Hoosier Newspapers Point Out Common Core Critique

The first is an op/ed from the South Bend Tribune written by Joy Pullman.  Pullman is managing editor of School Reform News and a research fellow in education at The Heartland Institute.

She writes:

Superintendent Tony Bennett is likely to win re-election this fall. But as he campaigns these last few weeks, Bennett would be wise to preempt a coming erosion in his base and do his job as state education guardian by talking to more parents, teachers and voters about Indiana’s next set of curriculum and tests.

Bennett was briefly surprised in July when local residents asked him about federal control over what children learn through the Common Core, a set of K-12 lists for what every student should know in math and English and, soon, history, science and the arts.

More of that fury is coming. Indiana parents and teachers are becoming more nervous as Common Core mechanisms fall into place, and ignoring them will create a strong backlash among the very supporters Bennett needs to further his pro-school-choice agenda. Local networks of concerned residents are right now holding meetings on the Common Core throughout Indiana, at an astonishing rate. State representatives and local school board members are showing up.

I’ve attended several. The energy in the room is electric, in contrast to typical school board meetings. Teachers report reluctance to speak up about the unwieldy standards and corresponding curriculum and teaching requirements, for fear they will lose their jobs. Parents bring examples of needlessly complicated multiplication homework their child’s own teachers cannot explain. These are motivated grassroots activists no leader should ignore. Two words for Bennett: Dick Lugar.

Bennett himself has painted the Common Core as a state-motivated effort tainted by unwanted “federal overreach.” But there are several other reasons it has invited suspicion, and no one knows yet why these don’t bother Bennett.

These include that national, Common Core-aligned tests will soon replace the ISTEP, and the federal government is funding test development despite statutes forbidding the feds from determining curriculum. These tests are being designed behind closed doors and will not be released until 2014, years after Indiana has spent millions incorporating itself into the Core. Because Indiana now ties teacher evaluations to tests and requires private schools to use its tests if they want voucher funds, this sets the stage for non-Indiana bureaucrats to determine Indiana teacher dismissal and private school curricula.

Be sure to read the rest.

The second piece was by Russ Pulliam in The Indianapolis Star.  He presents both sides, but his first point was rather lame.

The jury is still out on the Common Core education standards.

One piece of evidence in Common Core’s favor is that impressive education reformers stand behind the standards, including Gov. Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. They gave us merit pay for teachers, more charter schools and vouchers for low-income parents to use private schools.

When will the jury be in?  After they’re implemented universally in 46 states and then prove to be a miserable failure?  Also could it be that Tony Bennett and Mitch Daniels while implemented some reforms are simply wrong on this?  There is a good list of education reformers who do not stand behind the standards.  That alone is not evidence.

He does concede that Common Core critics bring up some good points:

One is the cost of the new test to replace ISTEP. Two researchers, Patrick J. Murphy and Elliot M. Regenstein, put a $12 billion price tag on the tests for the 46 states joining the Common Core. They think they can bring the price down to $5 billion. But either price would be hard to swallow with a coming federal budget crisis.

Add to the costs the teacher training needed for new approaches to math and language arts instruction.

He then also brings up criticism that it will lower standards, “Critics also say that Common Core will lower standards for Indiana. Advocates note that the standards set only a minimum.”  Yet not mentioned is the fact the standards can only be altered a certain minimal amount – the Common Core has to represent 85% of a state’s standards so how much improvement can a state do with 15% of its standards?  So I don’t believe the counter-argument is a convincing one. 

Pulliam then asks if it is a reform or just a fad.  I’d say since it’s never been field tested we have to count the Common Core to the fad category.  Lot’s of hype, but no proof it’ll be effective.