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Indiana's Draft vs. the Common Core: A Comparison of Math Standards

As you may know by now, Indiana is experiencing some education turmoil. My colleague Andrew Ujifusa of State EdWatch described the situation as "a mixture of fierce education policy fights, governance struggles under a spotlight, and wrangling over the hottest K-12 topic in the nation—the common core."

The state is considering replacing the Common Core State Standards in math and English/language arts, which it adopted in 2010, with a set of standards that blend the common core and Indiana's previous state standards. For now, many teachers are walking the line between the common core and the preceding standards.

Some educators claim the blended standards are quite similar to the common core. A principal told Ujifusa that the change will be more noticeable in math, and a math specialist said the "'body of knowledge' hasn't been dramatically disrupted, even though the grades at which certain standards are introduced have shifted." (Another math specialist told him the merged standards are just "a confusing mess.")

But let's take a closer look at some math standards, using 6th grade as our case study. (For a comparison of the writing standards, head to Ujifusa's blog post here.)

• Indiana's new draft standards for 6th grade fall within four domains: number sense and computation; algebra and functions; geometry and measurement; and data analysis, statistics, and probability. These domains include a total of 45 standards.

• The common-core math standards for 6th grade are broken into five domains: ratios and proportional relationships; the number system; expressions and equations; geometry; and statistics and probability. In total, there are 29 standards within these domains. Some standards have more than one part—and including those as well, there are about 45 standards total. 

• The first standard under the statistics domain for Indiana's draft standards is: "Recognize a statistical question as one that anticipates variability in the data related to the question and accounts for it in the answers."

• For the common core, the first standard under the statistics domain reads: "Recognize a statistical question as one that anticipates variability in the data related to the question and accounts for it in the answers."

Yes, they're exactly the same. What about the last standard within the statistics domain? For the common core, the standard is: "Relating the choice of measures of center and variability to the shape of the data distribution and the context in which the data were gathered." And for the Indiana draft standards? Once again, it's the same.

The standards under the number sense domains have more differences, though some only in the order the standards are presented. For instance:

• The first number sense standard for Indiana is: "Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent and compare quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation." In the common core, that very same standard is fourth on the list within the number system domain.

•  The first number system standard in the common core is: "Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem." That exact same standard is the 11th standard on the Indiana draft. 

Here's a place where the two sets of standards do differ in terms of content.

• Within the Indiana draft standards, the sixth standard under number sense and computation is: "Convert between any two representations (fractions, decimals, percents) of positive rational numbers without the use of a calculator." The common-core math standards for 6th grade do not include that language at all. 

There is lots more to dig into here, and doubtless the state board of education will be doing that before it votes on the new standards April 9.

UPDATED (March 13): David Galvin, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, emailed to say the board will actually be voting on the standards later in April, at a date to be determined. "The reason for the delay is because the standards review teams need more time to address the nearly 1,100 public comments," he wrote.

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