Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why State Education Officials Aren’t Likely To Go Back To Indiana’s Previous Standards

    Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, speaks at a rally at the statehouse in January. After his initial proposal to stop Common Core implementation stalled, Schneider attached 'pause' language to another education bill.

    Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

    Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, speaks at a rally at the statehouse in January. After his initial proposal to stop Common Core implementation stalled, Schneider attached 'pause' language to another education bill. State lawmakers are reviewing the new, nationally-crafted academic standards now.

    Opponents of a set of nationally-crafted academic standards known as the Common Core want Indiana to go back to the standards the state used before.

    The state is in the middle of a one-year review of the state’s education standards. Not everyone in Indiana likes the Common Core, including Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who authored the legislation that triggered the formal review.

    Schneider and others argue the state’s previous academic standards were well-regarded — in fact, a pro-Common Core advocacy group rated the previous Indiana Academic Standards as well-written and easy to understand.

    But going back to those standards may not be as easy as Schneider and others might hope because of a federal accountability waiver. Indiana must maintain standards that meet the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of “college- and career-ready.”

    There are two ways to have college- or career-ready standards: Adopt the Common Core, or have Indiana’s institutes of higher education certify the state’s K-12 standards will prepare students for college.

    But Schneider says no one asked Indiana’s colleges and universities to do that back when the Common Core was adopted in 2010.

    “So the fact is, we don’t know whether our prior standards were considered college- and career-ready to comply with the federal waiver,” Schneider says.

    If the State Board of Education decides not to adopt the Common Core, they could ask Indiana’s colleges and universities to review the old academic standards. But they probably wouldn’t, says Indiana Department of Education Director of Student Assessment Michele Walker, who testified at Tuesday’s statehouse hearing with State Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

    Walker says when state education officials adopted the nationally-crafted Common Core State Standards back in 2010, the department did a side-by-side comparison of the standards.

    “The number of topics, for example, with the Indiana Academic Standards is very broad at each grade level, while Common Core is very narrow but very deep for conceptual understand,” Walker told the panel of state lawmakers. “So it was almost like apples and oranges in trying to do a comparison.”

    More importantly, says Walker, the Common Core was reverse-engineered with a goal in mind — in this case, college- and career-readiness.

    “With those college standards that were developed first, and then looking at K-12, our previous Indiana standards really didn’t fit that model,” Walker told Schneider and other state lawmakers Tuesday.

    Representatives from Indiana University’s and Purdue University’s administrations testified last month in favor of keeping the Common Core, though some individual faculty members remain skeptical the new standards will improve instruction in the state’s K-12 schools.

    For her part, State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says whatever standards the state adopts next need to cut the number of students needing remediation when they get to the state’s institutes of higher education.

    But she says the state must settle the question of standards before they pick what test Indiana students will take next. Indiana’s current test, the ISTEP+, is based on the state’s old standards. So even if Indiana reverses course on Common Core, the state’s assessment will likely need to be retooled.

    The same legislation that requires state lawmakers review the Common Core requires the nationally-crafted standards be the basis for whatever expectations for students Indiana uses next.

    Read more about the state’s testing options moving forward here.


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