Indiana dropped ball with Common Core

Evansville Courier & Press

It strikes us now — and it really has for months — that Indiana’s educational hierarchy could have saved money and trouble by sticking with Common Core State Standards, or at least with the state’s original school standards and tests.

Instead, the Republican majority’s effort to please the tea party and other groups has kept the state in what seems to be an ongoing, expensive mess.

The latest episode finds the state recommending to award nearly $134 million in contracts to six vendors to run student testing. Surely, it would have been less expensive to stand pat.

We have had our differences with Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, but on this latest issue, we are starting to see it her way. On these latest bids, Ritz said the costs are “astronomical.”

“I strongly believe that Indiana needs a streamlined system of assessments that come at a reasonable cost to taxpayers,” Ritz said in an The Associated Press news story. She said her office learned of the estimated costs after the bidding process was completed last week.

Legislative action could impact the bids. Indeed, one bill in the assembly could move Indiana from its ISTEP+ exam to a national test called BEST (Benchmarking Excellence Student Testing) in 2016. Also, one of the bill’s sponsors, Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he thinks Indiana would be better off using an “off-the-shelf” set of tests. But education officials said such tests would not align with the new academic standards the state created after deciding last year to withdraw from Common Core.

Originally, Indiana was the first of many states to adopt the Common Core standards created, not by the federal government, but by states working together.

However, opposition to Common Core grew quickly, by conservatives and others who felt Indiana should create its own standards. Thus, Indiana last year withdrew, with the support of Gov. Mike Pence and other Republican leaders.

What has happen since then is that instead of creating an education program within Indiana, as intended, the state is now shopping around for existing programs. That is not where the state was headed when it dropped out of Common Core in favor of a state-centered program.

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