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Reville on Indiana's Decision to Drop Common Core

Indiana, one of the early adopters of the Common Core Standards Initiative nearly four years ago, became the first state to drop the Common Core standards initiative yesterday following Governor Mike Pence’s signing of a new legislation. Professor Paul Reville discusses how Indiana’s decision may or may not impact education and the national standards movement.

Does Indiana’s decision to step back from Common Core really make a significant statement? Indiana’s action on the Common Core will garner attention for its symbolic value, but it remains to be seen whether there will be any substantial differences between the upcoming Indiana standards and the Common Core standards.

Is this move surprising? It’s not surprising for several reasons.  First of all, elected, chief executives often want to chart a different course than their predecessors on important matters. We see this all the time with governors, mayors, and urban superintendents. The reforms of one administration are often abandoned by a succeeding administration irrespective of merit. A second predictable reason for apprehension about or abandonment of the Common Core is the imminent implementation of the new assessments. The rubber hits the road when performance against the standards is measured. Many state leaders are anxious about how their schools will perform against the new, higher Common Core standards. Finally, the Common Core standards have become a cause célèbre for certain political groups in the U.S., and many state leaders are experiencing heavy political pressure to distance themselves from the Common Core for reasons that are usually more ideological than educational.

If a state decides to back out of Common Core and create its own standards, are we still able to achieve the same goals in education as a country? Indiana’s action will have little effect on the rest of the country, although it may isolate Indiana and present special challenges for Indiana teachers. Those teachers had been implementing Indiana’s original standards, but in recent years, they have been asked to do the hard work of transitioning to and implementing Common Core. Now, they are going to be asked, in a matter of months, to change gears once again, and implement a new and hastily considered set of Indiana standards. Meanwhile, 44 other states will be implementing the Common Core, learning from common experiences, sharing curriculum and assessment materials and efficiencies while holding themselves accountable to a national standard of performance.

Do you anticipate more Common Core states will follow Indiana’s lead? Because of the mounting political pressure and a certain amount of test anxiety, a number of other states are considering ways of distancing themselves from the Common Core and the new assessments. I wouldn’t expect this to be the last symbolic gesture directed at the Common Core, but I think most states are now focused on helping teachers develop the most effective strategies for educating all students to high standards. In the end, it’s all about what students learn, not which politicians endorse which set of standards, but rather how is each state marshaling its resources and developing its teaching talent so as to maximize the opportunities for students to achieve high standards.