News and Tribune

August 22, 2013

THEIR VIEW: Opinions from other newspapers for Aug. 22

Local columnist

Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers. Distributed by The Associated Press

State hasn’t gained, but for once, that’s not such a bad thing

The most recent “fat” report — the annual measure by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows that Indiana has managed to hang on to its spot as the eighth fattest state in the nation.

Ha! That’s nothing to be proud of.

At least we’re skinnier than seven other states, even with almost a third of Hoosiers classed as obese.

In other good news, if one can call it that, the report, released last week, shows that as a nation, most of us haven’t actually gotten fatter over the previous year. In 49 of 50 states, the percentage of the population classed as obese remained unchanged from 2011 to 2012, with Arkansas the only state to grow its waistline.

Looking for any light, we see that as a positive, given the frightening climb in America’s obesity rate over the last three decades. That differential is truly scary. In 1980, according to the report, no state had an adult obesity rate above 15 percent. In this latest report, the rate in Indiana and 12 other states tops 30 percent. And 41 states have rates of at least 25 percent. None are lower than 20 percent.

We shouldn’t have to be convinced. Just seeing is enough. In any crowd (which, just in passing, would include many of us), you can see lots of people — both kids and adults — who’d describe themselves as a little chunky, or with a stocky build or who are generously proportioned. Many of those people — that is, many of us — are likely to fit into that class that’s labeled obese, even if we don’t think so.

It’s been a gradual creep upward over the years, insidious in its slow but relentless pace. You’d certainly know it and be alarmed if you gained 30 or 40 pounds in six months while as you turned rubenesque, everyone around you kept their svelte figures. But if it’s whole generations over decades, it’s just too easy for excess poundage to be seen as the norm.

State Health Commissioner William VanNess talked to the area business people last week. He tailored his message to his audience, talking dollars. And what better way to grab attention than to talk bottom line? He was selling the concept of wellness programs, pointing out that employer medical costs fall by $3.27 for every wellness dollar spent, and absenteeism costs fall by $2.37. Spending a dollar to make three is a good return in anyone’s books. VanNess said we have too many smokers and too many of us are obese.

Like smoking, fat kills. It’s imperative to turn the trend around. There are encouraging signs. We at least didn’t “grow” wider last year. Programs targeting kids seem to be having an effect. But bottom line, it’s a job each of us must take on.

— The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne

Remember reason for Common Core standards

The review of Common Core State Standards, as applied to Indiana, has begun. It is a familiar battle, having been fought once before.

The state Board of Education had already approved the Common Core standards in 2010, and Indiana’s schools have been working to implement them in their curriculum.

These standards aim to make sure students at each grade level are making progress toward becoming college- and career-ready.

They also allow students across the nation to be compared with their peers. That makes sense, for they will be competing with the same group for college admissions and for jobs.

The Common Core standards have been criticized as another example of the federal government trying to take over a state responsibility, but that’s just not true. The Common Core standards are not guidelines handed down from the federal government, but those agreed upon by nearly every state.

Even within those national standards, there is room for adaptation to address issues within the state. Indiana should not shy away from that option, as long as the larger goal of being able to compare scores with peers in other states is not forgotten.

Earlier this year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law calling for a one-year pause in implementation of the new standards while the legislators second-guess the state Board of Education’s decision to adopt them.

Complicating the issue are two factors — the computer glitch that hampered widespread standardized testing in Indiana and a few other states this spring, along with the scandal involving former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett ordering school accountability grades to be changed. Bennett, a Republican, recommended adoption of the Common Core standards, and now all his actions are being scrutinized.

What must not be lost in this debate, however, is that standardized tests and accountability are needed to ensure Hoosier students are learning what they need to succeed in life.

Common Core standards can and should be adapted to include Indiana-specific goals. Even the critics should agree with that.

But don’t just scrap this movement because of the Tony Bennett scandal or the ill-conceived notion that comparing students on a national basis is a bad idea. Indiana students need the Common Core standards to ensure they are well prepared for the future.

— The Times, Munster