Indiana’s New Standards: Better than the Old Ones, Better than the Common Core

by Ryan Streeter

Stanley Kurtz calls Indiana’s new education standards “a slightly mangled and rebranded version” of Common Core, and accuses Governor Mike Pence of working to “ensure the return of Common Core.”

Leaving aside the oddity in claiming that one of America’s most vocal proponents of federalism would make it his mission to return Common Core to Indiana after opting out of it, it is worth asking whether such a claim is true.

Take Indiana’s new math standards.

As Pence recently wrote, Indiana’s previous standards, which Kurtz praises as “superb,” included requirements for Algebra I, Algebra II, and geometry, whereas the new standards include trigonometry, finite math, probability and statistics, pre-calculus, and calculus. Victor Lechtenberg, senior adviser to Purdue University’s president, has said that the new standards, “for the first time, include learning outcomes and expectations for high level mathematics courses that prepare students for engineering and other careers that require a deep knowledge and understanding in mathematics.”

“In this regard,” he writes, “the new Indiana standards go beyond the [Common Core] and set a high bench that will, if achieved by students, help assure their success in educational pathways that lead to highly rewarding STEM related careers.”

It is difficult to see how these new standards are merely Common Core “rebranded.”

One of the problems for critiques like Kurtz’s is that calling for a return to Indiana’s previous standards sometimes equates to restoring Common Core, since Indiana’s previous standards were highly regarded and used in the design of Common Core. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Indiana high-school graduates annually needed remediation in college while Indiana’s earlier standards were in place.

This all points to the need for better standards — not rebranding, not going back to the old standards.

We believe that Indiana’s new standards are better than what we had in the past. If in the future we discover that particular standards are not serving our children well, we will improve them. Indiana has now moved beyond the debate over Common Core to focusing on how well the new standards are preparing Indiana schoolchildren for the careers to which they aspire.

More than 150 educators invested more than 6,000 hours in developing Indiana’s new standards in a rigorous and professional manner. As we continue to debate education standards in America, whatever our views of Common Core, we would serve each other well to employ similar levels of rigor and professionalism.

— Ryan Streeter is senior policy director for Indiana governor Mike Pence.