Opinion: New Ohio Plan for Education spells progress

Ria Parikh | Staff Writer

“Each child, Our future.”

This is the name of Ohio’s new five year strategic plan for education. The goal with this new plan is to encourage students to learn social skills and to emphasize the importance of developing the “whole child”, an individual who excels beyond academics. This plan is unique in that it was developed by a variety of contributors, including parents, business leaders, higher education representatives and even students.   

Unlike others that were developed in the past, this plan has some promise. People from almost every perspective had a hand in it, so it wouldn’t lean towards a hidden agenda; the goal has nothing to do with test scores, but with developing the individual. And, best of all, they start small.

Starting small makes a huge impact on students because they start forming good habits to build upon at the prime habit-forming age. Psychology today reports a study that habits in children take root at about age nine.

Honestly, that was part of the issue with other plans. While, in theory, they sounded good, the benefits of the plan culminate with the theory. Standards, processes, perpetual testing might lead to a higher national average, but they compromise teaching skills of innovation and critical thinking because everything is so boxed-in and closed-off to meet a standard.

Common Core is a nationwide set of standards developed by state leaders and governors across the nation. These people are all board certified and have valuable knowledge about education, but when the perspective is only reduced to people in higher powers, the plan loses sight of the alternative purposes of school, not to teach kids to pass tests. 

Common Core was a plan full of standards. Each subject had a list of points and each point had a number that described an objective that students should be able to do. 

While arguments can be made for this method — it ensures that underperforming states stay on par with better performing states and it helps to unify curricula across the country — these strong points of Common Core are not important enough to compromise what is needed to build unique and well-rounded individuals.

Children spend more time in school than they do at home. This means that, especially at a young age, schools have a responsibility to do more than teach a kid how to pass a test. 

When people who care more about the holistic needs of children are left out of plans — parents, for example, and students themselves — the result is a plan that is great in making sure students can retain information at a certain level, but are lacking in everything else.

That is why this plan is different. A wide variety of people were involved in its creation, and they intend to implement it in students as early in their schooling as possible. They focus what Common Core lacked: innovation, lifting aspirations, and making them competitive in an ever-changing job market for whatever it is they want to do. 

As a student who experienced Common Core and all the other plans after it, I know about the negative effects that a limited perspective on education has, and the unified focus was one of them, because students were forced to conform to the norm and not develop themselves as individuals.

Plans in the past haven’t been promising. They were too cookie-cutter and robotic when put into place, potentially even putting students at a disservice. They tend to be so precise to a point where they seem impossible. And although this plan may not be perfect, the ideas are simple: develop kids who are academically intelligent, but also intelligent about the world around them. 

If we open our minds, maybe the plan “made by Ohioans, for Ohioans” can actually make a difference.