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(Un)Common Core alliances

Indiana's Common Core debate has produced some odd alliances and some uncharacteristic friction within Republican ranks.

State Chamber President Kevin Brinegar lays out the case for the national standards in this letter. Business groups love CCSS, which might be one reason to give them a second look.

In his letter, Brinegar suggests the measure comes down to listening to the Indiana Department of Education, State Board of Education, Indiana Education Roundtable, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, teachers, administrators, school boards and parents or listening to the tea party.

That's a very generous interpretation of the support behind the Common Core standards and a tremendous oversimplification of the opposition. Yes, some tea party activists have joined the Common Core fight, mostly on grounds that national standards erode local control.

They aren't the first to raise that objection: former Third District Indiana Congressman Mark Souder, who served on the House Education and Labor Committee, said in 2009 that national standards would put local schools in a "straitjacket."

"If we try to do this too rigidly, we get ideological challenges and we get creativity challenges," he told me at the time.

But four years later, the growing backlash has moved beyond the local control issue. The teachers, administrators, school boards and parents that Brinegar suggests are on board with Common Core do not represent all teachers, administrators, school boards and parents. In fact, among Indiana opponents, the heaviest lifting being done to stop implementation is by two Carmel mothers, Erin Tuttle and Heather Crossin.

As for the educators and school board members in support of Common Core, my impression is not so much that they support the standards, but they've had so much rammed down their throats in recent years that they're simply accepting it. Like countless other measures forced on schools by non-educators, they believe it's not going to go away and they are trying to make the best of it for students. But that's not to say they are supporters.

The Common Core opposition is growing to include educators, parents and students concerned with overemphasis on standardized testing and money diverted from instruction to pay for it. There's also concern that the standards were rolled out before they were piloted and the assessments tied to the standards are not aligned with it. Newly elected Superintendent Glenda Ritz supports an implementation delay because of her concerns about the assessment piece.

Those issues should give Indiana lawmakers plenty of reason to "take a pause" in implementing the standards. If and when they do, they should consider the quiet and urgent push to adopt Common Core is the same approach used to push through much of the state's so-called reform measures. If Common Core needs to be reconsidered, the same applies to voucher expansion, turnaround schools, A-F grading, the State Charter School Board and much more.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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