Nearly all of the states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math and are in the process of getting ready to implement them by 2014. In a number of states, however, the standards are meeting with growing resistance for reasons including questions about who was behind the initiative and whether they are better than previous standards. Alabama, for example recently said it was pulling out of the two consortia that are working on creating standardized tests aligned with the standards. In this and the next two blog posts, we explore some of the issues surrounding the standards. (And you can see more here and here and here and here.)
This first post is about Indiana, which adopted the Common Core in 2010 under then state education superintendent Tony Bennett and where some teachers are already implementing them. Bennett was ousted in last November’s elections by veteran educator Glenda Ritz who opposed his support for corporate-based school reforms. Ritz does not want to get rid of the Common Core but wants to pause implementation and review the standards. She opposes a bill in the legislature that would pull the state out of the Common Core initiative. The Indiana Senate recently voted to halt the implementation — though not pull out of the initiative, though the state Board of Education is firmly behind the standards. If it is sounds messy, that is because it is.
Here is an editorial written by Russ Pulliam, associate editor of The Indianapolis Star and published in the newspaper, that urges the state to pause on implementation.
By Russ Pulliam
The question before the Indiana House and Senate is whether to hit the pause button on controversial Common Core educational standards.
The new superintendent of public instruction, Democrat Glenda Ritz, wants to pause. She has been joined by a few conservative Republicans who see Common Core as a nationalization of education standards.
The state Senate is pondering legislation to require hearings in each congressional district to review the standards. Defenders of Common Core think the legislation threatens to interfere with progress in improving student achievement.
Yet if Common Core is all that it’s defenders have claimed it to be, public hearings should only help.
The pause button works for several reasons.
What will the standards cost the state over 10 years? Almost nothing, just to give assent to Common Core. But new tests and instructional materials could cost as much as $500 million over a number of years.
Could the money be better spent on reading in elementary schools? Is Ritz correct that education reform has placed too much emphasis on testing?
Ritz soundly defeated the state’s biggest advocate of Common Core, Tony Bennett. Republican leaders in the General Assembly will ignore that election result at their future political peril.
Another reason to pause: To what extent should reform be left in the hands of education professionals? The standards were approved by the state Board of Education in 2010. Yet the professionals disagree among themselves about everything from Common Core to vouchers.
As a nationalization of educational curriculum, K-12, Common Core is too important to let the experts decide by themselves. Republican state Sens. Scott Schneider and Dennis Kruse have raised important objections. Democratic Sen. Tim Skinner, a retired teacher, has joined them on this legislation.
Another question: Will the standards engage parents in early childhood education? Are they clear and understandable? Or will parents be confused by unfamiliar jargon? That has happened with other educational innovations.
Hit the pause button. Rewrite the standards. See what parents think of this alleged education reform.