by Derek Redelman
It’s a bit amazing, but right now – with a Republican supermajority – we are fighting hard to keep in place a major component of the K-12 education reforms that former Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett implemented here and have helped lead around the nation. The state’s new Common Core academic standards are under assault from a contingent of out-of-state interest groups, conservative Republican legislators and tea party activists.
Senate Bill 193, sponsored by Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), would effectively overturn the state’s 2010 approval and subsequent participation in the Common Core academic standards. Forty-six states have adopted the Common Core program, an initiative to set strong standards for what students learn at each grade level in math and English that is also designed to get students ready for college and careers. The program is already being implemented in Indiana and enjoying unusual bipartisan and broad-based support, including among classroom teachers.
Beginning in 2009, governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states committed to developing common K-12 benchmarks in math and English. They sought significantly more rigorous academic standards and testing programs for their states. Common Core opponents charge it is designed to “nationalize” academic standards and testing, citing the Obama administration’s support for this state-led effort as evidence of sinister intent.
This is nonsense. Common Core was and still is a state-led effort. Indiana was one of the early states to approve and implement the program. In fact, Gov. Daniels and Dr. Bennett were key leaders in helping states around the country – now 46 states – to approve the program. Common Core opponents know that if they can tear it down in Indiana first, the foundation will begin to crumble across the country.
Is Common Core perfect? Of course not; no initiative is. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has acknowledged that some of the critics – at least those focused on contents of the standards rather than hysterical exaggerations of federal intrusion – may have some legitimate concerns that should be evaluated. But those concerns, if legitimate, can be offset by the flexibilities contained within the Common Core and through corresponding adoptions of rigorous assessments and accountability measures. There is no need to overreact.
Rather than subjecting our academic standards to the politicized environment of the Legislature, such determinations and oversight need to remain in the hands of our state’s education leaders, including the Department of Education, the Education Roundtable and the State Board of Education. Ironically, while critics of the Common Core have heaped praise on Indiana’s previous state standards, they consistently overlook the fact that those highly-rated standards were adopted through the same process as was conducted when Indiana adopted the Common Core, and that the Legislature played no role in those adoptions.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has urged the Legislature to allow Common Core implementation to continue but has promised to conduct a review of the standards that would be completed by the end of 2013. This is a reasonable, welcome recommendation, as such a review would be helpful for determining how best to use the flexibilities that are allowed in the multi-state agreement.
Senate Bill 193 is scheduled to be considered and possibly voted on by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee on Wednesday, February 6 . With Republican legislators split on the measure, a close vote is expected. Indiana simply cannot afford to start going backwards on education. Let’s hope common sense prevails on the Common Core standards.
For more information about Common Core, contact Derek Redelman, vice president for education and workforce development policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org / (317) 264-6880 or visit http://stand.org/indiana/common-core.