Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Viewpoint: The genius of common standards

The new NGA/CCSSO approach to academic content standards has truly impressive possibilities. Voluntarily, forty-six states have agreed to ask a team of recognized experts to draft strong math and language arts standards, with a commitment to make that "common core" central to their own state standards. EdWeek offers project details here, and Kentucky will be an active partner in the work.

With many states working together, we can greatly reduce the inefficiency of separate state standards, and yet not risk the gridlock so common to federal efforts.

Once the standards are defined, other benefits seem nearly certain to follow.

For example, groups of states may be able to share a single accountability test if their standards fully match. Even if they have a few differences, they may be able to share a pool of well-crafted test items. Overall, states may be able to get something close to the "off-the-shelf" price for assessments that fit their expectations as well as current customized editions that often cost noticably more.

As related possibilities:
  • Excellent approaches to teacher preparation and professional development may find a wider market and attract more innovative providers.
  • Technology applications to teach key concepts should also grow more quickly when designers can see which topics many states want to address at each grade level.
  • Classroom assessment methods--so important for guiding students' learning and teachers' planning--may also develop in stronger directions once a single design can fit the goals set in many different jurisdictions.
If this project works, it may well be a positive turning point of historic proportions for American education, with Kentucky as a charter participant.


  1. National standards make sense. It seems to me that a national assessment, based on the common core, logically follows.

    That could make NAEP, with its sampling, obsolete, but the biggest improvement would be a uniform definition of proficiency and the elimination of states gaming the test.

    Additional state-specific tests covering state history, (and perhaps state literature?) may also be needed. But I don't see a reason to fear a national assessement provided we all remember they are only tests.

    Some will fear any national...anything. But just as Algebra is the same from state to state, assessing Algebra is the same too.

    Setting the same standards from state to state makes assessment of the schools a lot more meaningful.

  2. Absolutley, I have begged for this for years. Englih, math, and readng skills are universal. They are the core of what our students need to be able to do to understand and demonstrate understanding in all other content. I have written O'Bama like a hundred times, asking for the federal government to use the National Standards to create the assesment used to assess NCLB. Every student all over the US should take the same exam to see how schools, students, and educators fare and to see what is working. We don't need to take 5 years to develop these standards and assessments. We need to hit this now and hit this hard. Our economy is crashing around us and the fact that our education system is failing is not helping matters.


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