected in the classroom, students behave more positively toward themselves, their educators, and their peers. Research has found “a statistically significant association between observations of culturally responsive teaching and proactive behavior management practices.”

In order for students to be prepared to participate in our multiracial democracy and economy, students need to understand the contributions and legacies of many diverse communities.

While House Bill 171 would revise our current K12 social studies model curriculum to include instruction on the migration, experiences, and contributions of diverse communities, House Bill 103 would radically replace the current standards with the extreme American Birthright program to emphasize Western history, American exceptionalism, patriotism, and Christianity over civic engagement.

HB 103 is a dishonest attempt to micromanage Ohio K-12 educational curriculum based on ideology that is rooted in the politically motivated culture wars- it needs to be thrown out.

Ask the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Committee to seriously consider House Bill 171 and then focus on passing this culturally relevant curriculum policy-  MADE IN OHIO!

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Dawn’s Story

I am a public school teacher in Oberlin, Ohio. As I do year after year, I had my fifth-graders write editorials for the Newspaper in Education contest sponsored by our local Chronicle-Telegram newspaper. And as I always do, I gave the students free choice to choose their topics and to come up with their own polished submissions.

When so many of them started writing about testing, I freaked out a little because prior to this month’s AIR testing, I had rarely even mentioned the topic to them, refusing to stress them out about the upcoming three weeks of testing. I sent some of their work to our principal with a note that said, in so many words, “Holy smokes, look at what these kids are saying. I promise that I haven’t been stressing them out about these tests!” She wrote back saying she thought their submissions sounded just fine.

I’m so thankful to have a principal who values our students’ feelings.

When I talked to the kids about the testing, I told them how surprised I was by their topic choices and asked why they were feeling so worried. After all, I told them, I had barely mentioned the topic and told them I’d be the last person to put pressure on them or try to stress them out. One student told me, “You are working with the wrong kids, Mrs. Randall. You don’t have to stress us out. We stress ourselves out enough for all of us.”

They then started sharing stories about last year’s PARCC test, when they tested on and off from February through May when they were in 4th-grade. They shared about how scared they were that they wouldn’t pass the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee reading test the year before that and then fail the entire year. Ohio legislation is insane.

But worst of all, one student said, “This is the third new kind of test we’ve had in three years. When will Ohio get this right?”

This same student was the one who took it upon himself to go to the Ohio Department of Education website on his Chromebook and research his topic and find out that some schools were able to still do paper/pencil tests, and he was pretty upset that he couldn’t.

I sent a note to the newspaper staff member about all their submissions and she told me to please not censor their writing, but to send it all in. She wanted to see it all.

Today, I opened the newspaper supplement to these two student submissions ruling a whole spread. Apparently, the judges heard them loud and clear and felt their words needed to be heard by our community.

All this high-stakes testing is really starting to take a toll on kids. When will our legislature hear and care about their voices?

Each child in my class is the SAME child who has been forced to sit through high-stakes testing year after year after year. When will enough be enough?

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