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Good riddance to comprehensive education effort

Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 12:01 am

State can do better than relying on Common Core.

A number of Indiana editorial pages are highly disappointed that state legislators made such a big, silly fuss about ditching the Common Core academic standards that so many states have rushed to adopt in recent years.

“It leaves open the question of what standards the state will now use and ensures that the arguments will continue for months, if not years, to come,” laments The Indianapolis Star. “Meanwhile, the need to dramatically improve Indiana’s 42nd in the nation ranking in workers’ education attainment is more urgent than ever.”

Common Core standards aren’t federal, the Times of Northwest Indiana pointed out last year, but were created by governors, who wanted a way to “provide fair comparisons of students across the nation with their peers.”

But a new study from the Brookings Institution lends more support to legislators than editorial pages. It compared standardized test scores from all 50 states over the last five years. It found that states with standards most closely resembling Common Core fared worse on math tests than states with their own standards. And states that followed a hybrid approach — using some combination of Common Core and their own standards — fared worse than both Common Core states and non-Common Core states.

So perhaps going it alone isn’t such a bad idea after all.

And while governors came up with the idea, the standards were developed by private associations and organizations, not states. And if the federal government is using Common Core as a way to push states into complying with its vision – it is doing that – it doesn’t matter much where it originated.

It is not true that legislators walked away from Common Core with no plan for implementing the state’s own standards. A final vote on changes to Indiana’s new standards is set for the week of April 28. The State Board of Education already has more than 2,000 comments from Hoosiers to analyze and will consider them all before adopting final standards.

Those standards will need to be judged on their own merits. Do they correctly measure the things they claim to measure? Are those the right things to measure? Are the standards understandable to parents and fair to students?

But it was a good move to step away from Common Core, which is the government’s “comprehensive” approach to education. Any effort to be so all-encompassing – think of health care, immigration reform, climate change – is bound to create far more problems than it solves. The very use of the word should be a strong hint to run away as quickly as we can.