Crisis for Common Core: Indiana’s Uncommon Ruckus Over Education Standards

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from The Heritage Foundation,

Indiana today is a battleground for one of the Obama administration’s preferred prescriptions to improve public schools — uniform national education standards formally known as Common Core State Standards.

In this special report, The Foundry examines why Common Core standards, originally touted as a bipartisan reform, proved divisive for Indiana residents — and what’s being done through layers of players to resolve the disagreement.

Common Core began as a broad reform, dreamed up by the bipartisan National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, to provide a high-quality base of academic standards that any state in the country could choose to use. In 2010, Indiana became one of the first states to adopt the standards. By June 2012, 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, also began the implementation process.

Common Core already is woven into the fabric of American education. And where the words “Common Core” appear, protests are not far behind.

Resistance began at the individual level, with parents such as Heather Crossin, an Indianapolis mom of four. Crossin, now one of Indiana’s most vocal opponents of Common Core, asked her school’s principal why 8-year-old Lucy’s math homework suddenly focused on abstract concepts, even drawing pictures to solve problems, instead of practicing formulas.

“I assumed initially it was just a bad textbook selection. I found out that was not the case,” Crossin says. Instead, the principal brought in a representative from Pearson, the publisher, to explain the new, Common Core-aligned textbooks.

When parents still weren’t buying what [the publisher’s representative] was selling, our principal in frustration threw up his hands and said, ‘Look, I know parents don’t like this type of math because none of us were taught this way, but we have to teach it this way because this is how it’s going to be on the new [standardized] assessment. And that was the moment when I realized control of what was being taught in my child’s classroom — in a parochial Catholic school — had not only left the building, it had left the state of Indiana. And to me, that was a frightening thought.

Fast forward to this month, when Indiana state officials, educators and parents are struggling through a lengthy reassessment and possible replacement of Common Core. Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, last May signed into law a bill mandating the review.

The decision was a little like changing tires on a race car in the middle of a lap. The new law also set a tight deadline for the state to review and decide on education standards going forward: July 1, 2014.

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