What's new with Indiana's new academic standards?

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The new school year comes with new, higher expectations for students and teachers. After months of political and educational turmoil,  new state education standards are in every Indiana classroom.

Are they really all that new? What are students learning now they weren't before? Answers may be surprising.

Inside Raymond Park Intermediate Academy, Josh Davis was quietly leading his 4th graders through a writing lesson. Down the hallway, Mitch Slayers worked up a sweat as he moved from the blackboard, through rows of desks and back again asking questions and prying answers from his 5th graders.

Two entirely different teachers in two different grades who say Indiana's new educational standards are having the same effect on what they are teaching.

Davis said, "It hasn't changed a whole lot" since last year when Indiana dumped the Federal Common Core standards and adopted its own academic standards.

"I've added cursive writing. That's my big change," said Slayers.

The new Indiana Academic Standards very much mirror the Common Core.

Warren Township schools spent the summer and roughly $125,000 rewriting curriculum guides for each grade. The 5th and 6th grade guide is 133 pages thick. There are lots of changes and understanding them isn't easy.

One reads, "Students must cite textual evidence to support analysis of what a text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text."

Davis helped decipher the changes and rewrite the guide. He said what students are expected to learn remains the same, just the terminology is different.

"Instead of write and inference or draw a conclusion, it might say apply that inference," Davis explained.

The new standards, educators said, do put a higher priority on teaching students to apply what they are learning.

In an animated moment, Slayers pointed to his head and shouted to his class, "Think! I want you think about things!...It is a full understanding that you will be able to represent yourself in the future and be able think."

Teachers have a lot to think about as well. New ISTEP exams are being written to the new educational standards. Teacher evaluations and salary increases will be based in part on how well their students think and answer.

Warren Township schools may be further along than others. The district adopted the Common Core curriculum standards years ago and had to make only minor changes. Schools that skipped Common Core may be making bigger adjustments.

Outlines of the new ISTEP exams should be ready early fall with teachers getting sample questions in October.