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Common Core skeptic named to Indiana school board

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Friday, June 14, 2013 - 4:55 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — One of Republican Gov. Mike Pence's new appointments to the State Board of Education has openly questioned the state's adoption of a national set of reading and math education standards.

That new appointment comes after the Legislature this spring passed a bill suspending implementation of the Common Core State Standards in more grades for a year while new state reviews are conducted.

Pence's appointments of six people to the 11-member board on Thursday included two holdover members from the current board, which has unanimously voted to reaffirm its support for the benchmarks it adopted in 2010.

New board member Andrea Neal, who wrote a recent column for several Indiana newspapers supporting the pause in Common Core implementation, replaces vocal standards supporter Neil Pickett, a one-time adviser to former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Neal, a former Indianapolis Star editorial page editor who teaches at St. Richard's Episcopal School in Indianapolis, wrote that she had reviewed many textbooks promoted by publishers as "Common Core-aligned" and found they weren't better than current materials.

"Education reformers should stop reinventing the wheel and focus their attention on the recruitment, training and retention of excellent teachers for every classroom," she wrote. "Indiana legislators made a wise move when they decided to pause implementation of the Common Core. Other states will follow."

Another new member, Brad Oliver, an associate dean of education at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, said he would wait to decide his vote on continuing Common Core until after public testimony but that he didn't agree with some opponents' objections to Common Core.

"I don't share all the controversial concerns that are out there," he told The Indianapolis Star. "I have read the standards and (am) very well versed in academic standards of Indiana right now."

Pence, who signed the implementation delay bill into law, said he believed the pause would allow time for state officials, educators and the public to have more discussion about the teaching standards developed by a national group of state school officials and since adopted by 45 states.

They are now being used in Indiana's kindergarten and first-grade classes, with all grades set to use them starting in the 2014-15 school year.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and other Common Core supporters say the state's education officials have been reviewing the benchmarks for years and that the additional review isn't necessary.

Critics maintain that Indiana's own school standards were better and that adoption of the Common Core has cost the state control over its education expectations.

Democratic state schools superintendent Glenda Ritz, who took office in January, has said she doesn't believe enough public review was done before the standards were adopted and supports the new round of public hearings.

Ritz is chairwoman of the State Board of Education, while all of the other members are appointed to staggered terms by the governor. The terms for the new board members start July 1.