Elementary student takes a math test

In an about-face, Indiana decides to drop Common Core

Indiana has become the first state to drop the Common Core standards for teaching math and English in public schools. Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation making the withdrawal official late Monday. The move came at the start of a week that also kicks off field testing of new standardized tests based on the Common Core in 34 states.

“By signing this legislation, Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high,” Pence said in a statement.

While Indiana was one of the first states to adopt the standards in 2010 — which set out guidelines for the topics and skills students should study at each grade level — opposition to the guidelines has been building since Pence took office in 2012. Last year, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature put the standards roll-out on hold and work began on drawing up Indiana’s own standards.

But critics of Common Core may not be satisfied with the move. Sandra Stotsky, a retired University of Arkansas professor who reviewed Indiana’s new standards at Pence’s request, told the Indy Star that the state’s new English standards amounted to a “warmed-over version of Common Core’s standards.”

However, Pence thinks Indiana could help lead the way out of the Common Core for many states, just as it led the way in.

“I believe when we reach the end of this process there are going to be many other states around the country that will take a hard look at the way Indiana has taken a step back, designed our own standards and done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens, we drew on parents and developed standards that meet the needs of our people,” he said.

Oklahoma is among the other states considering legislation to scrap the standards. Critics believe the standards amount to a federal takeover of public education, while supporters argue the Common Core is an improvement over the previous mixed bag of state-designed standards. They believe the standards’ focus on skills like critical thinking and problem solving will better prepare students for college and the workplace.

The Common Core standards were developed by the National Governors Association and state superintendents of education. Their adoption was pushed by the Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant program.

PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.