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February 24, 2014

Standing up to Indiana's academic standards

Community decries new state guidelines at public hearing

SELLERSBURG — Concerns about new state academic standards — whether or not they’re better for students and the speed at which they’re supposed to be adopted — caused questions among community members at a public forum on Monday.

At Ivy Tech Community College, the state Board of Education held a public hearing on the new standards, which are set for adoption on April 9 and are designed to mix some of the current state standards with federal Common Core requirements. By state law, the new requirements must be adopted by July 1.

Emily Camenisch, Corydon, 30, who homeschools her children, wants what’s best for all students. She said she feels like many of the standards that were posted online just last week are weaker than what the state is working with now.

“I’m just concerned across the board for everyone’s education,” Camenisch said. “It’s a matter of national security; I want every child to get an education. I don’t think these standards are good educational guidelines.”

Though the session was meant strictly for information for board members, some of the attendees expressed frustration that they didn’t answer any questions.

Jana Morgan Herman, a teacher at Community Montessori, said coupled with difficulty in finding any information on the state board of education’s website — a message on the department of education’s website says the standards site is being updated — she’s worried about how much weight state offices, such as Gov. Mike Pence’s office and the education board —  are putting into these new standards.

She also said she’s concerned about any additional tests students will have to take as a result of the new career and college readiness standards built in.

“We’re putting all of that money into more testing instead of where we know where there will be a guaranteed result and long-term benefits,” Morgan Herman said.

Yet more voiced their worries about trying to call the standards Indiana’s own. Debbie Woolsey, 50, Jeffersonville, said she also homeschools, but still finds it troubling that of the 66 standards she saw in elementary math, 55 of them matched their Common Core counterparts verbatim.

“I know we’re going to claim these are Indiana standards,” Woolsey said. “Let’s face it, they’re not. You’re trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the parents and the teachers, and it’s not working.”

But Troy Albert, board member and principal of Henryville Junior/Senior High School, said the entire process is complicated as far as what the board has to squeeze into the standards.

“There are a lot of things that are in this picture,” Albert said. “You’ve got the federal waiver system of No Child Left Behind, we have to be able to address that and say we’re meeting that. You have a whole lot of outside things with the legislature and their influence. You have to take all those pieces of the puzzle and put it together.”

While the board didn’t offer any responses to statements from community members, Albert said everything that was said would go into consideration, just like with other public forums on the same topic scheduled across the state.

He said while educators may find difficulty in accepting some of the guidelines, he thinks they offer some flexibility in terms of how to approach them.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, no teacher’s going to be exactly happy with everything that’s in there,” Albert said. “But what teachers have the power of is the discretion to be able to take those guidelines and be able to mold their students the way they want them to do it.”

He also said he’s not too thrilled about the idea of adding another test to the regimen students and teachers have to follow, but it’s something he doesn’t feel can be avoided with what the state wants to add.

“We do [test kids too much], but hey, you know, that happens,” Albert said. “To be honest, we test way too much. But again, what I think we’re trying to put in is accountability for all of us. You know what, you have to be accountable for the product you’re putting out. I guess our product is that 13 to 19 year old kid. That’s our product, so that’s what I’m trying to sell.”


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