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August 12, 2013

HAYDEN: Common Core may fall to politics

If you haven’t heard the word “Obamacore” yet, you soon will. It’s the derogatory term given to the Common Core State Standards by some Tea Party affiliated-groups that oppose the uniform set of learning benchmarks adopted by 45 states, including Indiana.

Here in Indiana, we’re in the “pause” mode on Common Core, with full implementation on hold while legislators revisit the issue. Pushed hard by the anti-Obamacorers, the General Assembly passed a law earlier this year ordering a review of the standards and the costs to implement them.

I sat through the first of the three scheduled legislative hearings on Common Core last week. It lasted nine hours, due mostly to the unending redundancy of the speakers.

Opponents mostly argued that Common Core represents an ill-motivated federal takeover of education – even though the effort to develop the guidelines was led by state officials and supported by governors of both parties before Obama took office.

Proponents, meanwhile, argued that the guidelines are desperately needed to raise education standards in Indiana and ensure that what Hoosier children are taught is consistent with students across the U.S.

In the ideal world, Common Core would get students more college-ready before they leave high school. In the real world, Common Core is just so mired in politics that it may come undone.

But as that fight goes on, there are students who aren’t waiting for the legislature to act and who are working hard to get themselves college-ready, taking help wherever they can get it.

I met one of those students recently on the campus of Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis, which is just a short walk from the Indiana Statehouse.

Zenobia Wynn is an incoming freshman at IUPUI. On paper, the odds looked stacked against her. She’s African-American, on a needs-based scholarship, and far from home. According to national and state studies, black college students, especially those with limited financial resources, are the least college-ready and the least likely to succeed once in. Only 16 percent of African-American students in Indiana universities complete college on time.

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