By Lindsey Burke
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana has just given every state that agreed to adopt Common Core national education standards and tests a lesson in prudent governance.
(Last) Saturday, Governor Mike Pence (R) signed the Common Core “Pause” bill into law, halting implementation of Common Core until state agencies, teachers, and taxpayers better understand the implications of Common Core adoption.
Indiana law now requires that the Common Core standards be evaluated and compared to existing state standards, and that a cost assessment be conducted by the state’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before implementation moves forward. It’s something every state that adopted Common Core should have done before agreeing to do so. Specifically, the law states that
after May 15, 2013, the state board may take no further actions to implement as standards for the state or direct the department to implement any common core standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative until the state board conducts a comprehensive evaluation of the common core standards.
While the common standards Indiana adopted remain in effect, the state has taken the necessary steps to evaluate the merits of Common Core standards and assessments, and their costs.
What exactly does the Common Core Pause require? The Indiana Department of Education must provide a written evaluation of the Common Core standards before July 1, 2013, which must be submitted to the governor, legislative council, state board of education, and the legislative study committee established by the Pause law. The legislative study committee will evaluate Common Core, and produce a report by November 1, 2013, to:
1. Compare Indiana’s existing state standards to Common Core standards;
2. “[C]onsider best practices in developing and adopting the standards, seeking information from a broad range of sources,” which should include teachers, content matter experts and “any other standards the study committee considers to be superior standards”; and
3. Evaluate the cost to the state and school districts of moving toward Common Core assessments.
In addition to the state Department of Education evaluation and the legislative study committee report, the Common Core pause law requires that by September 1, 2013, the Office of Management and Budget provide a fiscal impact statement on the cost of Common Core to taxpayers. Specifically, the Pause law states that the Indiana OMB, “in consultation with the state board, shall provide an opinion concerning the fiscal impact to the state and school corporations if the state board: (1) fully implements the common core standards; and (2) discontinues the implementation of the common core standards.”
Finally, the law requires the state board of education to hold at least three public meetings and take public testimony on Common Core standards and tests.
While the law does not prohibit the use of Common Core standards implemented by the state board, the board may not require the use of Common Core assessments until the board receives the evaluations conducted by the state Department of Education, the legislative study committee, and the state OMB. Pence stated:
I have long believed that education is a state and local function and we must always work to ensure that our students are being taught to the highest academic standards and that our curriculum is developed by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers.… The legislation I sign today hits the pause button on Common Core so Hoosiers can thoroughly evaluate which standards will best serve the interests of our kids.
Pence is exactly right. States and local school districts should determine the standards and assessments that are used in their classrooms, not national organizations or Washington bureaucrats. Indiana has provided a good model for other states that want to determine whether or not Common Core is a wise undertaking.
Hitting the “Pause” button is a good first step, but no matter the outcome of the evaluations by various agencies in Indiana, the idea of ceding control over the content taught in any state should give governors and policymakers pause. It is, as state constitutions and statutes demonstrate, the responsibility of states and local school districts to define and implement standards, assessments, and curricula.
Common Core national standards represent an unprecedented surrender of state educational control to Washington. Conservative leaders can reclaim control over the content taught in their local schools by resisting the imposition of national standards and tests and preventing their implementation.