GREENFIELD - The release of Indiana’s proposed new college and career-ready academic standards indicates the state is a step closer to adopting new educational standards.
The biggest steps, however, lie ahead.
The state board of education is scheduled to adopt the new guidelines April 9, in order to meet the federal deadline in July. However, state officials will not finally adopt the standards before soliciting public comment through the Department of Education website and holding three public hearings on the controversial education guidelines.
The new standards are designed, to some extent, to replace the controversial Common Core, a national set of standards that was adopted by Indiana in 2010 but put on hold last year after much debate. A group of educators and others from throughout the state put together the extensive list of new benchmarks.
Indiana is one of several states in the process of reviewing its academic standards after joining 45 other states in adopting Common Core several years ago.
The Indiana Legislature is moving toward approving legislation that would keep Indiana from following Common Core for good. The House Education Committee endorsed such a bill in a 10-2 vote on Thursday. The Senate previously approved the measure, 36-12.
Local educators say they’ll need time to decipher the new standards, which were released on the Indiana Department of Education website late Wednesday. The 98-page draft includes more than 1,000 benchmarks, with as many as 76 different language arts standards for seventh- and and eighth-grade students, for example.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed by the number of standards,” Greenfield-Central Junior High School Principal Harold Olin said. “It kind of reminds me of the initial set of standards that we had back in 1999.”
Olin, who has been hired to be the new superintendent of G-C schools at the end of the school year, said a quick overview of the new standards shows some of the Common Core guidelines will be carried over.
“I do see some common language there with the Common Core standards,” he said. “In reading and writing across the curriculum they’ve stuck with literacy standards and added some writing standards as well, but I am going to need more time to go through these with a broader lens.”
Southern Hancock curriculum director Rhonda Peterson said she is disappointed in the process and fears that the new standards are being rushed through without real consideration as to what is best for students.
“I believe both sides of this controversy would agree that these standards are extremely important, and I don’t feel like they are taking enough time to really ensure their quality,” she said.
Mt. Vernon Assistant Superintendent Mike Horton agrees, saying he is not sure how DOE can come up with a new set of standards in such a short period of time.
“Doesn’t pass the smell test to me, but I know it is politically motivated,” he wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, this whole thing with the Common Core is politically motivated versus based in sound educational practice.”
While Peterson was not part of the process for determining which new standards were selected, she said a colleague had the opportunity to see it unfold firsthand.
“They told me the group that put this together had two days to write these standards,” Peterson said. “If you know anything about writing quality curriculum and standards, it should take a lot longer than two days.”
Peterson said the looming federal deadline this summer must have something to do with pushing the new standards through.
She plans to delve deeply into the new draft and attend at least one of the public hearings.
“I am absolutely going to weigh in,” she said. “I’ll be sending it out to all of my teachers districtwide and encourage them to wade in if they feel like they want to do so.”
Asking the Indiana residents for input might sound all well and good, local educators say, but Horton doesn’t think those outside of the education community really have the training or background to understand what is best for students.
“Truth is, very few people have that skill and even fewer have that kind of time,” he wrote.
Peterson, a Common Core supporter, said she recognized many of the main elements within Common Core as part of the new standards.
“I think you’ll still see overarching strands of the Common Core still present,” she said. “But, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really analyze it just yet.”
Horton hopes at least some of the Common Core guidelines were left intact.
“If the goal is college and career readiness, then Common Core or something that looks very similar to it has to be the basis for the new standards,” Horton wrote.
Regardless, Eastern Hancock Superintendent Randy Harris said it’s time to pick a set of standards and move on.
“My main concern is that they get the process done and tell us what their expectations are for us,” Harris said. “We’ve been going around for two or three years thinking we were going to go Common Core, and now all of that has been derailed.”
The change, he said, will not be an easy one for educators to make.
“The main thing is they need to get this completed as fast as they can in order to allow us to start making those changes for professional development for our teachers,” Harris said.
Another problem with the change is there might be too many expectations, Peterson said.
“Sometimes, we can try to put too much into a year and then we kind of take a step backwards as far as mastery of content,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.