What, you ask, is all this about? In an article published by the Hoover Institute’s journal, Defining Ideas, Chester Finn of the Fordham Institute asks this question in response to Indiana “hitting the pause button” on the Common Core standards. As a parent opposed to the standards, I will explain why Indiana has hit the pause button. In fact, I would like to use the words of Fordham’s own researchers to answer the question which baffles him.
In the Fordham Institute’s report, The State of State Standards 2010, it compared each state’s standards to the Common Core. The findings of the report should have made Indiana’s rejection of the Common Core an easy decision. It found that Indiana’s standards in English Language Arts were “clearly superior” to those of the Common Core. In mathmatics, Indiana was also graded higher than Common Core:
“Indiana’s standards are clearer, more thorough, and easier to read than the Common Core standards. Essential content is grouped more logically, so that standards addressing inextricably linked characteristics, such as themes in literary texts, can be found together rather than spread across the strands. Indiana also frequently uses standard-specific examples to clarify expectations. Furthermore, Indiana’s standards treat both literary and non-literary texts in systematic detail throughout the document, addressing the specific genres, sub-genres, and characteristics of both text types. Both Indiana and Common Core include reading lists with exemplar texts, but Indiana’s is much more comprehensive.”
“The Bottom Line: With some minor differences, Common Core and Indiana both cover the essential content for a rigorous, K-12 mathematics program. That said, Indiana’s standards are exceptionally clear and well presented. Standards are briefly stated and often further clarified with the use of examples, so they are considerably easier to read and follow than Common Core. In addition, the high school content is organized so that the standards addressing specific topics, such as quadratic functions, are grouped together in a mathematically coherent way. By contrast, the organization of the Common Core is more difficult to navigate, in part because standards on related topics sometimes appear separately rather than together.”
What did Chester Finn’s own institution recommend to states that had standards higher than the Common Core such as Indiana, California and Massachusetts?
“States with good standards of their own that have recently invested beaucoup bucks in teacher training and diagnostic assessments tied to those standards might have reason to pause, and wait and see how the Common Core effort plays out over the next few years.”
Considering Indiana had just adopted a new set of math standards which Achieve, the American Diploma Project and others hailed as better than the 2004 Indiana math standards Fordham used in their report, it seems logical that Indiana should have followed the recommendation and kept in place the superior standards that many tax payer dollars were spent to develop.
The decision to abandon our former standards and adopt the Common Core was made by the Indiana State Board of Education under the leadership of Former Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tony Bennett. Without the knowledge of state legislators, or the general public, they adopted the Common Core only eight weeks after their final draft was released. The swiftness of the adoption hardly gave ample time to vigorously vet the standards or do a cost analysis.
When questioned about the adoption by outraged citizens, Dr. Bennett claimed that Indiana wasn’t showing enough student growth and that significant problems existed within our education system. This is true. However, what is easily observed, is that our standards weren’t the problem. It is foolish to focus our money and efforts towards an effort that won’t cure what ails us.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the legislators who support the effort to halt Common Core implementation aren’t doing it because of political pressure, as Finn asserts. They realize that tax dollars and children are precious, to waste either one of them on a set of standards that have never been field tested, lack international benchmarking and are inferior to our former standards is a crime. Instead of making disparaging remarks about the legislators who called for the pause, he should be congratulating them for following his organization’s advice.
Finn shouldn’t ask questions to which he already knows the answer. Indiana hit the pause button because it is irresponsible for our state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars implementing new standards that, according to Fordham, move Indiana students backward, not forward.