Now that Indiana has released the draft version of English/language arts and math standards intended to replace the Common Core State Standards, we can try to discern where the standards actually differ.
As a sample, let's look at the youngest students—kindergarteners—and see how the two sets of standards handle the teaching of measurement and data. I chose this area in part because the language and concepts will be as basic (and therefore, hopefully, as clear) as possible. Here's a screenshot of the standards in the Indiana College and Career Ready Standards:
In those draft Indiana standards, the three standards above the grey bar are for measurement, the three below are for data.
Now, here's how the Common Core State Standards deal with measurement and data for kindergarteners:
Some initial, superficial observations are that there are only three discrete standards in the common core in this area, while there are a total of six in Indiana's draft standards. This isn't surprising, since one of common core's main selling points is that it requires teachers to address fewer content standards across the board, but allows them to address each standard that is included in more detail in their classrooms.
One other thing that jumps out quickly is that the third standard from Indiana is the same, word for word, as the first standard from common core: "Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object."
Now, look at the first standard from Indiana. It asks students to make direct comparisons between two objects and recognize the differences between them. It specifies a number of ways the two objects can be distinguished, such as length, weight, and temperature. Now contrast it to the second standard from common core, which also asks students to compare two objects, but doesn't ennumerate the different categories through which the objects can be distinguished. It provides an example and asks students to describe the difference, which the Indiana standard doesn't explicitly do. The common core standard also seems to leave more latitude in terms of how the objects can be compared.
One notable contrast is the second Hoosier standard, which requires students to understand concepts of time, such as morning and afternoon, and also to recognize that calendars and clocks measure time. You won't find the concept of time addressed in the common core standards in question. This is in the same vein as something I wrote about recently, when the Florida state school board altered the common core to require that basic and practical financial concepts be taught. There's an emphasis on every-day life in the shifts Florida has made and that Indiana is now considering. Here's the new Florida standard on money that was added:
Another Indiana standard not found in common core standards is having students formulate questions that they must answer by organizing data using pictures, graphs, and objects. And a separate standard requires Indiana student to "record and organize information using objects and pictures." (CLARIFICATION: The common core does contain these two standards regarding pictures and organizing information, but in later grades and not in kindergarten.) So the authors of these draft Indiana standards have taken pains to spell out some specific examples of how the standards could actually be taught in classrooms.
Now, that's just one comparison of one area of the standards in one grade. But perhaps some of the differences and similarities identified are instructive.
I asked Marc Porter Magee, a supporter of the common core standards and the president of 50CAN, a nationwide K-12 advocacy group, how important the gap between the Indiana standards and the common core is for the state's public schools. He said that while states can make some alterations or additions to the standards and still keep them essentially at the same level of quality, at some point, major deviations from the common core will make the new standards into a lesser product overall.
"If Indiana went back to their old standards, that would be a step backwards," he said.