When the proposed Race to the Top Fund regulations were released early this year, they gave a competitive advantage to states that agreed to band together to create common standards. The problem was that the guidelines set more aggressive deadlines than many states were planning to meet, through the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
The final regs offer new language that attempts to give states a bit more leeway on standards. A preamble to the regs states:
In response to comments indicating that some states would have difficulty meeting a June 2010 deadline for adopting a new set of common, kindergarten-to-grade-12 (K-12) standards, this notice extends the deadline for adopting standards as far as possible, while still allowing the department to comply with the statutory requirement to obligate all Race to the Top funds by September 30, 2010. As set forth in criterion (B)(1)(ii), the new deadline for adopting a set of common K-12 standards is August 2, 2010. States that cannot adopt a common set of K-12 standards by this date will be evaluated based on the extent to which they demonstrate commitment and progress toward adoption of such standards by a later date in 2010 (see criterion (B)(1) and Appendix B). Evidence supporting the state's adoption claims will include a description of the legal process in the State for adopting standards, and the state's plan, current progress against that plan, and timeframe for adoption.
[R]egarding the development and adoption of common, high-quality standards and assessments, the term 'significant number of states' has been further explained in the scoring rubric that will be used by reviewers to judge the Race to the Top applications (see Appendix B). The rubric clarifies that, on this aspect of the criterion, a state will earn "high" points if its consortium includes a majority of the states in the country; it will earn "medium" or "low" points if its consortium includes one-half or fewer of the states in the country."
So the document also appears to encourage more states to join a large coalition, rather than banding together in smaller groups of states to form shared standards and tests.
In a statement, Raymond C. Sheppach, the executive director of the National Governors Association, said the department “took seriously the comments submitted by states. We appreciate their willingness to provide flexibility as states move toward the adoption of common core state standards.”
States’ schedules for adopting agreed-upon standards under the “Common Core” process are likely to vary a great deal, an NGA official explained recently. Will the new regulations do anything to smooth the path toward common standards and assessments?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.