News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 26, 2013

Delay on Common Core academic standards confusing schools

Vigo County — similar to other districts around the state — will continue to teach Common Core

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Clay Community Schools superintendent Kim Tucker said she was “absolutely confounded” by the Legislature’s decision to “pause” further implementation of nationally-crafted Common Core academic standards.

There’s been a significant investment of money and time to prepare for Common Core and related testing. “Suddenly, someone puts the breaks on for reasons I can’t quite comprehend,” Tucker said.

“Administrators in our corporation are pretty frustrated, and there has to be frustration for teachers, who have been putting in countless hours for professional development to review curriculum and make substantial changes to meet the coming expectations,” she said.

Because Common Core involves national standards, other states have developed many resources that Indiana schools can use, she said. That was not the case with Indiana Academic Standards.

“We’re at a loss at this point,” Tucker said.  “We need some consistency.”

The law requires a comprehensive review of the Common Core standards, including two State Board public hearings, three legislative committee hearings, a Department of Education analysis and an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) fiscal analysis. The state Board of Education must make a final decision on Indiana’s academic standards before July 1, 2014.

The Vigo County School Corp., similar to other school districts around the state, will continue to teach Common Core standards along with Indiana Academic Standards, based on guidance from the state Department of Education, said Karen Goeller, VCSC deputy superintendent.

While House Bill 1427 regarding Common Core calls for a “pause” in further implementation, districts are supposed to continue what they’ve already been doing, she said.

And districts already have been teaching Common Core, which raises academic expectations in reading, writing and math, Goeller said.

“Some think a pause means you don’t teach Common Core,” Goeller said. But since Indiana school districts already are teaching Common Core, “The pause is requiring teachers to teach both [academic standards] while this is figured out.”

In grades K and 1, districts currently teach only Common Core for English/language arts and math — and that will continue.

In all other grades, “We’ll teach Common Core but also the Indiana Academic Standards,” Goeller said. “That is where the challenge comes — teachers will be working with two different sets of standards.”

Both Indiana Academic Standards and Common Core standards will be taught for math grades 2-12 and for English/language arts in grades 2-10.

Indiana Academic Standards and/or Common Core standards will be taught for English/language arts in grades 11-12.

Common Core literacy standards will continue to be taught in middle and high schools, where they apply to social studies, science and technical subjects. Those literacy standards focus on argumentative, informative and narrative writing.

The school district has done much professional development to prepare teachers for Common Core, and similar to other districts, it has adopted a new reading series aligned to Common Core, Goeller said.

The new state law indicates that ISTEP-Plus testing will remain in place through 2014-15, a year longer than had been planned. “That means Indiana Academic Standards have to be taught because that’s what is being tested,” Goeller said.  

The state had been assisting with development of new tests based on Common Core standards, called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC.

Now, the big question on educators’ minds — and a source of concern — is what test will be used after 2014-15. “Nobody knows what the assessment is going to be in two years,” Goeller said.

It is important to know ahead of time so teachers can teach the content that will be tested, and students have an opportunity to perform well, she said.

Student and school performance on those tests now have an impact on teacher and administrator evaluations as well as school grades, she said.

The uncertainly “adds confusion and frustration at the building level,” Goeller said. “How can you prepare if you don’t know what the target or outcome will be?”

She noted that Common Core calls for more rigorous reading and writing expectations, something colleges are advocating.

If the state Board of Education decides not to go forward with Common Core, it still must adopt new standards that are considered college and career ready — something required as part of the state’s waiver from the No Child Left Behind Law.

A goal of that federal law was for schools to have 100 percent of students at the proficiency level in English/language arts and math by 2014. Given the challenges faced by many children, “That goal was unattainable for many schools,” Goeller said.

“If we don’t move forward with Common Core, we’re going to have to still meet the waiver requirement of college and career ready standards,” Goeller said. Otherwise, “We don’t have a waiver.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or