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How Will Indiana's Common Core 'Pause' Affect Its NCLB Waiver?

To get a waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act, Indiana attested that it had adopted the Common Core State Standards and joined a consortium developing common tests.

Now, both are in doubt.

The state legislature approved and sent to the governor a bill to "pause" common core implementation, which had started in grades K-1, pending more study and state board of education hearings. From a practical standpoint, this may or may not mean a whole lot (except maybe a whole lot of confusion). The state is teaching only common core in grades K-1, and common standards alongside Indiana standards in all other grades. So the "pause" just means that Indiana standards will stay around for at least a while longer, according to Glenda Ritz, Indiana's superintendent of public instruction, who talked to me about education issues in general for a wide-ranging story I'm working on.

What's more, Ritz told me she wants to see Indiana pursue its own tests linked to its standards—whatever they may be, common core or not. (Indiana is a member of the PARCC testing consortium.) When I asked her if Indiana might pull out of PARCC, she told me, "that could happen."

In fact, former Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett, now the Florida chief, has acknowledged that his state needs a Plan B in case the new tests aren't ready in time. Alabama has already withdrawn from both testing consortia. Fordham's Checker Finn predicts the whole common-testing thing will fade away.

Even though the future of common standards and tests is in doubt in Indiana, Ritz said she is committed to keeping the state's NCLB waiver and has been in close contact with federal education officials about the issues.

States don't have to adopt common standards or participate in the common tests to get a waiver. But it's the most direct way. As an alternative, states can have their institutions of higher education certify that their standards are college- and career-ready, and they can develop a plan for their own tests that would be peer reviewed.

Obviously, such changes would require a hefty amendment to the state's waiver plan. And given the anti-common-standards sentiment that's bubbling up in several state capitols, federal officials may be fielding a few such requests in the coming months.

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