Live Blog: Indiana Common Core Withdrawal Hearing Jan. 16

Published January 16, 2013

Today at 1:30 p.m. ET, Indiana’s Senate Education Committee will hear testimony on a bill to withdraw the state from the Common Core. 

The Common Core is a set of grade-by-grade requirements for what kids should know in math and English. Forty-five states have adopted it, and Indiana led in promoting and participating in it. 

But parents and voters aren’t sure they like what the Core is bringing to their state, and will rally this morning at 11 a.m. before the hearing to express their disapproval of a national initiative that is impacting nearly every aspect of K-12 education. 

At the hearing, opponents and proponents will have two hours each to present their cases.

School Reform News is attending these events and will update this page regularly today. Also follow @JoyPullmann on Twitter for more immediate updates.


Update: 1:47 p.m.

Families have packed out the committee room as SB193 sponsor Sen. Schneider introduces his reasons for wanting Indiana to withdraw from the Core. He notes that the parents who first brought it to his attention sent their child to a parochial school, so the Core does “have an impact” on charter, private, and home schools. 

For a morning info session and lunchtime rally, parents, grandparents, and kids packed a marble-laden state Senate atrium to hear speakers touch on their main points and get directions to their representatives’ offices. 


Update 2:24 p.m.

The Indianapolis moms who started this whole caper testify. Erin Tuttle talks about how the Common Core led her private Catholic school to implement “fuzzy” math in her third grader’s class, which was vague and therefore confusing to parents and child. It was also easier than what her older child had done in the same grade. 

“I was asked to sign on to the standards before they were written,” said Former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott. “I quickly learned this was not about collaboration among the states, it was about control.”

He noted that some Core proponents openly admit they wanted to create national markets for education providers, and that the standards have never been piloted anywhere.

“They tell us we should continue with this process because they have the best of intentions,” he said.

He also observed from his experience working with teachers that student achievement plummets when teachers are required to implement entirely new programs.


Update: 2:56 p.m.

University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky launches right in after giving her credentials: The Common Core English language arts standards “are chiefly empty skill sets. They contain no content. They cannot even lead to a meaningful high school diploma until one begins to specify what the content is.”

She criticized the standards for requiring English teachers to move from literature–their specialty–to informational text, which is also less complex. The requirement for elementary teachers to teach 50 percent informational texts and in high school 70 percent informational texts was “made in someone’s fantasy world without consulting English teachers,” she said.

Then she criticized the standards themselves. For example, the middle school writing standards are “actually impossible for middle school students to achieve. Few sixth, seventh, eighth graders can understand what a claim, academic argument is. It takes a certain amount of constant reading and intellectual sophistication to understand [that].”

She then discussed the two things in English study that lead to college readiness: Complex literary study in high school and a wide vocabulary.

“Did difficult words keep you from reading a good story with an exciting plot? No. You can’t possibly study all the words you need for college, But you pick them up by reading.”


Update: 3:26 p.m.

There was brief testimony on the Common Core’s cost–estimated at $380 million for Indiana–and from a Fort Wayne school board member and a representative from Americans for Prosperity. 

The panels switched to Common Core supporters. First was the head of Indiana’s Chamber of Commerce. His chief concern was that the state legislature is not the right body to set standards, and would take power from the state’s board of education if it did. A state senator said several senators had the same worry, and an amendment would attach to the bill to deal with it.

Then Michael Petrilli took the stage, and kept it for about a half hour. He first congratulated Indiana: “Indiana has accomplished more in past two years on ed reform than any state in a decade.”

“This is not an easy decision you face in Indiana” because Indiana had high standards before adopting the Common Core. “Most states’ standards before the Common Core were awful.” He also agreed the Obama administration “politicized” the standards.

He then gave three reasons Indiana should retain the Core: the state has already expended time and money on it, and stopping may cost more than proceeding; states like Indiana with high standards often do not have high student achievement and 3) the standards are unleashing an “incredible wave of innovation.”

He then addressed three arguments from Core opponents, saying they were all false: that algebra must be pushed back to ninth grade (“it’s negotiable”); that the standards require English teachers to incorporate large amounts of informational text “(“the requirement is across the curriculum,” not just for English); and that a great amount of online learning apps won’t be useful in Indiana.

After his diplomatic, energetic testimony, Petrilli was grilled for at least 15 minutes by senators. The asked how it was possible to prevent future federal encroachment if Indiana retained the Core, what objections to the Core stemmed from dislike of President Obama, whether any Indiana officials helped craft the standards, and at what point Petrilli would consider the standards detrimental.

He answered the tests would determine that. They will arrive in 2014.

See his scripted testimony here

Update: 4:50 p.m.

After a speaker from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Rogers noted that 35 people are on the list to testify and at this rate many will get no chance by the 6 p.m. hearing deadline. She asks senators to limit questions. 

Jim Applegate from the Lumina Foundation, a major college preparation charity, took the stand. By 2018, he said, two-thirds of jobs will require a post-secondary credential. He believes the standards are tougher and represent a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to improve student learning.

A state senator noted that education has been constantly overhauled for decades to little change, and asked: “How many experiments do we need to throw at our schools before they improve?” 

After a Holly Kuznich from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where she stated the chamber’s general support for high standards but not federal involvement, Michael Rush of the Center for College and Career Readiness arose. 

Image by Scott Vandehey.