Local Indiana school districts have spent thousands of dollars to train teachers and buy material to implement Common Core Standards in grades K through 12, only to have the state now "take a pause" before total implementation.
More than three years ago, the Common Core Standards were adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, a Republican, spearheaded the state's adopting Common Core, with former Gov. Mitch Daniels' support.
The nationally crafted academic standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade were developed to align what students learn and are able to demonstrate nationwide, and provide for uniform academic progress across states.
Supporters say it gives college admissions officers confidence regarding student achievement from state to state. It also ensures, for instance, a student moving from Illinois to Indiana would be on par with new classmates and with no interruption in education. Full implementation was planned for 2014-15.
Withdrawing from Common Core would cost the state about $24 million, said the state Office of Management and Budget.
Legislation passed in 2013 called for the Indiana Department of Education to review Common Core Standards and set public hearings across the state this month.
If the state opts out of Common Core, it will have to develop new standards. Democratic state education leader Glenda Ritz joined Republican Gov. Mike Pence in supporting the "pause" in implementation.
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.”
She said implementation varies from district to district because some school districts already had education programs pretty close to what the standards require. In other districts, however, “we have much more work to do to bring them up to standard,” she said.
George Letz, superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Boone Township in Hebron, said school corporations already have spent time and resources developing instructional strategies to teach Common Core Standards.
"We've spent several thousand dollars of grant money with professional development. The standards are not the curriculum — they are the benchmarks," he said. "This is an ongoing effort which will involve curriculum development, instructional strategies and assessments."
Letz also said the issue should not be political. Congress did not develop the standards, he said. They were an initiative of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and both groups sought to implement rigorous academic content in mathematics and English throughout the United States.
Kevin Teasley, president of Indianapolis-based GEO Foundation, which operates 21st Century Charter School in Gary and Gary Middle College, said costs involved with Common Core are more than just professional development.
"It's also in the cost of purchases that we have made in computer-based curriculum," he said. "We've spent more than $200,000 on Common Core-aligned computer-based curriculum in the past two years. The state slowdown on implementing Common Core will indeed cost the school a great deal, as we will have to realign with whatever is decided — whenever that is. Those costs are unknown."
Ryan Ridgley, president of the Munster Teachers Association, said he believes teachers are split on Common Core. He said all standards have good and bad components, but the state pause puts many districts in a financial and academic predicament.
"Our mathematics digital textbook is full Common Core and to change now would come with a large price tag for our district," he said.
"It would mean that we would have to adopt new textbooks for subject areas that have adopted Common Core already and provide time for teachers, administrators, parents and students to prepare for the implementation of another set of standards.
"I believe that with the amount of money school districts have put toward Common Core implementation and training, it would be a mistake to change to a different set of standards."
Ridgley questioned why standards were not debated before Bennett implemented them.
Lake Central School Corp. Superintendent Larry Veracco said his biggest concern is the cost associated with (the state) doing something on its own, especially in terms of assessments. "I'd prefer to be part of a coalition; then the cost to the state is less than if we went out on our own," he said.
River Forest Community School Corp. Assistant Superintendent Tom Cripliver said he believes the Indiana academic standards already were superior to Common Core.
"We've been doing a combination of both. They are similar. It's been a challenge, but our teachers have done a good job of working with both," he said.
Merrillville Community School Corp. Superintendent Mark Sperling said the district has spent an "enormous" amount of money on professional development, and administrators had anticipated implementing it full scale next fall for all grade levels.
In October, Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, a retired teacher, said she continues to support Common Core Standards. She supports the idea that expectations are the same for any student moving from state to state.