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Report tracks states’ progress toward Common Core standards


A new survey outlines states' progress as they implement the Common Core State Standards.

As the Common Core State Standards continue to gain momentum, states say they are more rigorous than previous standards, but many cite challenges in fully implementing the standards, particularly where funding is concerned.

Year Two of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: States’ Progress and Challenges,” a new report from the Center on Education Policy (CEP), sheds light on states’ progress as they work to implement common standards in English language arts and mathematics, and it identifies areas in which states anticipate a struggle as they implement the standards.

Full implementation of the Common Core State Standards is “a complex undertaking that will take time and affect many aspects of the education system,” said Diane Stark Rentner, director of national programs for CEP and co-author of the study. “Looming over this entire process is the major challenge of adequate resources. Policy makers should be aware that funding problems could cause states to curtail or delay some of their plans.”

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics as of January 2012.

CEP has tracked states’ implementation progress through surveys of deputy state superintendents of education or their designees for the past two years.

From October through December 2011, CEP conducted another survey to gain more information about states’ most recent strategies, policies, and challenges as they worked through their second year of implementation. In addition to policy updates and challenges, survey questions also addressed financial concerns and other relevant issues.

In all, 37 states and the District of Columbia responded to the CEP survey, which counts D.C. as a state for ease of reporting. At the time of the survey, 35 of the 38 respondents said they have adopted the Common Core State Standards in English and math, one had adopted English standards but not math standards, and two had not adopted standards in either subject.

Key findings

States that have adopted the Common Core standards are helping stakeholders—including state leaders, higher-education personnel, parents, and state education agency staff—become familiar with the standards.

Adopting states are aligning their curriculum, assessment, and teacher policies with the standards. All surveyed states that are adopting the standards reported that they are developing or have developed statewide implementation plans, and most are requiring their districts to implement the standards. All adopting states also are including statewide professional development in their implementation plans.

Most of the adopting states that were surveyed are creating partnerships with higher education as they move forward with implementation, but fewer are aligning college admissions requirements or curriculum with the standards. In all, 16 of the responding states that have adopted the Common Core standards said they will align undergraduate admissions requirements or first-year undergraduate curriculum with the standards.

Most states surveyed said they would be able to fully implement the standards by the 2014-15 school year. Just six states said they expect full implementation sometime in 2013.

Technology challenges also abound as states try to implement online assessments aligned with the Common Core standards. Many states said they are concerned about their ability to install an adequate number of computers in schools, 15 states said they are worried about having adequate internet access and bandwidth, and 14 states said they are concerned about having access to technology experts who can address assessment-related technology problems.

Only three states in the survey said they might change their decision to adopt the standards, and all three pointed to insufficient funding as a factor that would influence a decision change.

State policies to support the Common Core standards

Almost all of the adopting states surveyed said they have plans for long-term implementation of the Common Core standards and will align their curriculum and assessments with the standards.

Adopting states are making professional development a priority and are launching statewide professional development materials and resources for use in local programs.

Twenty-seven states said they are aligning their teacher preparation programs with the Common Core State Standards, and five said they do not intend to. Twenty-five states are modifying or creating educator evaluation systems that will ensure teachers are held accountable for student mastery of the standards, and six said they do not plan to implement such an evaluation system.

Twenty-eight of the states surveyed said they will require school districts to implement the Common Core standards, but only 15 of those states will require districts to develop long-term, comprehensive plans for local implementation.

Implementation challenges

Twenty-one states said that “finding adequate resources to support all of the activities necessary for implementing” the Common Core standards will be a major challenge, eight identified it as a minor challenge, two said it would not be a challenge, and one state said it would not be a problem.

Supporting teachers presents another hurdle, and 20 states said that providing sufficient professional development programs that are rich in both quality and quantity would be a major challenge. Nine said it will be a minor challenge.

Eighteen of the states surveyed said aligning college and university teacher preparation programs with the Common Core State Standards is a major challenge.

Only two states said that “overcoming resistance to the [Common Core standards] from within the K-12 system” is a major challenge, 14 said it is a minor challenge, and 15 said it presents no challenge.

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