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EDITORIAL

A Pence curve ball on Common Core

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 12:01 am

The greater burden will be on critics.

The headline on the ed.org website story asked, “Has Gov. Pence just saved the Common Core in Indiana?” and it seems a fair question. After receiving mounting criticism for being one of the 45 states to approve those national education standards, Indiana decided to adopt a one-year moratorium on further implementation so the issue can be debated.

Now Mike Pence has thrown a curve ball by deciding to keep two current Indiana Board of Education members whose terms were up as well as appointing six new members. The math is pretty simple: The 11-member board unanimously approved Common Core, and seven of that group are still serving. Even if all six new members are against the standards, they will have to persuade at least one old member to have a change of heart.

Perhaps they will. The appointees include Andrea Neal, a vocal critic of Common Core. The columns she has written for the Indiana Policy View have convincingly made the case that adopting the standards might cause more problems than it solves.

But Common Core supporters aren’t exactly going to be quiet themselves. A group of Indiana teachers has just asked state school Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who has also voiced skepticism about the standards, to start supporting them.

All this back and forth could at least increase the chances that the legislative hearings scheduled this summer to discuss the moratorium will be paid attention to by Hoosiers. What is needed more than anything is greater public awareness.

Common Core supporters have made what at times have seemed extravagant claims about what unified standards can accomplish. Will they really rescue U.S. schools from mediocrity or worse and make them competitive with the best schools in the rest of the world? Critics meanwhile, seem almost hysterical in claiming that the standards will completely dumb down education and replace noble local control with an evil national curriculum.

And the general public – including parents with children in school – seems largely oblivious to what the standards are, let alone what effects they might have on education. The debate has gone on largely in education and political circles. If the debate is to be serious, it has to come fully into the public arena.

The one certainty is that Common Core will profoundly change how public education operates in this country. National standards can’t exist without nationally standardized tests and those, inevitably, will lead to a national curriculum. Education traditionally has been mostly a local issue, but that would change forever.

Before his surprise education board moves, Gov. Pence promised a “long, hard look” at Common Core. So let’s have at it.