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Common Core friend or foe?

It's no surprise that Indiana Sen. Jim Banks has found another reason to criticize Indiana colleges and universities -- it's a role he seems to relish.

What is surprising is that the co-sponsor of a bill to halt implementation of the Common Core State Standards would put his name to an op-ed that rates schools of education largely on how well they prepare their graduates to execute the Common Core standards.

The National Council on Teacher Quality ratings, widely criticized by education officials across the nation, used a scoring methodology based on 17 review standards, including "Common Core Elementary Mathematics," "Common Core Elementary Content," "Common Core Middle School Content," "Common Core High School Content" and "Common Core Content for Special Education."

The analysis was based not on site visits and interviews but by examining course offerings, curriculum content and syllabi. That's another issue, however.

"Curricula at all levels were judged on whether they successfully prepare teachers for the Common Core State Standards," explains U.S. News & World Report, which published the NCTQ study. "Adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, the standards call for teachers to cover less content, but require them to delve deeper into areas deemed crucial for student development and eventual college and career readiness."

Brian Kelly, editor of U.S. News & World Report, claims the NCTQ rankings are important because "the bar for public school students is about to be raised nationwide, through the new Common Core education standards that most states will begin implementing this year. The (NCTQ) data show most programs are far behind in training teachers in Common Core subjects."

NCTQ's interest in promoting the Common Core should come as no surprise. The group was started by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, champion for the Common Core. One of the institute's fellows, in fact, told a Wisconsin legislative panel last month that the Common Core standards are "one of the most important education initiatives of the past decade."

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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