State legislators' efforts to withdraw Indiana from the Common Core State Standards, a set of academic standards for students in kindergarten to 12th grade, are ill-advised, several local educators said.
Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, reintroduced a bill last week that could raze the Common Core system in Indiana. It led to a rally in Indianapolis on Wednesday with some legislators, teachers and parents supporting Schneider's effort.
Unanimously adopted in 2010 by the Indiana State Board of Education and supported by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, the Common Core Standards were developed to provide a clear and consistent understanding of what students are expected to learn at each grade level in math, English/language arts, social studies and science.
Indiana teachers across the state have been collaborating with the Indiana Department of Education to implement the newer standards, with a target date of 2014-15.
Schneider said Friday he thinks the Common Core Standards are not rigorous enough and that Indiana's academic standards were stronger before.
Several local educators disagree.
"The Common Core Standards are more rigorous and demand more of students," Merrillville Superintendent Tony Lux said. "Personally, I don't see anything wrong with having uniform expectations for students across the country to learn the same kinds of skills and have similar expectations for where they should be at the end of elementary, middle and high school."
Ryan Ridgley, a Munster math teacher and president of the Munster Teachers Association, said he thinks people don't understand the Common Core Standards and are making judgments based on "talking points" from one politician or another.
"When we implemented the Common Core Standards last year, it was a big shock. Students struggled because of the difficulty they had trying to explain why they were doing things, instead of just answering a problem. The Common Core has also moved some standards into different grades. We are now asking students to become acclimated to and master many standards earlier in their education.
"Teaching seventh-grade math and pre-algebra the last 14 years, I can say from experience that the Common Core Standards are more rigorous than the Indiana standards, while having much of the same content in them," Ridgley said.
Portage Township School Board President Cheryl Oprisko said the Common Core Standards "will allow us to be able to see what we're doing as a nation and compare ourselves globally — something we hadn't been able to do before because each state operated independently."
Hebron schools Superintendent George Letz said the legislative push to get rid of the Common Core Standards "is another example of political intervention in the system and not allowing or respecting the ability of individuals in 46 states who have joined this consortium."
Alaska, Texas, Nebraska and Virginia have not adopted the Common Core Standards, and Minnesota implemented only the English/language arts standards.
"These are not educators, and they have not studied the standards nor even compared them to the current Indiana standards," Letz said. "They don't understand the need for assessments which force students to answer questions which will require more writing and solving problems at the analysis and evaluation levels of the cognitive domain."
Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said educators across the state already have begun integrating Common Core Standards into the curriculum, and to "remove (them) now and start all over again would be detrimental."
Rogers, a retired teacher, said teachers who spoke at Wednesday's State Senate Committee on Education hearing supported the Common Core Standards, saying they provide a better way of teaching subject matter. The teachers "begged" legislators to keep the standards, she said.
"I don't think the legislature is the place to make decisions regarding education standards," she said. "That needs to be left up to the state superintendent, teachers and administrators. The Common Core Standards were not developed by the federal government. They were developed by the states with input from teachers."
New Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz cautioned legislators to slow down and have a "conversation" about Common Core Standards before making any changes.
Schneider said he has begun working with Ritz and the Department of Education to "tweak" the language in his bill and "reset" the clock, providing an opportunity for teachers, parents, businessmen and members of the community to have input.