Draft K-12 Standards Expected by Mid-December

By Sean Cavanagh — November 05, 2009 2 min read
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Those of you who’ve been wondering when the next round of common, multistate standards would appear may want to clear some time in mid-December. That’s when the first draft of K-12 standards are likely to be unveiled, says one of the officials leading that process.

Dane Linn of the National Governors Association, one of two organizations guiding the Common Core State Standards Initiative, said at a forum on Wednesday that committees have been working on the K-12 document for a while now and a draft should be ready by the middle of next month. The K-12 document, as many readers know, is part two of the multistate standards project. Part one was the unveiling of draft college and career-readiness standards, back in September.

Officials from the NGA and Council of Chief State School Officers also expect to have members of a “validation” committee review the K-12 and end-of-high school documents at the same time, and have them approved by February, Linn added.

Linn was speaking on a panel on national standards hosted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in Washington. Joining him at the event, which was moderated by Chester Finn, Fordham’s president, were Sheila Byrd Carmichael, an education policy consultant; Stephen Wilson, a professor of mathematics at Johns Hopkins University; and Sandy Kress, who was a senior adviser to George W. Bush and involved in the crafting of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Linn also said his team has surveyed the state officials they work with about how soon they might adopt common standards, once those documents are complete. Of 41 states that responded, 16 predicted that work could be done in one to six months, Linn said; 15 said it could take 6-12 months; 10 others indicated it would take 12 months or more.

What remains unclear is how the states’ schedules for adopting common standards will mesh with the Race to the Top guidelines, which seem to set a more aggressive timeline for state action, as my colleague Michele McNeil noted in a recent story.

The Obama administration has proposed giving a competitive advantage to states applying for $4 billion in federal Race to the Top funding if they adopt common standards. It has also offered $350 million in competitive federal aid to states to craft common assessments based on common standards. Finn asked the NGA official if he expected that all states would adopt one common test, or if consortia or groups of states would band together to create their own assessments. Linn said Common Core officials had been talking with state leaders about the “pros and cons,” of each approach and he expected a clearer picture to emerge in the next month or so.

Kress, during his opening remarks, argued that the standards won’t mean much unless states agree to revamp teacher training and instructional materials to make the effort worthwhile. They’ll also need good tests that measure what the standards call for and set high passing thresholds, he said. Without all that, standards amount to a “leaky bucket,” Kress said, quoting from a recent paper by Russ Whitehurst, of the Brookings Institution. He also said the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, before rewarding states with federal funding for common standards, should make sure they’re taking steps “to actually implement them, and effectively so.”

“I say unless a state can can show it’s doing all of these things,” Kress said of standards, “what good are they?”

Want to hear more? Fordham’s event was streamed live, and a recording should be available soon at the institute’s site.

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