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After Ditching Common Core, Indiana's NCLB Waiver is on Shaky Ground

UPDATED

Indiana, which recently became the first state to ditch the Common Core Standards, has landed itself in hot waiver water with the U.S. Department of Education. While the Hoosier State hasn't officially been placed on "high risk" status—the dubious distinction that proceeded the revocation of Washington state's waiver—its flexibility is definitely on thin ice with the feds.The Education Department sent a letter to Indiana May 1 explaining that conditions have now been placed on its waiver.

States didn't have to adopt the common core in order to get a federal waiver from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act. Instead, they simply have to adopt standards that will get students ready for college or the workforce. Common core counts, but a state can also use standards that have gotten the seal of approval from its post-secondary institutions. (Virginia, for example, went this route.)

Indiana's State Board of Education recently approved a new set of standards to replace the common core. (My colleague, Andrew Ujifusa, sketched out here the substantial similarities between the new Indiana standards and the common core). The department is now asking the state to provide evidence that these new standards pass muster with the state university system.

And Indiana, like more than half a dozen states, originally planned to be part of one of two consortia developing exams aligned to the common core but then dropped out. Before nixing the standards, Indiana decided not to use the test from the consortia it belonged to, PARCC. Now the department wants the state's plan for a new test, aligned to its newly adopted standards.

Indiana, like many states, was also dinged by waiver monitors for failing to meet expectations in a number of other areas, including intervening in low-performing schools.

Importantly, however, Indiana isn't being placed on "high risk", as Washington was, and as Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon are. So far, the department has shied away from using the high-risk label for states that reject the common core and tests. The administration has used it only for states that run afoul of its vision for teacher evaluation.

The Hoosier State must submit an amended waiver within 60 days to assuage the feds' concerns.

Glenda Ritz, the Indiana state chief, said, essentially, that her state is ready to comply with the federal department's requests. "My Department has been working diligently to address the issues made public in today's report," she said in a statement. "My Department is prepared to demonstrate full compliance with our flexibility waiver and submit amendments that are necessary due to legislative action that has been taken since the 2013 legislative session." 

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