Out with the new, in with the old?

2014-03-16T01:00:00Z 2014-03-17T00:45:10Z Out with the new, in with the old?Carmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

Educators say Indiana's new standards about what students should know and be able to do at each grade level are not measuring up.

Indiana initially adopted standards in 2009, then became one of 45 states including Illinois to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2010.

Common Core is a set of standards for kindergarten through 12th grade crafted to align what students learn and are able to demonstrate, providing for uniform academic progress across states.

The new standards were designed to replace Common Core, which was “paused” last year by the state and Indiana's new education leader, Democrat Glenda Ritz.

Senate Enrolled Act 91, passed last week by the General Assembly, removes Indiana from Common Core.

"When you look at the draft, most of the content from Common Core still exists, but the examples and context for the standards have been removed, which lessens the rigor," said Schauna Findlay, who works for the Illinois-based Center for College and Career Readiness. Findlay is also president of the Indiana Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Indiana Center for Education and Career Innovation asked Findlay to review Indiana's draft of new education standards.

Calling the draft disorganized, Findlay said the standards are not easy to  understand.

"These standards are not viable, meaning it will be impossible for teachers to teach all students the depth the standard calls for," she said.

"Both the Common Core and Indiana's previous standards are stronger than this draft," said Kathleen Porter-Magee, a Bernard Lee Schwartz fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Fordham Institute. Porter-Magee also was asked to review Indiana's draft standards.

"It's less clear and less specific than the Common Core and Indiana's previous standards," Porter-Magee said. "There are also two significant omissions that threaten the quality and rigor. It omits the guidance on text complexity, and it eliminates the link between content knowledge, vocabulary and reading comprehension."

Porter-Magee said the Indiana Department of Education has committed to making changes and revising the standards, but what remains to be seen is "how significantly" they will change the draft.

In Illinois, the State Board of Education approved Common Core standards for the state's 860 public school districts in 2010.

"It takes some time for us to complete this," spokeswoman Mary Fergus said. "It is a process we're working our way through."

River Forest Assistant Superintendent Thomas Cripliver said the draft is a blend of previous Indiana standards and Common Core, with a heavy emphasis on Common Core. He said he is unclear where some of the draft standards came from.

"A fifth-grade math standard says a student must be able to solve problems involving multiplication and division of whole numbers fluently using a standard algebraic approach with understanding, and explain how to treat the remainders in division," Cripliver said.

"That's not from Common Core or from Indiana -- and there's no known source."

Hebron Superintendent George Letz, who is also president of the Superintendent Study Council, said he is unhappy with the draft standards.

"The whole idea was that the Common Core was going to reduce the number of standards a teacher covers and emphasize the depth, rather than breadth, of coverage. All this work and money spent, and it's been a waste of time," he said.

"We have worked so hard to make the transition in the last three to four years to the Common Core. Overall, they've increased the number of standards by 45 percent. ...This is very disheartening."

The state's Office of Management and Budget has said withdrawing from Common Core standards would cost the state about $24 million.

Gary Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, is disgusted with the process and the millions of dollars that have been wasted. Rogers is a former Gary teacher.

Rogers pointed out the College Board, which administers college entrance exams, just announced sweeping changes to the SAT. The new SAT "is going to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards," Rogers said.

"The materials and texts that publishers put out will be aligned to the Common Core. We'll be lost trying to find suitable material. We'll be out of sync with the rest of the nation, further putting Indiana behind."

Rogers, like Letz, believes Indiana Republicans thought Common Core was created by the federal government and pushed by President Barack Obama. The standards were developed by the National Governor's Association and state education leaders, Letz said.

"What the president did later was create Race to the Top," Letz said. "Common Core came first. Even though Indiana's standards created in 2009 were good, they lacked the higher-level thinking skills that our kids need, something that was in the Common Core."

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