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Fight against Common Core not over in Indiana

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The national math and education standards outlined in the Common Core are everywhere at Indianapolis' George S. Buck Elementary School.

Stapled packets of the standards meant to guide what students learn in each grade hang outside classroom doors, and individual guidelines are cut out and displayed in the hallways next to hand-drawn graphs colored in crayon.

A bill signed Monday by Gov. Mike Pence made Indiana the first state to revoke those standards, leaving what will replace them when the State Board of Education approves new standards before its July 1 deadline unclear.

"Everybody's at a standstill," George S. Buck Elementary School Principal Valerie Allen said.

How Indiana handles creating and implementing the new standards could provide a glimpse into the future of schools across the country. Lawmakers nationwide filed more than 200 bills on the standards this year alone, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Opponents say the guidelines, meant to put consistent and rigorous benchmarks in place across the country, were adopted without enough local input.

But making Pence's call for "standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high" a reality will take more than his signature.

Proposals for new standards still face criticism for being too similar to the Common Core, even after months of work by a panel of education officials and a series of public hearings. Only weeks remain before the State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposal April 28.

An internal Department of Education analysis of the current draft English standards for grades six through 12 shows that more than 90 percent contain at least edited parts from the Common Core, and that about 34 percent of standards for the younger grades are directly pulled from the national standards.

An English education expert called on by Pence to review the standards said the current version makes a "fool" out of the governor. Sandra Stotsky, a retired University of Arkansas professor, said she refuses to review any additional drafts too similar to the national standards.

"If you're asked to develop a new set of standards for English language arts because people don't want Common Core," Stotsky said, "you don't start with Common Core."

Part of the problem, says Department of Education spokesman David Galvin, is in the law that first directed the board to create new standards.

Legislation signed by Pence last year directs the Board of Education to "use the Common Core standards as the base model for academic standards" in order to maintain a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, a set of stringent guidelines put in place under former President George W. Bush.

The board has the flexibility to deviate from the Common Core if doing so doesn't put the waiver at risk.

"Folks keep talking about how (the draft) seems like Common Core or a watered-down version," Galvin said. "But when the legislation was established ... it dictated, if you will, where the standards would go."

Indiana faces another unique challenge: The former state standards are similar to the Common Core, and those standards are being blended with the national standards in the new proposals.

"Indiana standards were to a degree somewhat embedded in Common Core, so it's hard to segregate out Common Core standards," said Rep. Bob Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee. "They all kind of work together."

On top of that, Behning said standards that are too different could put students at risk of doing poorly on the ACT and SAT, which are both based on Common Core.

"We wanted to make sure Hoosier students are able to attend college outside Indiana," Behning said. The state can't move "so far from what everybody else is using that they would not be able to be successful on the ACT and SAT."

Teachers at George S. Buck anticipate some overlap with the old standards, and Allen said the school likely will use some Common Core books for elementary students in the fall.

But until the state board officially approves changes, teachers are left to guess what will fill the curriculum folders hung in the Indianapolis elementary school's halls.

"The sooner we know," Allen said, "the better."

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  • No Proof Indiana's Standards Are High
    I agree wholeheartedly with Jim's comments. For all of you that keep espousing how great Indiana's standards were, where is the proof. Indiana's educational outcomes have been below average for years. Are all of you uninformed or delusional? I think Pence is probably both!
  • Waste of time
    So the Board of Education was directed to utilize Common Core to write new standards to protect the stringent requriements of the No Child Left Behind waiver...how would you write something radically different if your prior superior standards and the Common Core standards are a lot alike, and you have to save NCLB? Mr. Pence apparently wants be able to say he reformed education in Indiana when he was Governor as a piece of a Presidential campaign, but he has assigned the people who have to produce new guidelines a task where the various objectives don't mesh...sounds like if the waiver is that important, you are going to be a lot like Common Core...so why waste the effort to change...nothing but fodder for a national candidacy...typical
  • Standards
    Betrn'n, I don't think anyone has ever ever argued that Common Core standards are better than Indiana's old standards which were seen as the best in the country. The reason it was changed by Bennett was to get the standards uniform to other states. Adopting these national standards, to gain uniformity, was seen as more important than the quality of the standards. A lot of people on the right and left don't agree. This is hardly an issue that breaks down by party line as you suggest.
    • Posturing
      This is an exercise of one upmanship from the "we hate everything Obama" club. If our old state standards were so superior to most others in the country, simply return to the status quo before Mitch "led us" to national prominece again.
    • common core is nonsense
      The schools should be focussing on STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. All that is done in the workforce today is IT oriented, the archaic system we are using needs to be compared to and upgraded to European and Southeast Asian standards as well as schools in India. It may be that our teachers are far outmatched by the rigor and discipline of the schools in top notch schools throughout the world. Our schools are too soft and too much focus on Athletics and not Academics. Academics should be front page news in school newspapers and athletics relegated to the back page.
    • Backwards?
      Indiana was not seen as a "backwards state" when it came to education standards. We were considered to be a leader in that area, to have some of the best education standards of any state in the country. Common core was a step down from those standards. Why we would discard Indiana's standards to adopt a version of Common Core is a mystery.
    • Marching backwards again
      "Common core" may have faults (and I don't begin to know what they are, BUT Indiana is already a backward state in so many areas. If we have our "own" standards of "education" then students who get our "education" will find credits not transferring to other states. Indiana will produce adults who will have difficulty getting into colleges in other states and be only fit for the low income jobs that our government seems to want to bring here.

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