Views mixed on nation’s changing education standards

Indiana is the first state to part with the national Common Core standards of education in favor of developing and implementing its own academic standards to better prepare students for college and the workforce.

Gov. Mike Pence recently signed legislation to opt

out of the national initiative to align curriculum across state lines. Indiana was one of the first of 45 states to adopt Common Core in 2010 under then-Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The change is one many local educators and parents support, although many say the changes may appear more cosmetic — a name change — than a real change in philosophy.

Others say Common Core offered a way to put all students, no matter what state they’re from, on an even playing field when it comes to what is being taught in the classroom.

Chrystal Street, curriculum director and a teacher at Crothersville Junior-Senior High School, said she has mixed feelings about the decision to scrap Common Core.

“One of the big benefits of Common Core is that it is a set of standards that were uniform for the country for all students no matter where you were located or what socioeconomic status you were,” she said. “Since a number of states joined the effort, there are lots of resources available to teachers to help them.”

Currently, kindergarten and first-grade teachers in Indiana use Common Core, and other grades use a combination of the previous Indiana Academic Standards and Common Core for instruction.

The state’s new education standards are scheduled

to be released later this month and adopted in the summer. Street said those standards look similar to Common Core.

One argument against Common Core is that it takes away educational control from the state and local level, Street said.

That was one of the major reasons why Pence said he signed the legislation.

“Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high,” he said in a statement.

Street said changing

the curriculum just four years after Common Core was adopted won’t be easy, but teachers rarely get comfortable with the way things operate before they’re changed again.

“Transitioning to a different set of standards means starting over,” she said. “There will be new resources and additional professional development required.”

Paul Brock of Seymour said he is glad to see

his grandchildren will now be taught by teachers and not politicians.

“It’s a good move,” he said. “What should replace Common Core is common sense and teaching our children and grandchildren what they will need to be successful in life without the government’s involvement.”

Parent Crystal Schrink-Adams of Seymour approves of the change and said helping her children with their homework can be a struggle because of Common Core. She said the previous academic standards used by Indiana schools were better and made more sense.

“I have a fifth-grader and

a first-grader, and I can

tell you going through my first-grader’s homework is a headache and a struggle,” she said. “A simple subtraction problem like 25 minus 8, and you have to do all these extra useless steps to get

17. It was much easier to

explain the old way of doing it when my oldest was

that age.”

Common Core has its merits, but Seymour teacher Robin Cummings said a lot about it doesn’t work.

“Common Core in its original form was a very promising concept,” she said. “However, it became different standards than were originally developed and covered concepts that many disagreed were common at all.”

And with new standards come new testing to replace ISTEP, which will remain

in place until the new

standards go into effect

in 2015-16.

By using free Common Core assessments that are used by all states instead of paying for ISTEP, the state could save money, Cummings said.

She also says the

testing should be used to assist students rather than punish them and low-performing schools

“When children come first, rather than money, then we are all better off,” Cummings said.

Having a new test to replace ISTEP could be

beneficial, but Street said she and other teachers won’t know until they see it.

“There is some frustration and anxiety in teaching a set of standards when one has not seen the actual assessment,” she said. “It’s hard to get students ready for an assessment that the teacher has never seen.”

Hoosier children were supposed to take a new assessment this spring to help them transition into the new standards once adopted, but the State Board of Education voted unanimously this week to cancel the test — CoreLink.

Department of Education officials said CoreLink could prepare students for a new exam that will come with new education standards, but some board members worry it could cause unnecessary stress, The Associated Press reported.

So the test was scrapped, at least for now.

Street said the biggest factor in successfully implementing new standards is time and that teachers need to be given ample time to determine how to teach and implement the standards to maximize learning.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that all students are learning, but we need to know what it is exactly that the students need to learn,” she said.

“The sooner we have this information, the sooner we can begin preparing our students for the skills needed to be college and career ready.”

Common Core

What is it: A set of standards designed to make students more critical, analytical thinkers

How they differ: Indiana’s previous standards required teachers to cover more specific lessons. Common Core has fewer lessons that must be taught but requires teachers to spend more time developing students’ critical thinking skills.

How it works: Teachers spend more time in the early grades showing students how to find important information, such as facts or a main idea, from texts or essays they read. They also show students how the lessons from one course apply to another, such as how what they learn in math will be used in science.

The change: Many were fine with Common Core, viewing it as neither better nor worse, just different.

What now: State lawmakers want to replace Common Core with new standards.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.