The announcement came on Monday that Indiana has become the first state to formally abandon the Common Core standards. But Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) signature on the bill has been met with considerable skepticism as critics of the nationalized initiative contend that the state may simply “rebrand” most of the same Common Core standards with a different label.
“I believe when we reach the end of this process 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, we drew on parents and developed standards that meet the needs of our people,” Pence said.
Indiana was one of the first states to adopt the Common Core standards when Mitch Daniels (R), an ardent supporter of the initiative, was governor. The state began to distance itself from the standards last year, however, when the state legislature “paused” their implementation. This year, the Republican-led legislature approved a measure that required the State Board of Education to adopt, by July 1, new college- and career-ready standards that are “the highest standards in the United States” and “maintain Indiana sovereignty.”
In addition, as Breitbart News reported on March 16, the legislation requires that the new standards must still qualify Indiana for a federal waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and align with college entrance exams. College Board president and “architect” of the Common Core standards David Coleman recently announced that the SAT will soon be aligned with the Common Core standards, a situation that suggests Hoosiers’ standards may be required to be similar to the nationalized standards to comply with the legislation.
The idea that the new Indiana standards would be very similar to the Common Core even led state Sen. Scott Schneider (R), the original author of the bill, to abandon the nationalized standards, to withdraw his name from the measure. Schneider did so at the last minute after discovering that other legislators had changed the bill to require the state to meet federal NCLB criteria so that Indiana would not lose federal funding.
The first draft of Indiana’s “own” set of academic standards was met with blunt criticism from several standards experts, namely Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita at University of Arkansas; Terrence Moore, Professor at Hillsdale College; Ze’ev Wurman, Hoosier Institution Fellow; and Kathleen Porter-Magee of the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute.
As AP reports, Stotsky released a summary that stated the draft proposal was too similar to Common Core. The designer of the highly acclaimed Massachusetts academic standards found that more than 70 percent of the Indiana draft’s standards for 6th through 12th grade are directly from Common Core, and about 20 percent are merely edited versions of the nationalized standards. Similarly, about 34 percent of English standards for K-5th grade were taken verbatim from the Common Core, with an additional 13 percent edited versions.
Referring to the draft as a “grand deception,” Stotsky said the draft “makes a fool of the governor. The governor is being embarrassed by his own Department of Education if the final version is too close to Common Core.”
Writing at Library of Law and Liberty, Moore, the former head of a K-12 school, suggested that, from the looks of Indiana’s draft standards, the state was planning to “cut-and-paste its way to Common Core serfdom.”
Here is reading standard number 16 for Kindergarten in the “new” draft of the Indiana standards: “Associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.” Here is reading standard RF.K.3b in the Common Core: “Associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.” There is no difference. And such is the case with virtually all of the draft standards. The committee simply took the Common Core logo off the standards, made minute adjustments to them, and passed them on to the public to see if anyone would notice. Well, we did.
Moore added that the “new” standards “are utterly inadequate and in many cases embarrassingly false or ridiculous.”
“Now ask yourself: How many ways are there to spell the letter A?” he continued. “I can only think of one, unless you mean to distinguish between capitals and lower case, which is not what is being said. A is always spelled A.”
“Are these really the people in charge of our children’s education?” Moore chided.
Blasting the Indiana State Board of Education and the committee appointed to write the “new” standards for attempting to give Hoosiers the “runaround” when it comes to solid academic standards, Moore charged that they were either “in over their heads and unable to outline how students learn to read, write, and do math, or they are deliberately fighting a war of attrition in order to hold onto the Common Core…”
“Well, education leaders of the state,” Moore concluded, “it’s now time to whip out your final draft and convince us that you know what you’re doing.”