Decision to drop Common Core causes fallout in Indiana - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Decision to drop Common Core causes fallout in Indiana

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - A battle is brewing between parents, Indiana's top school officials, and the federal government and the education of every child in the state hangs in the balance.

When the Indiana Board of Education voted 10-1 last month to approve new academic standards in English and Math, it rewrote the book that Hoosier schools use to teach children.

Parents attended the April meeting and protested as loud as they could.

“You've lost my respect, you've lost my support and I'm not the only one," said one father.

“We're not happy about it and we're scared,” explained a mother.

Indiana has become the first state in the nation to drop the Common Core standard, 2010's sweeping education reform. Common Core offers one unified way to asses and teach students across the country. It was designed to develop more analytical and critical thinkers rather than students who just know the right answers on tests. The measure was adopted by 45 states.

Floyd County Literacy Coach Barb Hoover helped design Indiana’s new standards.

“I was asked by members of the Department of Education to be on the evaluation team,” Hoover said.

Hoover educates the teachers in New Albany and schools across Floyd County. As the southern Indiana school district's lead elementary literacy coach, she trains on best practices for reading and writing instruction.

The state asked evaluation teams of teachers to compare old Common Core standards and other national standards with older Indiana academic guidelines and come up with something new. Next, a group of higher education and business leaders weighed in and a second draft emerged. Then, some well-respected education experts examined the standards and the state came up with a third draft. In the end Hoover said, “We're not going to see drastic changes.”

Little change is exactly why the parents complained.

“I don’t think that it did justice to the kids," said mother Michele McCarthy.

The cost-critics call Indiana's new standards a watered-down version of what stood before. Some taxpayers are outraged by the bill, an estimated $30 million to write new assessments and get rid of the I-STEP in the 2015-2016 school year.

“What kids should know and be able to do is what's important," Hoover said. "Not necessarily from what set of standards that comes from."

WDRB News sorted through Indiana’s new guidelines for several days comparing them to Common Core. After the analysis, we found the little ones will still read how the cow jumped over the moon. Students will get into fractions in elementary school and find X with Algebra in high school.

Henryville High School Principal Troy Albert said rewriting the rules was more about cutting out the jargon, skills that were out of grade order, or overreached.

“It’s just cleaning up the language so it’s concise,” Albert said.

Albert is new to the state board this year. Saying yes to these new standards marks his first major vote.

“I think Common Core dictated a lot of the curriculum -- what teachers had to teach -- whereas these standards tell you the skills that kids need to have in order to be successful in the long-term,” said Albert.

Kentucky was the first state to adopt Common Core in 2010. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says 80 percent of classroom teachers still approve. Graduation rates are up in the Commonwealth and tests show more kids leaving high school prepared for careers or college.

“Everybody agreed to the Common Core standards in 2009," Holliday said. "It was not until President Obama addressed the subject and said he was in support of Common Core in his State of the Union in 2011 -- that's when it became politicized, and I regret that."

Politicizing is not over yet. Days after Indiana adopted its new standards, the U.S. Department of Education sent a warning letter. Among the concerns was an order saying the state must prove its new standards are college and career ready or risk losing its No Child Left Behind waiver that brings millions in federal funding to the state's lowest-performing schools.

Indiana's top teacher, Superintendent Glenda Ritz, fired back saying her new classroom rules already cleared that hurdle.

“The benchmark to consider them college and career ready is the process that we went through," Ritz said. "That college and career ready panel that we appointed has deemed them college and career ready and that is what is required of us.”

The vote leaves Indiana teachers to figure out what’s next. Clarksville High School English teacher Kristin Payne said, “We're glad to have this information now so we can really prepare over the summer before we launch into the fall year.”

Hoover said only time will tell if Indiana has better standards, but she stopped short of fully supporting them. When asked if it was necessary to rewrite the rules she responded, “I have no comment about that.”

A Huffington Post report found 100 bills filed throughout the United States designed specifically to slow, halt, or overturn Common Core requirements. The country is closely watching what happens in Indiana as a sign of what's to come.

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