TERRE HAUTE —
Voices of informed reason should prevail when the General Assembly considers ending Indiana’s participation in the adoption of Common Core Standards in Hoosier schools.
Political ideology sounds like the bottom-line motivation by conservative legislators to scrap Common Core — a universal system of nationally recognized classroom standards for college and career readiness adopted in 46 states, and already being implemented in Indiana. The standards’ educational value to kids in grades kindergarten through high school is all that matters.
The Legislature will conduct a committee hearing this week on a bill filed by state Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, to withdraw Indiana from the Common Core implementation. The gesture seems ironic. The state Board of Education — appointed by the Republican governor, Mitch Daniels — adopted the Common Core standards unanimously in 2010. In that same time period, the Republican-dominated Legislature enacted sweeping school reforms, supported by the governor and his superintendent of public instruction, Tony Bennett, who pushed for Common Core.
Now, with implementation of those standards under way and expected to be complete by 2014-15, conservatives want Common Core stopped. They cite somewhat vague objections to the educational content of the standards. And, to be sure, newly elected superintendent of public instruction Glenda Ritz, who unseated Bennett in November, raised valid questions about Common Core during her campaign. But the impetus behind this backlash is the involvement of the federal government in Common Core’s spread and, more directly, President Obama’s support of the standards. Tea partiers and national special-interest groups, such as the Americans for Prosperity super PAC, see Common Core as another example of federal encroachment onto state and local government turf.
They contend Common Core was pushed on Indiana, and that our previous state standards for achievement are better. They also claim that Ritz won last fall because of conservative anger at Bennett for pushing Indiana to join other states in adopting Common Core.
The reality is, though, that Bennett lost for a variety of reasons. Topping that list was the fact that Hoosiers grew concerned from firsthand reports from their own kids, grandchildren, and neighbors or relatives who are teachers, about uncertainty in the schools from the waves of untested reforms. It was too much too fast, with little breathing room to assess the pros and cons.
Also, the Common Core Standards were the brainchild of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, not the federal government. The U.S. government has spent $360 million to support the movement toward development of testing through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (which will take the place of ISTEP in Indiana), said Terry Spradlin, director for education policy at the Indiana University Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. That progression does not deserve disruption simply because of the Washington involvement.
As for the old standards’ superiority, the state Department of Education says the Indiana Common Core Standards were shaped to improve on the previous guidelines. They are, according to the DOE, more rigorous and targeted at in-depth mastery of a topic, rather than standards “a mile wide but only an inch deep.”
Common Core addresses some of the very complaints conservatives raised in validating the push for reforms, including statistics claiming Hoosier students were achieving below those in other countries. “The experts who have developed the standards assure us that they have been internationally benchmarked with the K-12 standards of other nations,” Spradlin said. “So, if a student is proficient in each subject here in the U.S., then they will be ready to compete and succeed internationally.”
Kids in Indiana share the same learning needs as those in Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan — all Common Core states. The uniformity can save taxpayers from state to state money by not reinventing their own educational wheels. If the standards need tweaked or updated, then legislators should push for those changes. Common Core should not be rejected for ideological reasons.