House Bill 1427 — the omnibus education bill that Indiana lawmakers passed in the eleventh hour of the 2013 session — calls for a thorough review of nationally-crafted academic standards known as the Common Core.
The State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 under the guidance of former state superintendent Tony Bennett. Teachers in kindergarten and first grade are already teaching the new standards. Second grade teachers were supposed to make the switch to Common Core in 2013-14 school year. But the Indiana Department of Education has asked them to continue teaching the old academic standards, known as the Indiana Academic Standards, in the wake of the legislative pause.
HB 1427 also makes changes to Indiana’s A-F rating system for schools. But in terms of the Common Core, here’s what the law does:
- Forms a legislative study committee to review the Common Core State Standards
- Requires the Office of Management and Budget to prepare a cost estimate of implementing the standards
- Requires the State Board of Education to hold a minimum of three public meetings after receiving the legislative study committee’s report
- Delays the adoption of Common Core-aligned tests being designed by either of the two national assessment consortia of states that are currently working on new tests
- Bars the State Board of Education from joining any assessment consortium that would require Indiana cede control of “cut scores” — the scores that mark the line between who is considered proficient in a subject and who is not.
- Keeps Indiana’s current standardized test, the ISTEP, in place through the 2015 biennium
The last two points are key — under Bennett, Indiana participated in one of the two consortia, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. The plan was to take all-new standardized tests in 2014-15. But in the wake of HB 1427′s passage, state superintendent Glenda Ritz asked schools to delay second grade rollout of the new standards until it’s clear what test Indiana students will take next year. Then, in July, Governor Mike Pence signaled his intent to withdraw from PARCC entirely.
The State Board of Education has until July 1, 2014, to reaffirm its support for the Common Core or adopt other, similar standards. That last point is important. States had to adopt college- and career-ready standards to receive a waiver from the federal government releasing schools from strict No Child Left Behind accountability measures. A spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Education told StateImpact the Common Core pause shouldn’t affect Indiana’s waiver so long as the state maintains college- and career-ready standards.
How the Common Core pause might impact Indiana schools isn’t clear yet. Many districts have spent significant time and money aligning textbooks and curriculum to the new standards. Since the IDOE has asked schools to continue teaching Indiana Academic Standards in second grade, teachers who would have received Common Core-aligned professional development will have to wait at least one more year.
The biggest question is what standardized test Indiana will use next. If the state sticks with the ISTEP, it will need to be revised to align with the Common Core or whatever college- and career-ready standards replace it. Both the statewide accountability system and Indiana’s teacher evaluation law draw on data collected from standardized tests.
Opponents of the Common Core say the pending review will give Hoosiers a chance to comment on the new standards they didn’t get back in 2010. But proponents point out that the setting of standards has always been the territory of the State Board of Education, which had the support of the Indiana Education Roundtable when it adopted the Common Core.