Fate of new Indiana school standards unclear

A legislative plan that would "pause" Indiana's adoption of a national set of reading and math education standards has the backing of Republican Gov. Mike Pence, although many questions surround what that step would mean for the state's classrooms.

Pence said he was waiting to review the bill approved by legislators last week that would suspend implementation of Common Core State Standards in more grades for a year while new state reviews are conducted.

The extent of Pence's determination to change those standards might be known this summer when he can replace six of 10 State Board of Education members who've unanimously supported adopting the guidelines.

Pence said he believed the pause would allow time for state officials, educators and the public to have more discussion about the teaching standards developed by a national group of state school officials and since adopted by 45 states. They 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.

"I don't come at it with any preconceived notion for or against," Pence told reporters Monday. "My only bias is that we're going to do education the Indiana way. We're going to set our curriculum in Indiana, for Indiana."

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and other Common Core supporters say the state's education officials have been reviewing the benchmarks for years and that the additional review isn't necessary.

Critics maintain that Indiana's own school standards were better and that adoption of the Common Core has cost the state control over its education expectations.

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.

Ritz spokesman David Galvin said the agency's staff was closely reviewing the bill that underwent numerous changes in the final days of the legislative session.

"We're trying to see what it means and the impacts, positive or negative, on the state at this point," Galvin told The Indianapolis Star.

The 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 2014.

The state board approved adopting the standards in 2010 and voted unanimously to reaffirm them after legislators began considering an earlier version of the bill that would've withdrawn the state from Common Core.

Pence didn't say whether he would consider the Common Core stance when deciding whether to make changes to the state board.

"We're going to give Common Core a fair look and a serious look," he said.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said those appointments were on the minds of legislators as they prepared the bill.

"We thought it best for two things to happen: one, for legislators to look at this because we had not in the past, and two, to give the State Board of Education an opportunity to look at it again after the governor's appointments in July," Bosma said.

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