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Indiana Finally OKs Standards to Replace Common-Core Adoption

Clinching the end of a long policy and political saga, the Indiana State Board of Education voted April 28 to adopt new standards in English/language arts and math to replace the state's 2010 adoption of the Common Core State Standards. 

The new standards are a hybrid of the common core and prior Indiana academic standards, and analysts have remarked that these new standards are in large part very similar, if not identical, to the common core in many areas. Last week, at the state's Education Roundtable, Gov. Mike Pence (R) and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz (D), who lead the roundtable, both voted in favor of these standards along with the vast majority of the rest of the roundtable. That all-clear from the Education Roundtable lead to the state board's vote a week later. Only state board member Andrea Neal weighed in against the new standards, saying they are "empty skill sets" and have made the weaknesses of the common core even worse. 

Before the final vote, several people testified to the state board about why they should not adopt the standards. As in the past, criticisms focused on the similarity of the new standards to the common core. There were also complaints about how the process didn't really give enough oxygen to common-core opponents, and critiques of the process of how the new standards were developed and considered. But the state board ultimately was unmoved by these complaints.

Board member David Freitas raised the issue of whether Indiana students using the new standards will be at a disadvantage to students in other states on tests like the ACT and SAT, to the extent that those tests will align explicitly to the common core. Sam Snideman, a senior policy analyst for the state Commission for Higher Education, said ultimately he expects the state's students to be as good if not better on such measures of college- and career-readiness. In any event, this is the next fight for the state—picking a new assessment that somehow fits with what will be unique standards. The state's prior assessment, the ISTEP, is in place for 2014-15, but after that, it's up in the air. 

In political terms, the vote satisfies Pence, who can now claim to have lived up to his promise about overseeing homegrown standards—indeed, he said after the roundtable's vote that the state had said "no to the common core" although that statement, again, is debatable. The state board can claim a resolution to the months of work developing new standards. Common-core supporters, if you listen to observers, can take great satisfaction in the new standards, whatever they're called (in fact they're called the Indiana College and Career Ready Standards). 

So how does this leave many anti-common-core activists in Indiana? They're very bitter about the similarity of the new standards to common core, but in terms of the policy process, they may have no choice but to fold, at least for now. A few months ago one such person, Hoosiers Against Common Core's Heather Crossin, told me that if the standards, which were at the time in draft form, were approved, they hoped to use it against Pence if he seeks reelection in 2016 (she didn't mention Ritz, who's also up for reelection). Will that argument carry force two years from now in the state's electoral politics?

And can those opposing the common core in other places take any heart from what's happened in Indiana? If such activists are seeking to have their states adopt standards dramatically different than the common core, it's not clear at all that they can.

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