State Boards Lack Information on Common-Core Standards

By Catherine Gewertz — February 03, 2010 2 min read
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State boards of education seem to be lacking a good deal of information about the proposed common-core standards. And in most states, these panelists will be the folks who will have to decide whether to adopt them.

That message emerged clearly from Day 2 of a meeting of Western board members I attended this week in Las Vegas, organized by the National Association of State Boards of Education. (See my blog post from yesterday about Day 1.) About a dozen states had representatives attending the meeting, and they spent a chunk of the morning discussing the questions they have about the common standards, and the potential challenges they see looming over the adoption decision. (UPDATE: See my story about the meeting here.)

The states ticked off a daunting list of challenges, including political opposition, reluctance to change standards so soon after revising their own, and a lack of money to pull together the new curriculum materials, assessments, and professional development necessary to make the common standards successful.

While there were many potential challenges, and some questions about the standards were indeed answered during the meeting (check my blog post!), many questions remained unanswered. Here are a few: What would happen if we pledged support for common standards in our Race to the Top application, won money in that competition, and then decided not to adopt the standards? How will common standards be revised in the future? How long will we have to wait to get a “final” draft that we can consider for adoption? How will these standards affect career and technical education? What happens if our standards adoption timeline is too slow to meet the August 2010 adoption deadline in Race to the Top?

Interestingly, some of these questions do have answers, but they seem not to have been communicated fully to state boards. For instance, several people said they are confused about how and when the “draft” standards will be finalized into a form that boards can consider for adoption. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have described the process and have a multicolored flow chart laying it out. The chart, along with a set of frequently asked questions and answers about the common standards, and other briefing materials, is now being included in the notebooks board members get as they attend the NASBE regional meetings.

Given the conversations I heard at this meeting, I’d bet that a vendor working the room might have done nicely selling T-shirts that said: So Many Questions. So Little Time.

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