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Editorial

Common Core flip-flop shortchanges students

Regardless of your position on the proposed Common Core State Standards, Indiana’s decision to become the first state to withdraw from the nationwide initiative should make you angry. It’s yet another costly, time-wasting turn in the state’s so-called education reform movement. More important, it’s a frustration Indiana students and educators don’t deserve.

In spite of claims they are working to improve schools, the state legislators meddling in education details do a disservice to students, schools and taxpayers in their continual effort to please business interests and social conservatives. Until they stop, the state will be caught in an endless battle that pleases no one and harms students.

Gov. Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 91 on Monday, making Indiana the first state to withdraw from the embattled curriculum guidelines. It was among the first to join in 2010.

“I believe when we reach the end of this process,” the governor said, “there are going to be many other states around the country that will take a hard look at the way Indiana has taken a step back, designed our own standards and done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens and parents, and developed standards that meet the needs of our people.”

A set of new proposed K-12 standards is likely to be approved next month. The Indiana Department of Education and the governor’s duplicative agency, the Center for Education & Career Innovation, are working on a final version that will first be reviewed by the Indiana Education Roundtable, for a recommendation to the State Board of Education on April 28.

Even if the new standards are Common Core in disguise, they still are not the standards Indiana school districts and educators tirelessly prepared to implement, at the direction of the previous administration. At Fort Wayne Community Schools, for example, the work began nearly three years ago, when the district trained teachers – in sessions for which they were not paid – on the use of new math textbooks aligned to the Common Core.

Krista Stockman, FWCS spokeswoman, said the work continued with multiple training sessions for teachers, top administrators and school principals in the summer of 2012. More curriculum training was conducted when Common Core-aligned textbooks for language arts were adopted last year. The district’s instructional coaches also received ongoing training in the new standards.

The indecision created by the state’s position is the biggest problem, according to Stockman.

“We’ve been in limbo for the last year and we continue to be in limbo,” she said, “We never fully implemented it, but our English and math textbooks are aligned to Common Core. What we’ve had to do this year is to tell teachers to make sure you are meeting these standards and the Common Core standards.”

The Common Core detour also added to the standardized testing load – requirements that already steal unreasonable amounts of time from learning. After completing the second portion of ISTEP+ in late April, Indiana students in grades 3 through 8 will take the online CoreLink test, another CTB/McGraw-Hill product.

Another new test will be administered in the spring of 2015, the College- and Career-Readiness Transition Assessment, to satisfy federal requirements that would have been met with Common Core.

“It is two tests,” Department of Education Director of Assessment Michele Walker told StateImpact Indiana. “It’s two separate sets of standards that are being assessed there.”

It’s tough to see how anyone but the textbook-and-testing industry is benefiting from the stand-off. In handing curriculum guidelines from educators informed by research and classroom experience to interests consumed by profit or ideological zeal, the General Assembly and State Board of Education have condemned Indiana schools to an endless tug-of-war. Common Core opponents might have won this round, but students are clearly the losers.

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