Indiana is one of 45 states that has adopted a set of nationally-crafted academic standards known as the Common Core.
State-level education officials have been setting academic standards for students since the late 1980s. As a result, education policy observers say, wide disparities between different state standards developed, making it difficult to compare students across the country.
In part to address this issue, and in part “to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce,” the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers led an effort to draw up a new set of academic standards that could be implemented on a national scale.
Indiana signed on in August 2010 after the State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the Common Core under the leadership of former Republican schools chief Tony Bennett, making the state one of the first to join the initiative.
States didn’t have to sign on to the Common Core — in fact, four did not — but some education policy observers regard the new standards as de facto national standards. The U.S. Department of Education has skirted formal endorsement of the initiative, though the Obama administration has made adoption of college- and career-ready standards a prerequisite for states seeking waivers from some No Child Left Behind accountability requirements.
In Indiana, backlash against the new standards gained traction during the 2013 legislative session. At the urging of two Indianapolis parents who formed the group Hoosiers Against the Common Core, Republican Senator Scott Schneider filed a bill to withdraw Indiana from the new standards. Though that proposal was ultimately scaled back, Common Core opponents scored a victory when state lawmakers agreed to pause implementation of the new standards pending a legislative review.
Kindergarten and first grade teachers are already using the new standards in their classrooms, and second grade teachers were supposed to join them in 2013-14. But because the legislation also delays the rollout of new assessments and leaves the ISTEP in place for another year, the Department of Education has asked second grade teachers to teach the old Indiana standards in tandem with the Common Core so students will be prepared to take state tests as third graders.
The State Board of Education has until July 1, 2014, to make a final decision on standards.
This much is clear: Even if Indiana withdraws from the Common Core, the state is likely to end up with very similar standards. That’s because Indiana must maintain college- and career-ready standards or run afoul of its NCLB waiver. Lawmakers who wrote the Common Core pause proposal were careful to stipulate whatever standards Indiana adopts next must comply with the state’s waiver.
Common Core Timeline
Special thanks to Molly Bloom of StateImpact Ohio.
1983 — A commission established by President Reagan publishes A Nation at Risk. The report calls for setting standards for what students should know and be able to do and marks the starting point of “standards-based” education reform. The movement also calls for monitoring whether students are learning through standardized tests. In the following years, states move to adopt standards, pushed along by federal legislation. Teachers groups also publish model standards of their own.
1994 — A series of Clinton administration-backed laws (Goals 2000: Educate America Act and the Improving America’s Schools Act) require states to set standards and corresponding tests.
1996 — At the 1996 National Education Summit, governors and business leaders pledge to work together to raise standards and achievement in public schools. Achieve, a non-profit, non-partisan group which will become instrumental in the creation of the Common Core, is founded.
2001 — President Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act, which strengthens requirements for the kinds of standards states must set and requires states to test students in specific grades and subjects. However, states are still free to set their own standards and create their own tests.
2008 — The National Governors Association, state education commissioners and other groups begin organizing development of common standards in math and English language arts for grades K-12.
2009 — Governors and state education commissioners from 48 states plus the District of Columbia commit to developing the Common Core standards. Only Alaska and Texas do not join the effort.
February 2010 — Kentucky becomes the first state to adopt the Common Core, before they’ve been publicly released.
March 10, 2010 — The first draft of the Common Core standards is released to the public for comment.
June 2, 2010 — Final Common Core standards released for states to adopt or reject.
August 2, 2010 — California adopts Common Core standards on the day federal officials set as the deadline for states to apply for federal funds through the Race to the Top program. In the competition, states get extra points for having adopted the common core standards.
November 4, 2011 — Montana becomes the 46th (and final) state to adopt the Common Core standards. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia are the four that did not; Minnesota did not adopt the math standards but did adopt the English language arts standards.
2011-12 school year — Development of new standardized tests tied to the Common Core standards begins. The effort is led by two consortia of states, PARCC and Smarter Balanced. The groups will share $360 million in federal grants to develop the new tests. Ohio is a member of PARCC.
2012-13 school year — PARCC and Smarter Balanced begin pilot testing of new standardized tests.
2013-14 school year — Field testing to continue for new standardized tests.
2014-15 school year — All participating states to begin using new standardized tests for math and English language arts. The new tests replace tests that had previously been used in each state.