Draft standards designed to replace the Common Core State Standards in Indiana drew a barrage of skeptical and disappointed reactions from a majority of those who turned out for a hearing in the state capital on the topic last week.
The session here was one of three around the state intended to provide public input as state policymakers head toward an April decision date.
Some of those testifying Feb. 25 were dismayed that the draft Indiana academic standards seemed very similar to, or no different from, the common core. Roughly 30 to 40 people testified over the course of the hearing held by the state board of education.
Others said the new standards, which were created by a state panel of educators by merging the common core with portions of prior Indiana standards, would only confuse students and teachers and create more instability in classrooms.
And some took the opportunity to reiterate their opposition to the common core itself—standards in English/language arts and mathematics that resulted from an initiative led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. All but a handful of states have adopted the common-core standards, though the project has continued to spark debate around the country. (Indiana last adopted its own English/language arts standards in 2006 and math standards in 2009, according to the Indiana Department of Education.)
Over the past several months, Indiana has been reconsidering its involvement in the common core and has developed new standards in English/language arts and math with the help of state education professors and K-12 teachers. The resulting draft Indiana standards were released last month.
Diane Scott, the curriculum director of the Lebanon Community School Corp., said that despite being the “cheerleader” for teachers in her 3,400-student district, she was worried that yet another change in standards would make them lose heart.
“These shifts are very difficult for the people in the field trying to do the work,” Ms. Scott told members of the state board of education and other education officials at the hearing.
Some people who testified also expressed concern that the draft state standards were not clear.
Amy Nichols, who said she was a math specialist, argued that the approach of merging standards has produced a “confusing mess” for teachers. She criticized the draft standards for not separating certain mathematical topics and for simply replicating the common core.
“Why are we so rushed, especially when we already drafted standards in 2009 that were thoroughly vetted?” she said.
But Kate Johnson of the advocacy group Stand for Children said that although the draft standards should be better organized for teachers, “the process definitely included input from educators.”
Federal Influence Feared
Critics of the common core in Indiana showed that they were largely unsatisfied by the new standards.
Heather Crossin, a leader of the Hoosiers Against Common Core group, said that they were simply a dressed-up and “bloated” version of the common core and even more unclear.
“It is clear that they represent the return to a mile-wide, inch-deep” method of learning, Ms. Crossin said at the hearing.
A few of those testifying urged the state board not to knuckle under to what they see as the federal government’s influence and money.
Randy Brown, who identified himself as a common-core opponent, said he resented the loss of the 2009 Indiana standards, which he argued had been the right direction for the state all along.
“Common core came along from the federal government and kind of knocked that out of the water,” he said.
(The U.S. Department of Education gave incentives for states through Race to the Top grants to adopt “college- and career-ready” standards like the common core, and it’s paying for common-core-aligned assessments, but it did not pay for the common core’s development.)
Another political critique, from a different angle, came from Bonnie Fisher, who said she represented a group critical of the corporate influence in education. She said that the draft standards were really no different from the common core, and that both sets of standards simply prepared students to be drones in a workforce.
If the state school board adopts the draft Indiana standards, Ms. Fisher said, “you should rename yourselves ‘lords of basic worker training.’ For this is not education.”
The draft content standards under discussion have not stopped Indiana lawmakers from taking further action to distance the state from the common core.
After passing the state Senate, legislation that would void the state’s 2010 adoption of the common core was approved by the House education committee in February.
The measure would not explicitly prohibit the state school board, which has final say over content standards, from readopting the common core, or from adopting standards that incorporate portions of the common standards.
The author of the measure, Sen. Scott Schneider, a Republican, first introduced anti-common-core legislation last year. The push eventually led to a state law mandating a review of the common core and the official consideration of new standards.
That review and evaluation of standards, in turn, led to the state’s consideration of the new Indiana standards. Hearings also were held last week in the communities of Sellersburg and Plymouth.
The Indiana Education Roundtable—led by Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat—is to vote on the draft standards this month. Finally, the state board of education is to take a vote on the draft standards April 9.
A version of this article appeared in the March 05, 2014 edition of Education Week as Indiana’s Draft of Home-Grown Standards Draws Skepticism