One of the first states to adopt Common Core standards became the first state to formally abandon the national benchmarks, as Indiana's State Board of Education voted overwhelmingly Monday for a replacement that will guide student learning for years.
The board voted 10-1 to endorse the new benchmarks to guide what students in kindergarten through 12th grade should learn in math and English, which were created by a panel of faculty from Indiana universities and representatives from science and technology industries. The vote came ahead of the state's July deadline and could end months of heated debate.
"I hope that with this conversation behind us, we can stick with these standards and make sure we're not continually moving the goal posts on our students and educators," board member at-large Gordon Hendry said. "The reasons academic standards have been successful in places like Massachusetts is because legislators and policymakers picked a direction and stayed with it."
Indiana adopted Common Core in 2010 along with 44 other states. But states' rights advocates and tea party members later vocally opposed the Common Core standards, saying they were created without adequate local input.
In response, Indiana lawmakers passed legislation pausing Common Core's implementation and requiring a statewide review to find a replacement. Gov. Mike Pence in March signed legislation making Indiana the first state to drop the national standards, which are not federally required but became the de facto guidelines.
But the replacement standards, which include requiring second-graders to "add and subtract fluently up to 100," have also drawn criticism from national education experts and the grassroots group Hoosiers Against Common Core, who say they too closely resemble the tossed-aside benchmarks. For more than an hour before the vote Monday, members of the public ripped into the new standards, at times calling them a "rebranded" version of the Common Core.
Pence and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz have defended the newly passed standards.
"I couldn't be more pleased once again that we have strong standards in Indiana," Ritz said Monday.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long also spoke in favor of the standards Monday.
"Unlike Common Core, and unlike our previous standards, these standards were painstakingly vetted by teachers, parents and other public input, school administrators and higher education experts," he said in a news release. "These are truly Hoosier standards that leave Indiana in control of our children's educational future."
Board member Andrea Neal was the only 'no' vote. She called the standards "inferior and less rigorous than the Common Core."
"The standards before us today are not uncommonly high," Neal said. "There's lots of doing, but very little knowing."
Board member Tony Walker voted for the standards, but cautioned that they only meet the "minimal" state requirement of preparing children for college and careers. He said it's now up to local schools and parents to make sure students also are prepared to compete globally.
Cari Whicker, another board member, said that "you can't get millions of Hoosiers to all agree," but that the early approval means teachers have more time to prepare lesson plans for this fall.
"The principals and administrators in the state of Indiana are ready to move forward," said Tim McRoberts, the principal of Speedway High School who spoke for the Indiana Association of School Principals. "In the last few years, there have been a lot of changes in education. Educators have always stepped up."
Ten of the board members are appointed by the governor and the 11th member is the school superintendent.