Bill calls for review of state school standards
INDIANAPOLIS — A proposal for statewide hearings on whether Indiana should keep or modify the Common Core State Standards national education benchmarks was approved Wednesday by a legislative committee.
The bill’s sponsor had originally sought to withdraw Indiana from the set of uniform math and reading standards approved by the State Board of Education in 2010 but scaled that back with a proposal that would suspend Common Core implementation until the board conducts a new evaluation.
Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, said he believed those standards needed a thorough review that wasn’t done before they were first adopted. Schneider maintains the previous state benchmarks were better and that the national initiative has led to a loss of local involvement over school standards.
The bill would allow the state board to hold public hearings in each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts, after which it could use the Common Core standards in setting new school requirements.
“If Indiana goes through the process of public input from parties in Indiana and that’s the will of the board, then so be it,” Schneider said. “But we didn’t get that opportunity before because the process was accelerated.”
The state Senate’s education committee voted 7-4 to advance the bill to the full Senate.
Hundreds of Common Core opponents attended a Statehouse rally last month on the day the Senate committee held a public hearing for Schneider’s original bill, and a few dozen people wearing “Say no to the Common Core” buttons attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Opponents have complained about frustrations over how skills such as addition and subtraction are being taught under the standards and that they’ve not been able find answers about how the criteria were set.
The push to withdraw Indiana from the math and reading benchmarks — developed by a national group of state school officials and since adopted by 45 states — is being opposed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and other groups that have supported the state’s adoption of its private school voucher program and expansion of charter schools.
The school reform group Stand for Children said the bill would unnecessarily cause uncertainty for educators.
“These standards are too important to students to delay what is already three years in the making,” said Justin Ohlemiller, the group’s Indiana executive director. “We are certain Common Core would withstand the scrutiny of public hearings, but leaving schools in limbo for a year isn’t fair to teachers and certainly isn’t fair to students.”
Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, voted in favor of the bill at the committee meeting, but said he wasn’t certain the Legislature should get involved.
“I’m growing increasingly concerned that we are jerking schools around with our continued messing with certain things and tweaking and pulling back and then starting again,” Yoder said.
Democratic state schools superintendent Glenda Ritz, who took office last month, believes that not enough public review was done before the Common Core standards were adopted in 2010 and supports the new round of public hearings, said John Barnes, Ritz’s legislative liaison.
“We want to make sure that nobody decides whether or not to use Common Core until everybody’s had a chance to look at it and see what they think,” Barnes said. “So whether it’s a hybrid system or Common Core, we need to look at that and make sure we understand what’s there first.”