Ohio Department of Education Topic News

Ohio Core: Not Your Parent’s High School Curriculum


It used to be that anyone could be a backyard mechanic. Remember how you could tune up your car, adjust the carburetor, and diagnose trouble just by listening to the purr or rumble of your engine?

Not anymore. Today’s cars are loaded with high-tech electronics and computer components that baby-boomer parents and grandparents couldn’t even have imagined as youngsters. Higher-level mathematics, science, engineering and technology skills are now the norm for today’s automotive technicians and other skilled laborers.

Real World Algebraic ProblemsTechnology has gone mainstream. Our handheld calculators have more computing power than early space capsules. In fact, the computer technology in today’s vehicles is nearly 1,000 times more powerful than what guided the Apollo moon mission. (

Even Ohio’s largest industry, agribusiness – what we used to call farming – is now dependent upon sophisticated satellite connections, computers and mathematics to figure acreage, tillage, fertilizer dispersal rates and a host of other calculations.

Our kids are wired to one another through MySpace or Facebook. They’ve even replaced talking for hours on the telephone with shooting text messages between cell phones in nanoseconds. E-mail is already passé with adolescents – YouTube is the newest medium of expressive communications.

Yet, for all the technological changes in our children’s everyday lives, many parents don’t realize that education must change to keep up.

For the reality is that education that was sufficient for parents isn’t what today’s students need. To compete and collaborate in a global marketplace, students will need advanced skills and knowledge that are far different from what adults learned in high school or college even 10 years ago.

Jobs and careers in the 21st century will demand even more technologically savvy students, creative and innovative thinkers, and young entrepreneurs who can communicate and collaborate across cultures, countries and continents.

To meet these demands, Ohio educators and legislators have reviewed and updated core education requirements and established the “Ohio Core” to ensure students will be ready to succeed in the world they will face.

Under the new requirements, today’s seventh-graders – the Class of 2014 – will need an additional year of math and lab-based science to get a diploma.

In addition, these revised standards are a bit more challenging than in years past.

  • Students will complete 20 credits that include more rigorous courses like Algebra II or its equivalent.
  • Financial literacy instruction must be provided to all students before they earn a diploma.
  • Science will involve questioning that is open-ended with an inquiry-based laboratory experience, asking students to engage in science to solve real-life problems.
  • And even though it’s still an elective, speaking a foreign language will be basic to anyone’s education as our U.S. population continues to become more diverse.

Ohio Core RequirementsTo help parents, students, teachers and school administrators understand what’s expected of our high school students, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) created nine in-depth Web pages that explain the Ohio Core, provide answers to frequently asked questions, and give guidance to schools and districts about what courses should be offered. These can be found at, keywords search: Ohio Core.

“The Ohio Core will give our high school students the kind of preparation they need to succeed in entry-level jobs, apprenticeships, military service and college,” said Stan Heffner, associate superintendent of the Center for Curriculum and Assessment at ODE.

“There’s an economic-workforce driver here, but there’s also the individual empowerment of Ohio students to believe in themselves, find how their learning is relevant to their lives, and have a core knowledge-base that allows them to find solutions to complex issues when they become adults,” Heffner said.

ODE mathematics expert Brad Findell agrees. “Not all students will need calculus or even pre-calculus, but we know geometry and introductory algebra are not enough,” Findell said. “That’s why we’re saying students need Algebra II or its equivalent, meaning a course where they use algebraic skills and reasoning to solve complex, real-world problems.” (See sidebar.)

Nancy Pistone, an ODE expert in the visual and performing arts curriculum, says students under Ohio’s Core Curriculum will be required to complete two semesters or its equivalent of the fine arts in any of grades 7-12.

“The fine arts requirement in the Core helps us begin to highlight the visual and performing arts as equal partners with other subjects,” Pistone said. “Whether they stand alone as design, drama, architecture, music, dance, sculpture, photography, painting and filmmaking courses – or are integrated with other disciplines – the modes of thought and dispositions the arts nurture will prepare students to meet economic, cultural, societal and personal challenges.”

The Ohio Core isn’t just about adding up credits, but rather, about ensuring that Ohio graduates are well-prepared to be successful, 21st-century global thinkers and competitors.

The Ohio Core will go beyond isolated courses and subjects to drive education toward an integrated, holistic approach for each child’s pathway to the future. Great education molds great leaders, inventors and entrepreneurs. Through today’s educational requirements, Ohio will continue its rich tradition and history of innovation and creativity for generations to come.