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General Assembly

School standards divide Hoosiers

Testimony split on state’s part in Common Core

– A divide over new national education standards hit the Indiana Senate on Wednesday, with the education panel hearing four hours of testimony criticizing and supporting the measure.

Senate Bill 193 calls for Indiana to withdraw from the Common Core standards, which were backed by former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. Indiana’s State Board of Education voted unanimously in 2010 to adopt them.

So far, only Indiana’s kindergarten and first grades are using the math and language arts standards under a long-term phase-in plan.

Common Core was created by the nation’s governors as a way to accurately gauge national education progress.

But some Hoosiers fear the new standards are weaker than those Indiana had in place previously. Others who testified also expressed concern that the standards will be used to federalize education. That’s because President Obama has used Common Core as part of a major financial rewards program called Race to the Top.

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, authored the bill for the second straight year. It died in committee last year.

He said parents and teachers no longer have any control as educators in both public and private schools adjust to the standards and the new testing being developed.

“When we cede that control to someone else, that voice is lost,” he said.

Glenna Jehl, a new member of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board, spoke as a concerned citizen in support of ending Common Core.

“Do not be fooled by experts telling you this is the way to the future,” she said, adding that earlier promises of improvement from state testing haven’t materialized. “That’s a joke.”

New Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz asked legislators to put the matter through a state review process within the Indiana Department of Education that would also include public participation.

She then would make a recommendation to the State Board of Education later this year.

Supporters said the standards are important to improving student performance and said Indiana has already invested in the program and started the transition.

“Don’t let your frustration with President Obama lead you to lash out at the kids of Indiana. All things considered, the Common Core is the smartest path forward. That should be the only consideration,” said Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Derek Redelman, Indiana Chamber vice president of education and workforce development, said the standards are necessary to ensure education is comparable across states and competitive internationally.

“We do not believe that the Indiana General Assembly is the proper setting to be adopting standards or overriding previous adoptions like Common Core,” he said.

“That certainly is not how we got the highly rated academic standards that we have today. Not one of those standards, not a single one, was adopted through the state legislature.

“If legislators pass this bill, they are not just throwing out a set of standards but also rejecting a process that has worked and served our state so well.”

nkelly@jg.net

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