EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Indianapolis Star.
Zach Foughty of the Indiana Department of Education made some claims in regard to the new Common Core Standards for grades K-12 that deserve a response.
While it is true that the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Initiative, saying this makes it a state-led effort ignores the heavy involvement by interests in Washington, DC and high-dollar groups like the Gates Foundation. The Common Core Initiative is being enforced by the federal government, which is playing a carrot and stick role with the states. The Obama Administration is tying Race to the Top funding and No Child Left Behind waivers to states’ adoption of Common Core. That fact alone should concern many Hoosiers.
Mr. Foughty states that Indiana can “review and supplement” the Common Core State Standards, which is only somewhat true. By adopting Common Core, Indiana has agreed to implement the national standards word for word – it can change or subtract nothing. We can “supplement” them only to the extent that the additions do not constitute more than 15% of the subject area. If Indiana parents or teachers want to change anything about the standards, they’ll be wasting their time to call Mr. Foughty – neither he nor anyone else in Indiana will have the power to modify them.
Mr. Foughty’s belief that Common Core will help transient military families and equalize standards for some other lower performing states is noble. However, even some Common Core advocates like the Fordham Foundation have said that Indiana’s current state standards are better than the Common Core. We should focus on preserving high standards for Hoosier students who are here and pursuing an Indiana diploma. Alabama’s standards are the concern of the Alabama DOE.
In fact, Common Core appears to lower Indiana’s standards and expectations in several ways. Dr. James Milgram of Stanford University says the Common Core math standards will put our students about two years behind those of other high-achieving countries. The drafters of Common Core have admitted under questioning that the standards are designed to prepare students for nonselective community colleges, not four-year universities. By grade 12, Hoosier students would see their literature study cut by 70%, in favor of “studying” texts such as technical manuals. Common Core is designed to train students for static industry jobs, not to educate them as human beings and free citizens. The men who founded our country were educated with Shakespeare, not technical manuals.
Indiana needs to be very cautious about following any national plan for textbooks, tests, and curricula standards. We should not lower our current expectations or hand over any of our decision-making surrounding these standards and what our teachers teach to federal planners of any kind.