GOP leaders preparing to ditch Common Core

2013-12-01T00:00:00Z 2013-12-02T00:26:09Z GOP leaders preparing to ditch Common CoreDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
December 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | State lawmakers are likely to permanently halt the three-year-old implementation of Common Core educational standards next year, after a one-year "pause" did nothing to convince a vocal minority of Hoosiers the federal government isn't taking over their local schools.

"This phrase 'Common Core' has now become such a distraction," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "It is the only thing that approaches the phrase 'Obamacare' with concern and violent reaction around the state."

As a result, Bosma and Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, have said they will direct the Republican-controlled Legislature to require Indiana create its own college- and career-ready standards, separate from Common Core.

The Republican-appointed State Board of Education adopted Common Core in 2010 on the recommendation of Republican Tony Bennett, then superintendent of public instruction, and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Common Core standards were created by governors and state school chiefs on a multistate basis to set a shared understanding of what students should know and be able to demonstrate at each grade level, with an eye toward being able to compete nationally and globally.

Every state aside from Texas, Alaska, Virginia, Minnesota and Nebraska has adopted Common Core standards. However, several are having legislative discussions to drop the adoption.

"To solve the argument about it we need to move forward independently, but incorporate and be compatible with the ACT and the SAT, and I think we can make that happen," Bosma said.

The Legislature's Common Core study committee failed this summer to agree on what independent Indiana standards should look like, though Republicans on the panel said in a letter to the State Board of Education the standards should be the best in the country while preserving the state's sovereignty.

"Hoosier students can be college- and career-ready, using the highest standards, but Indiana must maintain its independence and autonomy over our standards in order to improve and adjust our standards at our discretion," they wrote.

That's a significant change from where Indiana stood just three years ago, when it was among the first states in the country to make Common Core its educational standards.

Prompted in part by Tea Party groups, Republicans in 2012 began to question Common Core after the standards were endorsed by Democratic President Barack Obama.

During more than 30 hours of public testimony to the study committee, Hoosiers complained the standards are simultaneously too tough, too easy, too foreign, too indifferent to British literature, designed to promote liberalism and lacking respect for Mark Twain's novel, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," among other criticisms.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said most Democrats support Common Core because similar standards enable states to see what's working best in education and ensures children who move from state to state aren't way ahead or way behind at their new schools.

"There's so much anger about the federal government right now that we can tell ourselves that just because the federal government mouthed the words, that the words themselves are wrong," Pelath said. "That's a mindset that we need to get past."

Since Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed the Common Core "pause" in May, teachers across the state have continued to use school-chosen curricula based on Common Core standards, but also have had to teach to the old state indicators tested by the ISTEP+ exam.

Completely withdrawing from Common Core would cost Indiana at least $24 million, according to Pence's Office of Management and Budget.

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