INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
The national math and education standards outlined in the Common Core are
everywhere at Indianapolis’ George S. Buck Elementary School.
Stapled packets of
the standards meant to guide what students learn in each grade hang outside
classroom doors, and individual guidelines are cut out and displayed in the
hallways next to hand-drawn graphs colored in crayon.
A bill signed
Monday by Gov. Mike Pence made Indiana the first state to revoke those
standards, leaving what will replace them when the State Board of Education
approves new standards before its July 1 deadline unclear.
“Everybody’s at a
standstill,” George S. Buck Elementary School Principal Valerie Allen said.
How Indiana handles
creating and implementing the new standards could provide a glimpse into the
future of schools across the country. Lawmakers nationwide filed more than
200 bills on the standards this year alone, according to the National
Conference of State Legislatures.
Opponents say the
guidelines, meant to put consistent and rigorous benchmarks in place across
the country, were adopted without enough local input.
But making Pence’s
call for “standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are
uncommonly high” a reality will take more than his signature.
Proposals for new
standards still face criticism for being too similar to the Common Core,
even after months of work by a panel of education officials and a series of
public hearings. Only weeks remain before the State Board of Education is
scheduled to vote on the proposal April 28.
Department of Education analysis of the current draft English standards for
grades six through 12 shows that more than 90 percent contain at least
edited parts from the Common Core, and that about 34 percent of standards
for the younger grades are directly pulled from the national standards.
education expert called on by Pence to review the standards said the current
version makes a “fool” out of the governor. Sandra Stotsky, a retired
University of Arkansas professor, said she refuses to review any additional
drafts too similar to the national standards.
“If you’re asked to
develop a new set of standards for English language arts because people
don’t want Common Core,” Stotsky said, “you don’t start with Common Core.”
Part of the
problem, says Department of Education spokesman David Galvin, is in the law
that first directed the board to create new standards.
by Pence last year directs the Board of Education to “use the Common Core
standards as the base model for academic standards” in order to maintain a
waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, a set of stringent guidelines put
in place under former President George W. Bush.
The board has the
flexibility to deviate from the Common Core if doing so doesn’t put the
waiver at risk.
“Folks keep talking
about how (the draft) seems like Common Core or a watered-down version,”
Galvin said. “But when the legislation was established ... it dictated, if
you will, where the standards would go.”
another unique challenge: The former state standards are similar to the
Common Core, and those standards are being blended with the national
standards in the new proposals.
were to a degree somewhat embedded in Common Core, so it’s hard to segregate
out Common Core standards,” said Rep. Bob Behning, chairman of the House
Education Committee. “They all kind of work together.”
On top of that,
Behning said standards that are too different could put students at risk of
doing poorly on the ACT and SAT, which are both based on Common Core.
“We wanted to make
sure Hoosier students are able to attend college outside Indiana,” Behning
said. The state can’t move “so far from what everybody else is using that
they would not be able to be successful on the ACT and SAT.”
Teachers at George
S. Buck anticipate some overlap with the old standards, and Allen said the
school likely will use some Common Core books for elementary students in the
But until the state
board officially approves changes, teachers are left to guess what will fill
the curriculum folders hung in the Indianapolis elementary school’s halls.