A key question rarely got asked this spring as Indiana legislators debated whether to stick with the Common Core State Standards initiative: What do teachers think?
Now we’ve got an answer. According to the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s teachers overwhelmingly support the standards.
The AFT released results from a nationwide teacher survey on Common Core last weekend at the annual meeting of the Education Writers Association. It found that 75 percent of teachers support their states’ decisions to adopt the standards.
On the other hand, many teachers said their schools aren’t doing enough to help them prepare. And more than four in five back AFT President Randy Weingarten’s call for a one-year moratorium on high-stakes testing based on the standards. Of course, Indiana teachers may or may not agree with teachers in other states.
The AFT survey included 800 teachers in the 45 states that have adopted Common Core and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. It was conducted in March, around the time Indiana lawmakers were debating whether to put the brakes on the standards.
The legislature finally approved House Bill 1427, which calls for a “pause” implementing the standards pending a closer examination by state officials and three public hearings. It also calls for the state Office of Management and Budget to study the cost of implementing or ditching the standards.
It’s confusing enough that both supporters and opponents of Common Core declared victory.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce issued a statement applauding lawmakers for staying the course on the standards. Stand for Children, which also lobbied for keeping the standards, praised the legislature for its “strong support” of Common Core but suggested Gov. Mike Pence veto the bill because it’s not needed. (There’s not much chance of that).
On the other side, Hoosiers Against the Common Core declared the legislation be a “historic” victory. Indianapolis Star columnist Russ Pulliam wrote a column headlined “How Indiana’s grass-root activists took down the Common Core.”
Reading the legislation, it’s hard to conclude the standards got taken down. HB 1427 explicitly doesn’t repeal Indiana’s adoption of the Common Core, and it doesn’t halt the initial roll-out, scheduled to be in place this fall for grades K-2. It says the State Board of Education must vote by July 2014 to adopt standards that, from the language in the bill, sound a lot like Common Core. That’s the same state board that voted unanimously for Common Core in 2010.
But the wild card is Gov. Mike Pence. As the Indianapolis Star’s Scott Elliott has reported, Pence has refused to be pinned down on the Common Core, but his rhetoric – insisting that “we’re going to do education the Indiana way” – suggests he may be more opposed than in favor.
Given the “Corespiracy” mind-set that has taken hold on the right, Pence may sense political gain in making Indiana the first state to junk standards that the Obama administration embraces. He could use upcoming appointments to the State Board of Education to shake things up.
Schools and teachers that have been preparing to implement the Common Core could face a whole new level of uncertainty.