Federal News in Brief

Fordham Thumbs-Up on Standards

By Sean Cavanagh — October 13, 2009 1 min read

A high-profile effort to establish common academic standards across states is far from complete, but an early blueprint has won a favorable review from a Washington think tank.

A draft of the multistate, “Common Core” standards earned a B grade in both language arts and math from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a higher mark than those given to some prominent national and international documents.

In a report issued last week, Fordham, a proponent of high academic standards, judged various documents on their “content and rigor” and “clarity and specificity.” As with some other Fordham standards reviews, the new one was conducted by outside observers—four in this case—which the institute deemed to be experts in English/language arts and mathematics.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which are leading the Common Core endeavor, have so far released draft standards for college- and career-readiness in math and language arts. They are open for public comment until Oct. 21. Draft K-12 standards are expected to follow.

Fordham calls the Common Core math standards “simple and clear.” The English portion is called “praiseworthy,” though the reviewers say it should be girded with effective state curriculum.

The reviewers gave the reading and writing framework of the National Assessment of Educational Progress a B, but the math framework received a C. The math framework of the Trends in International Math and Science Study, or TIMSS, which is used for country-by-country comparisons, received an A, the highest grade of any document.

Both the reading and math frameworks for another international test, the Programs for International Student Assessment, or PISA, on the other hand, received a D. Unlike TIMSS, which is heavily based on curriculum, PISA emphasizes students problem-solving skills. Fordham’s reviewers argued that the PISA standards lack specificity.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 14, 2009 edition of Education Week as Fordham Thumbs-Up on Standards

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