By CHELSEA SCHNEIDER
Evansville Courier & Press
Two key votes on Indiana’s proposed academic standards are set to take place this month. If approved, the standards will serve as guides for lessons taught in Hoosier classrooms next school year.
Ahead of the votes, representatives of University of Southern Indiana and Vincennes University are serving on a panel staffed by higher education officials, teachers and business officials to review the proposed standards for K-12 English and math education.
The process Indiana has used to review the new standards is “thorough,” said Patrick Shaw, a University of Southern Indiana professor helping to review English standards for grades six through 12.
“It has not been an easy process. I’ll say that. But at the same time, everyone’s going into it with a spirit of trying to work positively,” Shaw said.
The standards will go in front of the Indiana Education Roundtable, chaired by Gov. Mike Pence and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, on April 21. The Roundtable is responsible for making a recommendation on the standards to the Indiana State Board of Education, which is set to take a final vote April 28.
While Pence signed legislation to officially remove Indiana from a set of national academic standards known as Common Core State Standards in March, the new standards are expected to reflect a mixture of past Indiana standards, Common Core and other national benchmarks.
The movement to write new academic standards specific to the state grew from legislation that passed the Indiana General Assembly in 2013 when lawmakers moved to “pause” the implementation of Common Core in Indiana’s school districts. The process to write the new standards was already underway before this year’s successful legislative push to make Indiana the first state to depart from Common Core.
Shaw said the draft English standards for grades six through 12 are “pretty close” to Common Core, but he hopes the public realizes each of the standards were carefully considered and revised when necessary.
“I would say there are a lot of similarities between what is in the new draft and was in Common Core,” Shaw said. “There are some significant differences, and it’s being presented in ways that might be more helpful to teachers, but a lot of the content is pretty similar.”
Common Core began as a state-led movement, and Indiana became one of 45 states to adopt the standards in 2010, under former Republican Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Yet, as states received an edge in competing for federal Race to the Top education dollars by adopting college and career readiness standards, of which Common Core qualified, and critics of the merits of the national standards became more vocal, some state legislatures have weighed stopping or stalling the implementation of the standards.
A key element for the standards is to promote students to become college and career ready, a benchmark essential to the state continuing to receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. The waiver gives Indiana flexibility from many of the federal law’s accountability measures.
The revised draft of the proposed standards is anticipated to be released the week of April 14, according to Lou Ann Baker, spokeswoman for the Center for Education and Career Innovation.
Baker said the state received more than 2,000 comments, with more than 1,200 coming from teachers, on the initial draft of the standards.
Baker said any comments from the Roundtable will be incorporated into the standards before the State Board of Education meeting.