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April 15, 2014

Final draft of new education standards in Indiana released

Response from Southern Indiana educators mostly positive

INDIANAPOLIS — The state released the final draft of Indiana’s proposed education standards Tuesday morning, leaving less than a week for a panel that includes Gov. Mike Pence to review those guidelines and decide whether they should go to the State Board of Education for a final vote of approval.

The State Board of Education has until July to meet a 2013 legislative mandate to pick new standards that would go in place this fall and replace the national Common Core guidelines, which outline what students should learn in each grade.

The Education Roundtable — co-chaired by Pence and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz — can make changes to the specific standards during its Monday meeting, but after that the board must vote for all or none of the guidelines during a meeting set for April 28.

Indiana in March became the first state to drop the Common Core math and English standards after critics called to replace them with a model created in the state. Law requires the state to “use the highest standards in the United States” to draft the new plans. Included are requirements that second-graders be able to add and subtract up to 100 and that fifth-graders be able to create a number line.

“As the first state to withdraw from Common Core, Indiana had a unique responsibility to create new, high standards in an open and serious process that would serve our children and strengthen our schools,” Pence said in a statement Tuesday, issued during his economic trip to Germany. “Now that these dedicated Hoosiers have completed their work, I look forward to a thorough review by the Education Roundtable and the State Board of Education to ensure that these new standards meet my objectives to have Indiana standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high.”

Whether the standards up for final approval are substantially different than the Common Core was not immediately clear Tuesday. Previous drafts drew criticism from education experts for their similarity.

More than 70 percent of the standards for sixth through 12th grade were directly from Common Core in the last draft of the standards, and another 20 percent were edited versions of the national standards. About 34 percent of English standards for kindergarten through fifth grade were taken straight from the national standards, and an additional 13 percent were edited.

Special Assistant to the Governor for Education Innovation Claire Fiddian-Green said no detailed comparison of the final draft to Common Core standards is planned.

LOCAL RESPONSE

Karen Spencer, supervisor of assessment at Greater Clark County Schools, said though there are similarities in the proposed standards and Common Core, she’s pleased with the proposed ones.

“I think they are aligned to our high expectations, they’re a good mixture of Common Core and the best of Indiana standards that we had,” Spencer said. “I think most of [the most important ones] seem to be in there.”

Andrew Melin, superintendent at Greater Clark, said he’s fine with whatever the standards say, he just wants them finalized so his team can begin planning for 2014-15.

“I just think it’s important that these new standards are approved as soon as possible so school systems like ours can make sure our curriculum preparation is ready to go for next school year,” Melin said. “We have a system here in our corporation called goal clarity and it’s really driven by the standards.”

Troy Albert, principal at Henryville High School and member of the state board of education, said through all the public hearings and public comments taken online, the state did a good job in making sure Hoosiers were aware of every step the board took in looking at the standards.

“I feel this process has been fair and that the people have worked diligently to produce a product and timeline that I thought was a tight timeline,” Albert said. “I praise their effort and work and I hope the people in the public will see the same thing as our teachers prepare for the next year.”

DIFFERENT VIEWS

But Fiddian-Green said the more than 6,000 hours spent revising the standards mean it’s a “substantially different document” compared with what one expert called “half-baked” standards that were included in the last draft. No formal analysis of the differences between the two drafts is planned either, said Fiddian-Green, although the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and experts are conducting reviews in the upcoming days.

University of California-Berkeley math professor Hung-Hsi Wu repeatedly used the term “not making mathematical sense” in his evaluation of the high school standards in a previous draft.

“I don’t know who wrote them, but I would say the people who made the decision seem not to have total command over the mathematics,” said Wu, who doesn’t plan on analyzing the final proposal. But “they had three, almost four weeks. Maybe they worked miracles.”

Retired University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky, who called the previous draft a “grand deception” and refused to do a full analysis because she said it was too similar to Common Core, said the sixth- through 12th-grade English standards in the final draft are also poor.

“It’s basically Common Core,” Stotsky said. “What did they spend all that time doing for the last three months if it comes out looking almost identical?”

James Milgram, an emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford, only had time to look through the math standards for grades third through fifth by Tuesday afternoon, but he’s “guardedly optimistic” about what he’s seen so far.

He praised formatting the standards so that they show progress from grade to grade and said the plan is “tremendously” tighter with fewer guidelines.

— Staff Writer Jerod Clapp contributed to this report.

ON THE WEB

• New education standards — www.in.gov/sboe/2508.htm

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