Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why Having More Academic Standards Is Not Always Better

K-12 educators and subject matter experts review the state's academic standards.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

K-12 educators and subject matter experts review the state's academic standards during a two-day workshop in Indianapolis last week.

As state education officials consider new academic expectations for Indiana schools, a word of caution: It’s possible to have too many standards. From NPR’s Alan Greenblatt:

Education standards are endlessly debated by lots of different people, including teachers, school districts, parents and politicians. States consult with experts, but specific expectations are often set by the legislature.

The end result can be textbooks larded with more material than teachers can hope to get to in the course of a year.

“It’s impossible to cover all that content with any depth and rigor,” says Kathleen Porter-Magee, a policy fellow at the Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. “Teachers have to decide what they’re going to teach, but if that’s the case, what is the point of the standards?”

Teachers may confront competing mandates from the state, their district and even their own school. This can lead to situations where kids in one fourth grade class are learning fractions, while their peers in the room next door aren’t.

Before the State Board adopted the nationally-crafted Common Core State Standards in 2010, some educators said Indiana had too many standards to teach in a year. But the new expectations have come with their own set of problems: Pushback during the most recent legislative session halted Common Core rollout at the end of last school year.

Porter-Magee, who has advocated for Common Core adoption in Indiana and elsewhere, tells Greenblatt part of the problem is states haven’t tailored the standards to meet their needs. As we’ve written before, it’s possible to add additional, state-specific standards on top of the common expectations — an approach many thought Indiana would take after the year-long review.

But with Indiana lawmakers poised to void adoption of the nationally-crafted standards, state education officials are taking a different approach: They’re completely re-writing expectations for schools. Indiana’s next academic standards will draw inspiration from the Common Core, the state’s previous student expectations and best practices from teachers.

Drafts of the new standards will be released Wednesday. Parents and educators will have an opportunity to offer feedback on the standards at a series of public meetings next week.


  • Terry D

    I don’t feel you ever talk about the down side of common core. Is that because State impact is sponsored by Gates Foundation who also sponsors the common core?

    • Elle Moxley

      Hi Terry,

      StateImpact has been covering the Common Core and related issues in Indiana for more than a year now. As we’ve reported recently, Indiana is moving away from nationally-crafted standards and writing state-specific expectations. We’re trying to paint the most comprehensive picture as to what that might mean.

      Though the StateImpact project started under an NPR grant, we have always been editorially independent, something NPR makes clear to all foundations who donate to public radio. We don’t receive funding from the Gates Foundation. Indiana University pays our salaries. More on StateImpact funding here:


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