THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
---- — INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The state Department of Education on Thursday proposed new education requirements for students that combine national standards, former Indiana policies and benchmarks from other states.
Lawmakers have grappled with keeping national Common Core guidelines that gauge what students should be learning at each grade level and set new standards specific to the state. Those national standards were adopted by most states over the last few years with little fanfare, but anger has grown among tea partyers and liberals who have varying problems with the federal requirements.
Conservative anger in Indiana spurred the most recent action, but the changes between the state guidelines and Common Core might not be that stark. The requirements announced Thursday include a mix of Common Core and former Indiana standards, but largely will remain the same, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Danielle Shockey said. She said teachers likely could use the same textbooks.
The average parent is unlikely to notice a difference between the new state standards and the national Common Core standards, Shockey said.
"We are not changing everything a first grader needs to know and be able to do," Shockey said. "This is what a first grade teacher has been teaching, whether it's been labeled Indiana 2000, 2009 or the current standard. The skills in which they'll be teaching will remain the same mostly."
The debate also is playing out in the Indiana House, where a panel of representatives on Thursday voted 10-2 to send a bill axing the national standards to the full chamber for review. If passed, the legislation in the General Assembly would void Common Core and set a July deadline for the Indiana Board of Education to approve new standards.
However, new standards could be set regardless, with board members' approval.
"We put together a process to write Indiana standards, and I think that's a positive move," said Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, the bill's co-author. "What we're doing is staying with standards that are written in Indiana with a lot of input from Hoosiers, teachers and educators."
Indiana was among the first states in the U.S. to adopt Common Core in 2010 on the recommendation of former schools Superintendent Tony Bennett and former Gov. Mitch Daniels, both Republicans. Forty-five states have adopted them, but Indiana is among several looking to drop them.
Indiana "paused" implementation of Common Core last year while a bipartisan panel studied whether to shift course. But panel members were inconclusive about how to move forward.
The announcement of the proposed guidelines marks the start of a flurry of review to finish by summer.
Three public hearings are scheduled next week, and online input will be accepted until March 12.
That gives a little more than two weeks to analyze that input and whip together a revised draft for yet another review by the Indiana Education Roundtable, which includes Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, Republican Gov. Mike Pence and other education and business representatives. The roundtable must make a final recommendation to the Board of Education by April 9.
But opponents worry the fast pace won't leave teachers enough time to adjust curriculum before classes start this fall.
"We need time for professional development," Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said before voting against the bill to set a July deadline for new standards. "We need to make sure teachers have a chance to do scripted teaching. I just think the timeline is not right in this."
Committee members tasked with crafting the standards also must juggle meeting national guidelines to ensure Indiana maintains a federal No Child Left Behind waiver. Losing the waiver could mean more stringent reporting guidelines for schools, Shockey said.
A current draft of the changes is available on the Department of Education website. Public hearings are scheduled for 3-7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Ivy Tech Community College Southern Indiana, Feb. 25 at the Indiana State Library and Feb. 26 at Plymouth High School in Plymouth, Ind.
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