Common Core is a series of standards for education that has been implemented in schools across the United States. The standards attempt to regulate what is taught in the classroom and set standards for what all American students in grades kindergarten through graduation learn. Indiana may become the first state to accept and then reject Common Core. I feel removing Common Core is a dangerous idea that will only be a detriment to Indiana students.
As a former educator, daughter of an educator and Hoosier student, the debate hits close to home. Many of the Common Core standards focus on improving mathematics skills as well as writing, reading and speaking. When I was in high school, I felt that the basics were often underscored by teachers who simply were phoning it in. One feature of Common Core is that it helps hold teachers accountable for when their students consistently under perform.
Another major problem in the Hoosier state is that Indiana students just don’t perform as well as those in other states. The Center for American Progress reports that on national exams, Hoosier students score between 35%-38% lower than the average. Indiana simply doesn’t understand how far behind they fall. Even high school graduation rates in Indiana are about 6% lower than the national average. These poor numbers were reached under past Indiana state standards, which many opponents of Common Core support.
Groups like Hoosiers Against Common Core in Indiana believe that Common Core won’t allow teachers the freedom to teach in ways they see fit, and also see national education standards as a way to remove state’s rights. When I was teaching, I would have welcomed clear cut standards and strategies to teach them. The former standards were confusing, unclear and often were “teaching to test,” rather than offer actual educational value. Guidelines will not limit how a teacher can teach, but show them what they should be teaching. You can come up with creative, adaptive and interesting ways to teach any material.
Other opponents in Indiana have argued that an emphasis on increased standardized testing is detrimental to students. The state already has ISTEP+, which has been used in Indiana since before I started kindergarten in the early 1990s. When I was teaching the past few school years, weeks were devoted ISTEP+ drilling rather than continuing to focus on new learning. Even as a teacher of an elective, I was encouraged to have my students write extensively to practice for the exam. Those who think the Common Core standardized test is somehow more time consuming or rigorous have not been teaching during ISTEP+ time.
Opponents also argue that old state standards were relatively sufficient as compared to Common Core. One of the most telling issues of Indiana’s past standards not being sufficient to teach students is that 2/3rds of all Indiana community college students need mathematics remediation. When I went to college,math courses that were difficult for me to complete were a breeze from my classmates from out of state. In fact, I was sent to remedial mathematics despite being an honors student in high school. I quickly came to understand that being an honors student from Indiana is not exactly a difficult feat compared to what other non-Hoosier students must complete.
I completely support Common Core, as I know I was let down by the Indiana education system when I was in school. I have many young family members in school, and want them to achieve their goals. When I was teaching, I saw even my brightest students struggling to learn information that could be taught in better ways using common core. Many of them weren’t capable of writing paragraphs that were coherent, and many others could barely do math. I want every Hoosier child to succeed in school and be taught in a way that they feel prepared and excited about learning.
Something needs to be done in Indiana, and Common Core has been trying to achieve that. It has not been able to be implemented at higher grade levels because of limitations set by legislators. Unfortunately, Common Core is being railroaded by politicians who neither understand the problems of Indiana education, nor care. I predict that unless the standards presented are unequivocally better than the old state standards, Indiana will continue to fall behind other states in education. Common Core, I believe, is the best option for Hoosier students.