K-12 and Public schools and State Government and Department of Education and Education & Workforce Development and Education reform and Government & Economic Development and Government

Bill would delay new Indiana school standards

April 25, 2013

Indiana legislators prepared a compromise bill Thursday that would suspend implementation of a national set of reading and math education standards for a year while new state reviews are done.

A House-Senate conference committee discussed a compromise bill that would block the State Board of Education from doing more to have schools start using the Common Core State Standards until new public hearings are conducted by the board and a special legislative committee.

The effort to overturn the benchmarks approved by the State Board of Education in 2010 is being opposed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and other groups that have supported the state's expansion of charter schools and adoption of a private school voucher program.

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, had earlier sought to withdraw Indiana from the standards, but that push stalled earlier in the legislative session.

The teaching standards — developed by a national group of state school officials and since adopted by 45 states — are now being used in Indiana's kindergarten and first grade classes, with all grades set to use them starting in the 2014-15 school year.

Schneider said he was comfortable with the new review proposed in the compromise and that he believed the standards didn't face a thorough enough evaluation before they were first adopted.

"The overriding issue has been the top-down governance, the ceding of local control and local ability to make education policy decisions in Indiana to someplace else," Schneider said.

The compromise bill calls for a legislative study committee to conduct at least three public hearings on the standards and complete a report by November. The State Board of Education would then have to review that report and conduct at least three more public hearings for its new evaluation of the standards by July 2013.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill Friday, which is expected to be the last day of this year's legislative session.

Hundreds of Common Core opponents attended a Statehouse rally in January in support of Schneider's bill to withdraw Indiana from the standards. Those opponents complained about frustrations over how skills such as addition and subtraction are being taught under the standards and that they've not been able find answers about how the criteria were set.

Democratic state schools superintendent Glenda Ritz, who took office in January, has said she didn't believe enough public review was done before the standards were adopted and supports the new round of public hearings.

Derek Redelman, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's vice president on education policy, said the state's schools officials have been reviewing the Common Core benchmarks since 2009 and that the additional review isn't necessary.

Redelman said he believed the Legislature should leave teaching curriculum decisions to the State Board of Education.

"You don't hear a hue and cry from the schools saying 'get us out from under this,'" Redelman said. "You have a group of people who've never really been involved with education issues coming in expressing all these fears that are just truly unfounded."

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