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Flashpoint

July 5, 2012

FLASHPOINT: July 5, 2012: Common Core standards good for Indiana students

INDIANAPOLIS —

Critics have waged a number of false claims regarding Indiana’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). As director of College and Career Readiness for Indiana’s Department of Education (IDOE) and a former teacher, I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on these new math and English/Language Arts (E/LA) standards for Hoosier students.

Indiana law requires the State Board of Education (SBOE), and not the Indiana General Assembly or the federal government, to adopt K-12 academic standards. And the state followed the same process to adopt the CCSS as it has followed to adopt all previous Indiana academic standards. Discussions about the need for and development of challenging, focused, college- and career\-ready standards began in 2007.

In 2009, Indiana voluntarily joined the state-led initiative to create this common, rigorous set of standards. Based on our history of writing and implementing some of the best standards in the nation, IDOE was continuously consulted throughout the drafting process. In 2010, IDOE convened a group of educators to offer feedback on the proposed CCSS. In August 2010, after the CCSS underwent a series of improvements based on feedback from participating states and stakeholders, the SBOE voted unanimously in favor of adopting the CCSS.

As with all previous standards, the state can and will review and supplement the CCSS, which are now Indiana’s standards, as needed.  

Indiana’s previously adopted standards were quality, but they were also a mile wide and an inch deep. They set expectations for students to learn a wide range of topics at a very superficial level. The CCSS set expectations for students to learn a very focused set of topics at a very deep level. In mathematics, there is a greater focus on conceptual understanding and real-life application rather than on just getting the right answer.

In E/LA, the CCSS require students to navigate both literary and informational text and to use this information in argumentative writing. This goes beyond the descriptive writing that dominates our current classrooms but has little value in college or the workforce.  

Furthermore, despite the rigor of Indiana’s previous standards, too many students were graduating high school unprepared for college and the workforce. In fact, many required costly remedial courses before they could truly begin postsecondary work. The CCSS focus on the most important concepts for success in the 21st century workforce.    

The benefit of the CCSS is perhaps most obvious for our military families, whose children can expect a consistently high quality education as they move from state to state. Recently, the Department of Defense Education Activity endorsed the CCSS for this reason.

Finally, it’s important to note that academic standards (including the CCSS and Indiana’s previous standards) only outline for teachers the skills students need — not how to teach those skills. The “how” is still up to the individual teachers and should be based on their students’ knowledge, skills, needs  and abilities.

The CCSS are the best standards for Indiana’s students, and IDOE is excited to be a part of this initiative that puts students’ needs above all else.

We will continue to make sure Indiana’s educators have the support they will need throughout the transition to the CCSS. Once the standards are fully in place in 2014-2015, we are confident Indiana’s students will be on a more secure path to achieving success beyond high school. To learn more about Indiana’s CCSS implementation, please visit www.doe.in.gov/commoncore.

— Zach Foughty

Director of College

and Career Readiness

Indiana Department

of Education

Indianapolis

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