All Eyes on Board of Ed as Indiana Drops Common Core Tests

Published August 1, 2013

Effective August 12, Indiana will withdraw from a national Common Core testing coalition as state policymakers reconsider the national standards and tests.  

“It is the right and responsibility of the state to make independent, fiscally responsible decisions regarding standards and assessments for the good of all the people of Indiana,” Gov. Mike Pence (R) said in a statement.

Indiana may re-join the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) if its state board of education chooses to stick with Common Core, as a 2013 law mandates it decide by July 2014 after a statewide review.

The move, which was required by a new state law, makes Indiana the latest state to withdraw from PARCC. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz (D) must also request the withdrawal.

Earlier in July, Georgia and Oklahoma announced they would not administer PARCC tests.

PARCC must keep at least 15 states involved or risk losing the federal grant that currently provides all its operating funds. PARCC includes 18 states and DC. The other national testing group, Smarter Balanced, has 24 participants.

What’s Next
This means Indiana children will continue to use state ISTEP+ tests for 2013-2014, and may continue to use ISTEP+ after then if the state board retains Indiana standards, said Claire Fiddian-Green, Pence’s special assistant for education. In that case, she said, the ISTEP+ would probably have to be revised “to meet college- and career-ready requirements.”

“[Pence] is affirming his commitment to making sure this comprehensive evaluation is conducted,” she said. “Withdrawing from PARCC shows Indiana is committed to this process before moving forward.”

The May law, formerly House Bill 1427, halted Indiana from further implementing Common Core in classrooms until after lawmakers and the state board had investigated it further, following a statewide firestorm from grassroots activists questioning the costs of moving Indiana to arguably worse academic standards. The legislature plans three Indianapolis hearings of two hours each on academic quality, transition costs, and student privacy concerns. After this, the state board must hold three public hearings, and vote on which standards and tests Indiana will have.

Foregone Conclusion?
This summer, Pence made six new appointments to the eleven-member state board of education, on which he controls all appointments except the state superintendent, who is elected and also serves as board chairman. The only public Common Core critic on the board is Andrea Neal, an Indianapolis teacher and Indiana Policy Review fellow whom House Education Chairman Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) suggested is a token opponent

“One of the commitments the governor made to advocates of slowing down Common Core was that he would have at least one person that would be either neutral or opposed to Common Core [on the state board] and that one person is obviously Andrea Neal,” Behning told a Tea Party crowd in Avon recently. “He believes that she might, even though she’s an opponent today, that if the facts are there she might be someone who would be able to be moved to change her position, so he believes she could be a valuable tool long-term.”

In response to an audience question, Behning later clarified that he hadn’t talked to Pence about this topic but received this impression from the governor’s staff. He also said the reason he refused to hear a bill to withdraw Indiana from Common Core in the 2013 session was resistance from House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis).

“The Speaker was not an advocate of moving a pause or a stop to Common Core at the point in time when [the bill] was introduced,” Behning said. “He had asked me before session if I were inclined to hear it, if I was he wouldn’t send it to my committee, he would send it to [the] rules [committee]…. Bills go there to die, basically.”

Indiana’s state board of education has voted twice to affirm Common Core, both before the governor’s new appointments.

If Indiana goes back to PARCC in July 2014, Fiddian-Greene said “I don’t think it will be problematic” that Indiana has not been involved in PARCC meetings in the meantime. PARCC tests are set to enter classrooms nationwide in 2014-2015.


Image by Republican Conference.