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Coming Soon – National Curricula for Most Public Schools in the US

The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is a voluntary, state-run effort, backed by the US Department of Education, to draft and implement a common core of grade level specific academic standards for Math and English in every public school in the nation.  The effort is heralded as a bi-partisan initiative of the National Governor’s Association, with 48 states, two US territories, and the District of Columbia participating.  Only Texas and Alaska have chosen not to participate in the initiative.

The initiative requires that each participating state adopt and implement at least 85% of the “Common Core” grade level specific Math and English standards for use in public schools in their states.    The US Department of Education, in establishing the rules by which the $4 billion in Race to the Top funds will be awarded, has given priority to states which agree to adopt the national “Common Core” grade level specific standards.

One problem – the standards haven’t been written yet.

Let me repeat that, because it’s a very important point.  Forty-eight states, 2 territories, and DC have agreed to adopt and implement in every public school in their state / territory / district academic standards for math and English which have not been written and they have not seen.

The CCSSI recently released its “College and Career Readiness” standards which, according to the group, “define the knowledge and skills students should have to be ready to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing, academic college courses and in workforce training programs.” Yet, the “College and Career Ready” English standards don’t meet the requirements for high school graduation, and, the “College and Career Ready” Math standards fail to meet the minimum admission requirements for most 4-year colleges and Universities in the country.

For English, the “College and Career Ready” standards appear to be little more than a list of skills and reading strategies with no relation to content.  For Math, the “College and Career Ready” standards describe the skills necessary to complete Algebra I and a few concepts associated with Geometry and Algebra II without regard to the minimum general entrance requirements for most 4-year colleges and Universities and no mention of the additional skills and coursework necessary to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.

In short, the bar the CCSSI set that all student’s must meet to be “College and Career Ready” fails to meet the minimum admission requirement for most 4-year US colleges and Universities in the US.

You may think, who cares, the “College and Career Ready” standards aren’t the “Common Core” grade level specific standards participating states agreed to adopt.

While technically correct, that assumption omits one key point.  The “Common Core” grade level specific standards, which must be adopted by every state except Texas and Alaska, describe the knowledge and skills students must master at each grade level to achieve the “College and Career Ready” standards. Our public schools will be required to adopt grade level academic standards for math and English which will render their students ineligible for admission to many, if not most, 4-year colleges and Universities in the country.

In a show of support for this effort, Secretary Duncan recently released $350 million in Race to the Top funds to support states in the creation of a common assessment linked to the “Common Core” standards being developed by states.

The “Common Core Grade Level Specific” standards haven’t been issued, yet.  They’re due out in January.

We can always hope that the subject matter experts serving on the standards drafting committee will have the knowledge and foresight to draft rigorous, appropriate standards.    Unfortunately, there appear to be very few subject matter experts serving on the committees responsible for drafting the standards.

We can always hope that the standards drafting committee will be open to adapting and revising its recommendations based on feedback received from state Departments of Education and stakeholders.  Unfortunately the initiative hasn’t developed a process by which it will consolidate and review any of the feedback it receives, and the process has been rushed to such an extent that there is little time for concerns to be addressed.

As it stands now, it appears that a national Common Core of academic standards will be issued and implemented in almost every public school in the nation with a common national assessment along for the ride.  Those standards will likely be inadequate to meet the current minimum entrance requirements at many colleges and Universities in country, which means fewer public school kids will be going to college or colleges will be forced to drop their admission requirements. With budgets tight in states across the nation and $4 billion in federal incentive, there is a low probability that individual states will choose not to participate.  Efforts to slow, or allow more room for feedback and concerns at the national level have been met with silence.

It’s time to direct our attention to our elected state officials to determine how they plan to implement these national standards.  Questions we should be asking include, but are not limited to:

  • Will the national “Common Core” standards replace our state standards?
  • How will the state select the “Common Core” standards it will implement?
  • If the “Common Core” standards don’t meet our state’s high school graduation or college entrance requirements, can  we adopt tougher standards?
  • What process has been developed for stakeholders to provide feedback and commentary on the “Common Core” standards selected by the state?
  • What is the timeline for implementing the “Common Core” standards in public schools in the state?
  • And last, but not least, on what authority did the elected Governor or state legislature abdicate responsibility for the standards our public schools must meet to a national board over which we have no control?

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