None of the opponents of the Common Core education standards like to say it out loud, but the movement to pull Indiana out of that program is dead. It was killed in a House Education Committee that last week watered down to the point of meaninglessness Sen. Scott Schneider’s bill postponing implementation of the standards. That’s too bad; a meaningful public discussion of the plan isn’t likely to happen now – or ever.
Schneider at first tried to kill Common Core. When that didn’t work, he asked for implementation to be delayed while education officials conducted public hearings in all nine congressional districts. As amended, that measure calls for the hearings but allows rollout of the standards to continue as scheduled, with second grade being added to the kindergarten and first-grade standards already in place. The decision on whether to keep implementing the standards will be left with the Indiana Board of Education, which has unanimously reaffirmed its support for Common Core. Public hearings seem moot at this point.
The Common Core debate, unfortunately, has proceeded mostly in education circles, not in public forums. Too many parents and taxpayers have only a vague understanding of what these standards will mean for public school students. Questions remain in two broad areas about the standards.
One question is whether it is appropriate to have such standards. Common Core began as a cooperative effort by governors. But the federal government has muscled its way in, and since billions of dollars will be involved, this is going to be a federal program, period. National standards mean uniform tests and, inevitably, what amounts to a national curriculum. Is such a change necessary because of increasingly tough international competition? Or will we be losing more than we gain by abandoning our traditionally local control of education?
And even if there should be national standards, are these particular standards the best ones? Some education critics have made a good case that the standards Indiana abandoned in favor of Common Core were superior in what they measured and how they did it. Adopting a one-size-fits-all policy has always meant watered-down standards, and in this case “dumbed down” would be more accurate.
Republicans in the General Assembly have been a disappointment in their response to Common Core. The standards represent a major shift from local to national control of education, and we should greet such change with great scrutiny. Instead, Republicans are letting us drift into something nobody fully understands yet. And hooray for one Democrat – new Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz – for calling for a Common Core timeout while the issue is studied.