6. Common Core standards change education practices in states from coast to coast.
More than a year after the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the final Common Core State Standards in English and math, school districts in the 45 states that have pledged support for the common standards say they are moving closer to implementation—and a majority agree the new standards are more rigorous than the ones they’re replacing.
According to a survey released in September by the nonprofit Center on Education Policy (CEP), two-thirds of districts in the adopting states say they have begun to develop a comprehensive plan and timeline for implementing the standards; 61 percent are developing and/or purchasing curriculum materials aligned to the standards; and 48 percent are providing professional development around the standards to their math and English teachers.
Still, the survey identified some key challenges that remain.
“While many districts are taking steps to implement the standards, some may be waiting for additional state guidance and support before tackling the more complex steps, such as developing local assessments or revising teacher evaluation systems,” said Nancy Kober, a CEP consultant and co-author of the study.
District officials are concerned about having enough funding to implement the Common Core standards and what they see as a lack of clarity in state guidance, the study noted.
Earlier in the year, a diverse group of educators and stakeholders called for clear curricular guidance to complement the Common Core standards, including examples of curriculum strategies that educators can use in their classrooms.
“The curriculum is a necessary bridge between standards and assessments,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University. “We need to be thinking systemically—we can’t leave out the whole notion of curriculum support again, as we have in past years of curriculum reform. … Good curriculum is built with an understanding of learning in mind.”
To help support the development of such curriculum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in April said it would invest more than $20 million in game-based learning and other digital tools based on the common standards.
The new tools will include video games that build proficiency in math, reading, and science, as well as a new game platform that can be used for various subjects. Some of these tools will be available to educators free of charge. The grants also include money for web-based classes aligned with the new common standards.
A pilot project in Maine, meanwhile, is exploring how technology can help educators implement the standards in that state. In collaboration with the Portland-based educational software company AcademicMerit, which offers online curriculum and assessment software, the pilot involved 23 schools and nearly 1,500 students from districts all over Maine.
“The Common Core State Standards are one of the most hopeful developments in education,” said Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the Center on Education Policy. He added that his organization’s survey “confirms that the standards will lead to more rigor in education, and that there’s momentum at the district level for implementing them.”