Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Core Question: Will 'Pausing' Common Core Cost Indiana Its NCLB Waiver?

    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 that came from one of our readers about the Common Core “pause” that became law earlier this month:

    Will Indiana lose the No Child Left Behind waiver if implementation and testing of the Common Core is not done until the 2015-16 school year? Is the United States Department of Education going to let Indiana pause? No other state has asked or been given permission to push the assessment off a year.

    It’s important to note Indiana hasn’t withdrawn from the Common Core (at least not yet). The legislation state lawmakers passed barring further implementation of the new academic standards stops short of pulling Indiana out of the consortium developing new assessments. But there’s concern that just pausing implementation could put Indiana’s No Child Left Behind waiver in jeopardy, as states had to adopt of college- and career-ready standards to win approval.

    The Short Answer

    Indiana’s NCLB waiver isn’t in jeopardy so long as the State Board of Education follows language in the pause proposal to the letter. (If you need a refresher on what that waiver is and what it means, check out our NCLB topic page or the “Long Answer” below.)

    Though PL 286 halts implementation “until the state board conducts a comprehensive evaluation … Any common core standards adopted by the state board before May 15, 2013, remain in effect.”

    In other words, the Common Core State Standards — even if they aren’t being actively implemented — are still the official academic standards of Indiana. The state board has until July 1, 2014, to re-adopt the Common Core or other college- and career-ready standards.

    The U.S. Department of Education didn’t require states applying for an NCLB waiver to adopt the Common Core, just to certify that the standards they had in place were college- and career-ready. So long as Indiana doesn’t revert to its old standards, it’s unlikely the state would lose its waiver.

    The Long Answer

    Lawmakers had Indiana’s NCLB waiver in mind when they drafted the Common Core pause proposal. Not wanting to run afoul of federal guidelines, PL 268 requires that whatever standards the state board adopts, they must “meet United States Department of Education flexibility waiver requirements that ensure college and career readiness of students.”

    No one wants to see Indiana lose the waiver because it would mean going back to the rigid accountability system that was in place under No Child Left Behind. Schools couldn’t score higher than a C if any one subgroup of students failed to make adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

    In an email to StateImpact, DOE Press Secretary Daren Briscoe wrote that if a state wanted to pull out of the Common Core without risking their waiver, they would first need to adopt other college- and career-ready standards:

    For a state that used adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to fulfill the college-and-career-ready (CCR) standards requirement under ESEA flexibility, dropping out of CCSS without having CCR standards certified by that state’s higher ed institutions would take them out of compliance, and we would take appropriate enforcement action.

    We require that states have CCR standards, not that they adopt the Common Core, and states always have the ability to change standards, but we need states to comply with flex requirements.

    Other states have received waivers without adopting the Common Core State Standards.

    Minnesota has adopted the Common Core in English language arts but is using its own math standards.

    “The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System have certified the mathematics academic standards declaring that students who meet these standards will not need remedial coursework at the post-secondary level,” according to the application.

    The Virginia Board of Education, having just adopted new standards in 2011, included with its application a list of legislative priorities aimed at preparing more students for college and career.

    “United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has acknowledged in conversations with Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright as well as in public meetings that a strong case has been made that Virginia’s Standards of Learning represent content and skills required of students to be prepared for college-level courses,” the application notes.

    So if Indiana does decide to go a different direction and write new academic standards, the DOE would consider them an appropriate substitute for the Common Core if the state’s higher education institutes signed off on them as college- and career-ready.

    But What About Assessment?

    The new law states the Indiana Department of Education will continue to administer its current assessment, the ISTEP+, through the 2013-15 biennium — a year longer than the IDOE had planned.

    Indiana is part of a consortium designing Common Core-aligned tests called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The pause says the state board can’t require schools to use PARCC assessments until it has reviewed the Common Core standards, but it doesn’t withdraw Indiana from the consortium, either.

    The legislature doesn’t have that authority, says Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

    “It takes my signature and the governor’s signature to remove ourselves from PARCC,” she said during the May board meeting.

    (We think it’s worth noting some states are already formulating a “Plan B” in case the assessments developed by PARCC and the other Common Core consortium, Smarter Balanced, aren’t ready for the 2014-15 school year.)

    The State Board of Education will need to make a decision soon, though, as the state’s contract with CTB/McGraw Hill to administer the ISTEP only goes through the 2013-14 school year. The Common Core pause bars the state board from making an agreement with an outside vendor after July 1, 2013, if it would require Indiana to cede control over standards or cut scores.


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