Issue #3: Indiana Reconsiders Common Core
Another packed room awaited Indiana lawmakers reviewing Common Core national education standards Monday, with people lining the walls, ringing the star-studded hearing room floor, and filling the upper gallery.
The five-hour meeting was the first of three that lawmakers will conduct before another three by the state board of education. At the same time, accountants will estimate the costs of overhauling Indiana’s education system to fit the national goals and tests for English and math in grades K-12. By July 2014 the state board of education will decide whether Indiana improves its own standards or sticks with Common Core. Its decision then, like its decision to pause, will likely have ripple effects across the country.
The hearing topic was the standards’ academic quality, an especially big concern because Indiana’s standards have been recognized as among the best in the country, with independent reviews placing them above Common Core. Lawmakers frequently questioned testifiers and wondered aloud how Indiana could have such reportedly high standards yet turn out high school graduates who need high levels of remediation once reaching college. This too is a national problem.
The decline of U.S. education includes a teaching force that has not mastered the concepts kids need to compete globally, several testifiers responded. Research shows U.S. teachers come from the bottom of their college classes and get essentially content-free training with grade inflation (high grades for poor work), which is the opposite of what happens in countries whose students achieve high academic performance.
This problem has been compounded for several generations, meaning today’s teachers’ teachers never knew what they and their students are missing. This makes them poor judges of whether curriculum and standards are high-quality--pertinent to the Common Core debate--and even worse, it handicaps their ability to teach students the knowledge necessary for success. This is why Common Core could not succeed even if it were of good academic quality.
SOURCE: School Reform News, The Heartland Institute
IN THIS ISSUE:
- NATIONWIDE: In 2013, 13 states created or expanded private school choice, including tax-credit scholarships and vouchers. North Carolina is the latest state to allow tens of thousands of children the opportunity to choose a private school.
- FLORIDA: Sunshine State lawmakers reduced funding for online education, and now they’re angry because fewer students are enrolling.
- LOUISIANA: Almost three times as many children--8,000--have applied for state vouchers this year compared with last year. So many students want to join the state's Course Choice mini-voucher program, the state superintendent is looking for ways to free up more money for them. Course Choice allows children to stay at their school but choose among many more classes from an array of independent providers.
- WISCONSIN: Parents are applying for new statewide vouchers, and schools are rushing to attract the voucher students. Lawmakers expanded the Milwaukee- and Racine-only program statewide, but only for 500 more students this year, and schools are telling families to prepare for disappointment.
- FLORIDA: Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigns amid a school grade-changing scandal. His departure could lead to Florida exiting the upcoming national Common Core testing system. Arizona may be the next state to leave the national tests, as lawmakers complain about their cost.
- SAT and ACT: The two biggest college entrance exams are changing to fit Common Core. The new testing protocol is less about getting the right answer than about explaining your process for arriving at whatever answer you come up with, says College Board President David Coleman.
- INDIANA: Effective August 12, Indiana will withdraw from the national Common Core testing coalition as state policymakers reconsider involvement in the national standards and tests.
- SPENDING: Because of Common Core, school districts are making massive computer purchases without considering whether they will benefit students. The research is mixed on whether computers increase instructional quality. Studies consistently find computers merely added to classrooms do nothing for students.
- LOUISIANA: In talking about Common Core, Gov. Bobby Jindal says only he opposes federally mandated curriculum. Whether he thinks Common Core fits that description is open to interpretation.
- NORTH CAROLINA: Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation that lets charter schools hire more elementary teachers without teaching certificates. The change stems from the idea that unlicensed people can make excellent teachers, and that charter schools are an appropriate place to try out innovative ideas, said bill author and state Sen. Jerry Tillman.
- SOUTH KOREA: The nation's top teacher earns $4 million a year. He’s one of thousands of private tutors parents pay based on performance for hours of after-school instruction.
- SPECIAL EDUCATION: The nation’s special education policies are broken and demand attention, says a school lawyer. She notes current policies for special-needs children lead to extravagant spending and disadvantage other children.
- CALIFORNIA: "Holistic" college applications are confusing, unfair, and subjective, says an app reader at the University of California-Berkeley. Universities use them to give preference to certain groups of applicants rather than judging students on individual academic merit.
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