Indiana State Board of Education member Andrea Neal raised a question at Wednesday’s board meeting that nobody was quite sure how to answer:
What happens if the board fails to approve new Indiana academic standards by the July 1 deadline set by the legislature?
“We must have new standards adopted by July of 2014,” was the best state Superintendent Glenda Ritz could muster for an answer.
But there is at least the possibility that might not happen.
Since lawmakers first moved earlier this year toward the idea of voiding Indiana’s 2010 adoption of Common Core as its state standards, a team of experts Ritz assembled to review English and math standards has been working to write new, Indiana-specific standards.
House Bill 91, voiding Common Core, ultimately passed and was signed last month by Gov. Mike Pence. Common Core is a set of standards laying out what children should learn at each grade in order to graduate high schools ready for college and careers.
But its Indiana critics persuaded lawmakers that following Common Core ceded too much control over student learning to the U.S. Department of Education. President Obama’s administration did not write the standards but does endorse then.
Draft standards to replace Common Core were released in February for public comment and have been under revision for weeks. The final revision is due out next Wednesday. Then the Education Roundtable will vote on them on April 21.
State board members are scheduled to give final approval on April 28, but some board members were surprised to learn that they will not have the latitude to make changes to the standards at that meeting if they want to stay on schedule. That’s because state law dictates any changes would kick the standards back to the Roundtable to be reconsidered.
“If we have to have an up or down vote and the vote fails then we need to have a plan B,” Neal said at Wednesday’s meeting.
While Neal suggested keeping standards created in 2006 and 2009 in reserve should the new standards fail, Ritz said that would be impractical. Those standards were not specifically designed to be “college and career ready.” Ritz said she is counting on board approval of the new standards to meet the required deadlines.
But Neal feels there is much to discuss. She said she has seen expert reviews, which Ritz said would be released Wednesday along with the final draft standards, that suggest a further overhaul of the standards may be needed.
“The errors they pointed out are not the kind that can be cleaned up overnight,” Neal said. “In fact, the corrections themselves deserve careful scrutiny to make sure they are done as intended. How can this occur in the mere five days between release of the next draft and the scheduled vote of the Education Roundtable?”
The time schedule is so compressed that Ritz initially balked at publicly releasing the final draft standards before the April 28 board meeting, but relented when board members pushed her to do so.
The draft can be released, she said, but there will not be time for any more public input or changes.
“Making them available is one thing,” she said. “Having another whole process of public review is an issue.”