Erin Tuttle and Heather Crossin, co-founders of Hoosiers Against the Common Core, started their opposition movement as two mothers comparing notes about their children's new math program in 2011. Investigating where it came from took them on an odyssey of discovery about the Common Core State Standards, and a growing list of reasons the two moms did not appreciate Indiana's adoption of the standards.
Over the past year, Tuttle and Crossin have taken their cause to thousands of parents across Indiana, and into the halls of the statehouse, where they scored their first victory Feb. 13 when a proposal to delay implementation of the common core standards passed the Senate education committee by a vote of 7-4.
The legislation, which has been watered down from a previous version introduced in January, will now go to the full Senate for a vote Tuttle expects next week.
"Our biggest beef is that the common core standards were adopted wholesale by Indiana, adopted verbatim, and [the state] can add only 15 percent of its own standards," she said in a phone interview. However, any supplemental material taught beyond the common core standards would not be part of testing under the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two consortia designing tests for the common core. "Since teacher evaluations and school rankings are tied to results on those tests, it is unlikely extra curriculum would carry much weight," Tuttle says.
"The other big problem we have is that the common core standards are copyrighted and owned by the National Governors Association, so Indiana doesn't have the power to alter or change them if, in fact, one of the standards isn't working out well," Tuttle says. "Once people learned [the standards] were developed without input from Indiana and behind closed doors, that was a problem."
How people found out is a story of a grassroots campaign launched by Tuttle and Crossin, who crisscrossed the state making their case in meetings Tuttle describes as "educational," while also connecting with organizations that dislike the standards for a variety of reasons. As Education Week's Andrew Ujifusa wrote in "Pressure Mounts in Some States Against Common Core,"
the Indiana movement is mirrored in Colorado and Idaho. And in Alabama, a recent decision was made to pull out of testing consortia associated with the common core.
All of this was unfamiliar to Tuttle and Crossin in the fall of 2011, when they were surprised to discover that adherence to the common core was the reason the Catholic school their children attended had changed its math program.
"I have an older child in 7th grade, and she had a much different math curriculum. It was a traditional math program, a very good one, and she did very well," Tuttle recalls. Her 3rd-grade son came home with a math book that looked less challenging, and she wondered why.
Her inquiry about how "Pearson enVision Math" became the new math text produced what she thought was a surprising response: It was because of its alignment with the Common Core State Standards. Even though her child attended private school, the math book was adopted, she learned, so students could comprehend the math questions as they would be prepared for testing under PARCC standards.
"Reform math blanketed the parochial school system almost overnight," Tuttle recalls.
Tuttle and Crossin asked who they could go to at the state education department to change the standards, only to find out they already had been adopted by the state Board of Education.
The two mothers decided it was time to do some education of their own. "We went from speaking to 10 people in the basement of a church to speaking at the airport hangar with 500 people. We led 50 different statewide information sessions about the common core; we have 50 different groups supporting us," she explains.
According to their website, the ultimate goal of Hoosiers Against Common Core is to restore:
- Local control of education;
- Quality standards; and
- The right of teachers to practice their craft.
They also seek to reduce the power of standardized testing.
"We aren't lobbyists. We aren't paid. We're just parents who are concerned about the future of our children's education," says Tuttle.