Indiana legislators took a substantial step toward doing away with the Common Core today when the Senate voted to void the state’s 2010 decision to adopt the learning standards.
The 36-12 vote saw only Democrats vote against it. Under the bill, Indiana can no longer follow Common Core standards as of July 1. The move came after a year of fast-moving debate that saw many Republicans shift their positions from supporting the Common Core to opposing it.
Debate about the value of the standards, which are meant to ensure that students are ready for college and work, have centered on whether the allow the state enough freedom to decide what children are taught. Legislators and others across the state have pushed back against the Common Core because they didn’t like the way schools were changing to new teaching methods, which some have argued are being pushed by the federal government.
“This is a benefit to us all,” said Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, the bill’s author. “This is obviously a benefit to the students of Indiana. It’s a positive step.”
But Common Core supporters argue the move is unnecessary, fueled by misinformation and a potentially costly mistake, citing an estimate by the state’s Office of Management and Budget that changing standards could cost Indiana $24 million.
Sen Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said opponents misunderstand the purpose of Common Core. The standards, she said, only dictate what topics are learned, not how the information is taught.
“There is a difference between standards and curriculum,” she said. “A lot of times parents get mixed up between the two, and not just parents but legislators also.”
The July 1 Common Core expiration date in the bill coincides with the dictates of the of a bill passed by the legislature last year, which called for a “pause” of implementation of Common Core. That bill required a review of Common Core standards and a new vote of the state board by July 1.
The Indiana Department of Education and Indiana State Board of Education began a review of standards last fall. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said last month the review would result in recommendations for new standards and that the department would deliver them in time for the board to approve them by the deadline.
If the House ultimately supports the bill, it would complete a stunning reversal of fortune for the Common Core. Indiana was one of the earliest and strongest supporters of the academic standards, which 45 states have agreed to make their state standards. The aim was to to set a common standard for what qualified students as ready for college or careers. The standards were promoted in Indiana and nationally by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett, who was state superintendent under Daniels. The Indiana State Board of Education adopted them as the state’s standards in 2010.
But opposition grew beginning in late 2012. It was led by conservatives, who worried that the Common Core ceded too much authority over what Indiana students learn to the federal government. The U.S. Department of Education under President Obama has endorsed Common Core and sought to persuade states to adopt the standards. Some liberals raised concerns that Common Core represented a deeper commitment to standardized testing, which they oppose.
Even Common Core supporters in recent months have begun to acknowledge the state would likely have to write its own standards because of eroding support. They are advocating for those new standards to still incorporate many of the concepts of the Common Core.
But Schneider said he doesn’t want that to happen either. Parents who oppose the Common Core don’t want the standards renamed, he said. They don’t want to see changes they’ve seen over the past two years in the way their children are taught reversed, Schneider said.
“I share those concerns,” he said. “But at some point we have to trust this process. I think parents will be the eternal watchdogs of this. They’re watching.”