New Analyses Find Common Standards Lacking

By Catherine Gewertz — February 23, 2010 2 min read
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President Obama wants to tie Title I aid to states’ adoption of the common standards, as you already know from reading our story. But a couple of new reports are out today claiming that several states would have more to lose than to gain by adopting them.

One study comes from the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research in Massachusetts. The institute compared the September and January drafts of the common standards with the state standards in Massachusetts and California. The study concludes that the common standards will not ensure that students are college-ready in math or English/language arts.

The math standards draft includes fewer topics than the state standards, places some topics at inappropriate grade levels and “dumbs down” others, it says. The English/language arts draft doesn’t do the trick either, the Pioneer Institute co-authors say, because it doesn’t step up the difficulty level enough from grade to grade, is “unintelligible” in places, and doesn’t specify the content knowledge necessary to develop certain skills.

The co-authors say they are not against the idea of national standards, but have concerns about how this particular set is unfolding.

A preface to the report says that one of its co-authors, Sandra Stotsky, is speaking in her capacity as a member of the Massachusetts board of education. (She helped develop the state’s curriculum frameworks.) But it is interesting to note that she is also on the Common Core Standards State Initiative‘s own validation committee. (The other co-author is Ze’ev Wurman, who helped craft California’s standards and tests in the 1990s.)

Texas, which is one of two states that have not signed on to support the development of common standards, is jumping in nonetheless with its conclusions about how its state standards stack up to the draft common standards. Its analysis concludes that Texas standards are more comprehensive than those in the draft common standards.

I wondered what led Texas to do such an analysis, since it isn’t planning on adopting the common standards anyway. Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said that it was Education Commissioner Robert Scott’s way of following through on his pledge to ensure that Texas standards were as strong or stronger than the national standards.

Responding to the two reports, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which are organizing the common standards initiative, said that their goal has always been for the common standards to be “at least as high as those in top-performing nations and states such as Massachusetts and California.” The organizations have been working with states to incorporate their feedback on the standards, and and they “welcome comments from all states, including Texas,” they said.

“We have done everything in our power to design and implement the most comprehensive and inclusive process of standards development,” the two groups said in an e-mail to EdWeek. “It was a clear directive from states to ensure stakeholder groups including educators, researchers, the public, and standards experts from across the country and around the world have been engaged and their feedback, guidance, and input addressed. We have adhered to our development criteria throughout this transparent process.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.