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Weighing the pros and cons of Common Core for Indiana

A panel of state lawmakers tasked with reviewing the Common Core opened a formal debate Monday over which set of academic standards Indiana will use next. Proponents of the new standards testified the Common Core will prepare more students for college and career, while opponents of the nationally-crafted standards told lawmakers it is less rigorous than the standards Indiana had before. 

Indiana teachers have been using the Common Core in their classrooms for the past two years. But a new state law requires a legislative review of th­e new standards before implementation can continue.

Jason Zimba helped write the Common Core math standards. He told a panel of state lawmakers Monday that the new standards will raise the bar in Indiana.

"For example, the study of fractions in American schools has been criticized as the study of round food. But in the previous Indiana K-5 standards, the word “pizza” occurs more times in the study of fractions than the word 'number line' does."

Critics of the Common Core say the new standards are not as strong as the Indiana Academic Standards they replaced. Bill Evers is a researcher at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He says the Common Core delays crucial math concepts and puts off teaching algebra until ninth grade.

"Indiana would be better off sticking with its current standards," he says. "That does mean there are not areas of improvement."

Evers says Indiana should be asking the state’s college and universities for input on how to improve existing academic standards, not adopting the Common Core.

For her part, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz says it’s not her job to take a position on the Common Core. But she says Indiana needs to take a close look at its math standards because too few students are graduating from high school prepared for college-level coursework.

State lawmakers must make a recommendation on standards to the State Board of Education by November 1. Indiana has until next summer to accept or reject the Common Core.

Elle Moxley reports for our partner StateImpact Indiana.

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