School & District Management

Few States Cite Full Plans for Carrying Out Standards

By Catherine Gewertz — January 12, 2012 4 min read
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Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted a common set of academic standards, but only seven have fully developed plans to put the standards into practice in three key areas, according to a study released last week.

The EPE Research Center, operated by Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes Education Week, teamed up with Education First, a Seattle-based education policy and consulting group, on a survey of states’ plans to implement the Common Core State Standards.

It found that “a handful of states are particularly far along” in their plans to transform the common standards into practice, but “most states ... still have a long way to go” before they have blueprints to take the standards from paper to practice.

“Whether the pace and quality of state planning efforts will be strong enough to ensure a smooth transition to the [standards] remains an open question,” the report says.

The survey was conducted in June and finalized in October, when 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the common standards. The report on the survey examines the status of plans in those states. It excludes Montana, which adopted the standards in November.

Common-Core Status

A survey of plans to implement the Common Core State Standards found states at varying stages of development in three key areas:

BRIC ARCHIVE

SOURCES: Education First; EPE Research Center

In response to a general question, every state but Wyoming reported that it had some type of formal implementation strategy for making the transition to the new standards. Wyoming said it was in the process of making such a plan and didn’t provide details. Most state plans include timelines or descriptions, but they vary greatly in their specificity.

The numbers got smaller and more mixed, however, as the researchers burrowed into those plans in three key areas: providing curriculum or instructional materials, offering professional development to teachers, and adapting teacher evaluation to reflect instruction in the new standards. States that reported having plans in any of those areas were asked to characterize them as complete or in development.

While seven states—Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and West Virginia—said they had completed plans in all three of those areas, 18 reported no completed plans in any of them.

Training on Front Burner

Curriculum and instructional materials stood out as the area in which states have made the least progress. Thirty-five reported that they are making or have completed plans to provide such materials and resources, but 11 reported no plans in that area. Some states said it was because districts take the lead on curricular decisions. Other states said that even though such matters are up to districts, they intended to offer a range of supports and tools that districts can use if they wish.

States seem to be focusing most of their attention on providing professional development to teachers. Only New Hampshire reported no plans to provide it, while the other 45 said they have complete or partial plans to do so. The most commonly cited methods were conferences, workshops, online modules, and webinars.

Thirty-eight states said they have complete or partial plans to revamp teacher evaluation linked to the new standards, and eight reported no plans.

“The results of our survey suggest that states are working intently to develop plans that would make new, common standards a classroom reality,” the study says. “However, few states have completed their planning, even though most intend to start measuring student performance against the new standards by the 2014-15 school year.”

Assessments for the new standards are scheduled to be fully operational in 2014-15. Using $360 million in federal Race to the Top money, two groups of states are working to design those testing systems. (“New Details Surface About Common State Assessments,” Jan. 11, 2012.)

The EPE/Education First study covers some of the same terrain as a survey released last January by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy. The CEP study included fewer states, since it was conducted before additional states had adopted the standards. The CEP plans to issue an update on states’ progress soon. (“Full Standards Systems in States Several Years Away,” Jan. 12, 2011.)

The CEP study asked states if and when they expected to make changes in teacher evaluation, professional development, and curriculum/instructional materials, as well as in other areas. The EPE/Education First study asked states for “formal” plans and requested copies of them, to determine how clearly those changes were being mapped out. Education First plans further analysis of those plans in the coming months.

Diane Stark Rentner, the CEP’s director of national policy, said the EPE/Education First report captures states’ struggles with tight economic times. Noting the finding that Race to the Top states seem to be farthest along in their common-core planning, she said it’s “not a lack of will but a lack of funding” that is affecting that process.

Many states might also lack a sense of urgency because the tests won’t be given for three more years, but that is “cause for concern,” Ms. Rentner said.

“They know it’s coming, but it’s a little far-off and ethereal for them at this point.”

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A version of this article appeared in the January 18, 2012 edition of Education Week as Few States Cite Full Plans to Carry Out Standards

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