Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Core Question: If Indiana Opts Out, Will Schools Still Get Common Core Texts?

    Mizanthrop / Flickr

    What questions do you have about the Common Core, the nationally-crafted academic standards adopted by Indiana and 44 other states?

    StateIm­pact is answering reader-submitted questions about the Common Core, a new set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do in math and English at each grade level. Indiana is one of 45 states that have fully adopted the Common Core.

    Today, we’re answering a question posed from longtime commenter karynb9 on a post about the statehouse Common Core hearings earlier this year:

    If we leave Common Core, are textbook publishers going to be willing to write textbooks and curriculum that align with Indiana’s standards? Or will we get the EXACT same Common Core-based curriculum options that the Common Core states will have, just with a colorful insert in the teacher’s manual that points out how the material kinda/sorta/maybe/if-you-really-stretch aligns with Indiana’s standards?

    A Common Core timeout proposal appeared dead on arrival in the House Education Committee earlier this session. But similar language — this time calling for a halt to the new standards pending legislative review — made its way into a separate education proposal that passed the Senate earlier this month. As state lawmakers ponder a Common Core opt out, we take a look at what would happen with textbooks if Indiana withdraws from the new standards.

    The Short Answer

    Textbook publishers cater to the largest market. In this case, that’s probably the 44 states still committed to the new academic standards, says Kathleen Porter-Magee of the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute.

    “The likeliest scenario is the biggest textbook publishers are going to focus the lion’s share of their time and attention on creating materials that are really very well aligned to the Common Core,” says Porter-Magee.

    So, in a word, yes. If Indiana withdraws now, it’s likely that within the next few years the majority of textbooks will be aligned to the Common Core and it’ll be up to state education officials to create supplemental materials that reflect Indiana standards.

    The Long Answer

    Today a textbook might be stamped “Indiana,” but that doesn’t mean it was written with our standards in mind.

    Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

    Even textbooks stamped 'Indiana' may not be well-aligned to current state standards. That's because for years the biggest states have dictated the content publishers print.

    “In the past, what publishers have done is they’ve sort of tailored it or attempted to tailor it and tweak it to the individual state content,” says Porter-Magee, “but obviously there are limits to the amount of individualization that happens.”

    Historically, two states — Texas and California — have cornered the market on textbooks. Because they have more students than, say, itty-bitty Rhode Island, publishers would consider their standards first and rework the material later for other states.

    It’s led to curricular materials so similar across states and standards that University of California at Berkeley Professor Emeritus Hung-Hsi Wu has a term for it — “Textbook School Mathematics.” He explains:

    Before the CCSMS came along, America long resisted the idea of commonality of standards and curriculum — but it did not resist such commonality in actual classrooms. Despite some politician’s rhetoric extolling the virtues of local control, there has been a de facto national mathematics curriculum for decades: the curriculum defined by the school mathematics textbooks. There are several widely used textbooks, but mathematically they are very much alike. Let’s call this de facto mathematics curriculum Textbook School Mathematics.

    Like Porter-Magee, Wu also advocates for adoption of the Common Core standards. But he is less optimistic that textbooks will be rewritten to align with the new standards.

    “Unfortunately, textbook developers have yet to accept that the CCSMS are radically different from their predecessors,” he writes. “Most (and possibly all) textbook developers are only slightly revising their texts before declaring them aligned with the CCSMS.”

    Thus the long answer to the question includes a caveat: The textbooks used now in Indiana schools might not be perfectly aligned to current state standards. But the forthcoming Common Core textbooks might not be perfectly aligned to the new standards, either.

    So let’s say Indiana does pull out of the Common Core.

    “Does that mean Indiana is going to have no individualization or no possibilities?” says Porter-Magee. “No, of course not. They have some materials now that they can capitalize on. … As long as there’s any state that has not adopted the Common Core, there’s going to be a market for non-Common Core aligned materials.”

    Of course, Texas hasn’t adopted the Common Core. But just because it’s big player in the textbook market now doesn’t mean it will stay that way, says Porter-Magee.

    “Texas’ market share looks big when you’re talking about 50 different sets of individually crafted standards. It looks very small when you’re talking about 46 states that have banded together,” she says. “They’re going to look more like a Rhode Island in the Common Core world.”

    Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

    Publishers are aligning textbooks to the Common Core.

    Porter-Magee says the onus will be on Indiana education officials to make sure teachers still have access to relevant materials if standards change and other states proceed with the Common Core.

    But Nancie Rankie Shelton, an anti-Common Core activist who researches elementary-age literacy development at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says districts that have already started implementing the new standards might be swayed to stay the course if Indiana withdraws now.

    “If individuals, districts or others in decision-making positions can be coaxed into spending funds on CCSS materials, I expect the need for other materials will dwindle,” Shelton writes in an email. “But I do not believe that educational decisions should be made based on corporate support.”

    If Indiana weren’t the only state to pull out of the Common Core, however, all of the above could be a different story. It would probably take one of the larger markets like California dropping the standards, or some combination of other states doing the same, to make an impact.

    Got a question about the Common Core? Ask the education reporters! If you have a question about the new academic standards Indiana is on track to adopt, reach out to us on TwitterFacebook or email and submit your question.


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