Protest at a meeting of the Indiana Education Roundtable, April 21 2014. Photo: Hoosiers Against Common Core

Protesters confront the Education Roundtable yesterday. Photo: Hoosiers Against Common Core

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence yesterday signed off on new education standards for Indiana schools despite protests from Hoosiers who say the standards are a rebranded form of the much-disputed Common Core program.

“We have clearly become not only the first state to step out of the Common Core but in the aftermath of that we have become the first state to literally go through thousands of hours to develop our own standards, and I am grateful to everyone that was involved,” Pence told the Indianapolis Star.

Some parents and education activists, however, disagreed with the Republican governor’s assessment that the new standards are an improvement, and that the process leading to them had “real integrity to it.”

According to the Star, a crowd of about 200 rallied ahead of the meeting, most protesting the new standards. Some held signs reading “Gov. Pence, you promised no [Common Core] lite” and “Say no to Common Core.”

Officials moved the meeting to a larger room because of public interest.

Indiana, one of the first states to adopt the Common Core standards that the federal government has pushed as a nationwide standard for schools, backed out last year before fully implementing them. Pence, a former congressman and potential presidential prospect, assured Indiana residents that he would settle for nothing less than “uncommonly high” standards “written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers.”

What followed was a year-long struggle, headed by the Indiana Department of Education and the state’s Center for Education & Career Innovation, to write new standards—in part by picking and choosing what participants believed to be the best standards from several other sets, including Common Core.

Opponents of Common Core, such as the influential group Hoosiers Against Common Core that helped organize yesterday’s rally, sounded the alarm over a possible rebrand of the Common Core in Indiana. They now say their worst fears have been realized.

“Exactly four weeks after Gov. Mike Pence was hailed for signing legislation to withdraw Indiana from the Common Core, he voted to usher it back in under a new name,” Heather Crossin, co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, told The Foundry.  Crossin added:

[The new standards] failed to garner support from leading national evaluators on both sides of the issue, due to their poor quality. At best they were simply copied, and occasionally paraphrased ‘by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers.’ They are certainly nowhere as good as Indiana’s pre-Common Core standards.

Indiana’s new standards earned widespread criticism from content experts, and even from the pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute; last week, in a review of the new Indiana standards, the institute’s Kathleen Porter-Magee wrote they are “expectations built with a façade that impresses but with very little enduring substance.”

Pence, addressing the critics at the meeting, said, “To those who would have preferred that we deferred more to out of state experts from Washington, D.C., to the East Coast to the West Coast, I ask, isn’t that the kind of elitist thinking that got us Common Core in the first place?”

Lindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman fellow in education, wrote that Indiana is missing an opportunity “to reclaim its position as having some of the most rigorous standards in the country by simply replacing Common Core” with the state’s own previous, highly rated standards.

Burke told The Foundry:

Indiana took the important step of salvaging its state educational decision-making authority by exiting Common Core last year and asserting responsibility for the standards that will be used in the state. It was a critical moment in the national standards debate. Indiana demonstrated that it is in fact possible to regain control of the standards and tests that are used in a state, after having adopted Common Core.

Indiana now has the opportunity to lead the way on life after Common Core. Indiana’s prior state standards (the 2000 math standards, which were updated in 2009, and the 2006 English Language Arts standards) were highly regarded and considered some of the most rigorous in the country. The state should not throw out its former high-quality state standards in an attempt to recreate what was already working so well. To do so would likely result in incurring new costs for implementing new standards, tests, and professional development.

Indiana standards require approval by two bodies: the Education Roundtable, co-chaired by the governor and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, as well as the State Board of Education. The roundtable yesterday voted 21–2 in favor of new English standards and 21–3 for new math standards. The board will vote on Monday.

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.