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.”…Read More

The top 10 ed-tech stories of 2010: No. 6

The Education Department says new state assessments will incorporate more technology

Spurred on by the goal of having students graduate from high school ready for college or a career, the Education Department doled out $330 million in grants to help states redesign their assessments for the 21st century—and technology will play a key role in these new exams.

One group of grant recipients, the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, will focus on formative assessments and the use of technology for testing to measure student growth over time through computer adaptive testing. It will continue to use one test at the end of the year for accountability purposes but will create a series of interim tests to inform students, parents, and teachers about whether students are on track toward meeting various achievement standards.

The other group of grant recipients, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, will focus on testing students’ critical thinking skills by examining their speaking skills, reading analysis and essay skills, digital media skills, and project-building skills. It also will replace the one end-of-year, high-stakes accountability test with a series of assessments throughout the year that will be averaged into one score for accountability purposes, reducing the weight given to a single test administered on a single day—and providing valuable information to students and teachers throughout the year.…Read More

Gates Foundation to invest in next-generation instructional tools

The Gates Foundation will invest funds to develop “next-generation instructional tools” to help implement the Common Core state standards.
The Gates Foundation will invest funds to develop “next-generation instructional tools” to help implement the Common Core state standards.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to invest up to $250 million over the next eight years to develop “next-generation instructional tools” that will help states and school districts implement the Common Core state standards, the foundation said in its annual report Sept. 7.

The Gates Foundation, one of the largest givers of money to K-12 and higher education in the United States, also plans to fund “data-driven research that explores ways states can modify the [Common Core] standards and assessments to improve student success in school and the workforce.”

Led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, the Common Core State Standards Initiative established a set of shared K-12 standards for English and math that states could adopt voluntarily. The idea was to replace the patchwork of state standards that vary dramatically from state to state with a single, rigorous set of guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.…Read More

Did Race to the Top help or hurt the push for a common curriculum?

States were working on a common set of education standards before the Obama administration decided to make adoption of them part of its Race to the Top competition. The prospect of winning federal money motivated some states to pass the standards, but the administration’s blessing might have turned others away, reports. Nine states and the District of Columbia were awarded Race to the Top education grants Aug. 24, ending the interstate competition. Nowhere was the competition among states more fierce than in their efforts to adopt a common academic curriculum known as the “Common Core” standards. So far, 36 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the new standards. Many of them seemed motivated by the possibility that doing so would help their applications for the Race to the Top money. But even though advocates for the standards are encouraged by the enthusiasm with which state officials have bought into common standards, they also are wary of the political baggage that can come with an endorsement from the Obama administration. In 2005, the National Governors Association led an initiative to get states to use the same measures to calculate graduation rates. That initiative evolved into a broader effort over the past year, as education officials from 48 states—Alaska and Texas did not participate—worked on developing a new set of academic standards for K-12 schools in conjunction with the NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Those quiet state-led efforts got tied up in national politics when the administration decided to use the standards as a criterion for Race to the Top. That has made it harder for state officials to convince conservative legislators or board of education members to sign off on the Common Core standards, some observers say…

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Analysis: ‘Common Core’ standards clearer, more rigorous

An analysis by an education policy think tank finds that the common academic standards many states will be adopting are clearer and more rigorous than those currently used in most states, reports the Associated Press. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute analyzed the standards in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and found that the Common Core State Standards are more rigorous than those in three-quarters of all states. Only three states had higher standards in English, while none were better than the Common Core standards in math. The Common Core standards have been adopted by 25 states, and about 40 are expected to sign up by September. The state-led initiative aims to establish a uniform set of expectations on what students should know by the time they graduate high school…

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Many states embracing Common Core standards

Less than two months after the nation’s governors and state school chiefs released their final recommendations for national education standards, 27 states have adopted them and about a dozen more are expected to do so in the next two weeks, reports the New York Times. Their support has surprised many in education circles, given states’ long tradition of insisting on retaining local control over curriculum. The quick adoption of common standards for what students should learn in English and math each year from kindergarten through high school is attributable in part to the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition. States that adopt the standards by Aug. 2 win points in the competition for a share of the $3.4 billion to be awarded in September. “I’m ecstatic,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “This has been the third rail of education, and the fact that you’re now seeing half the nation decide that it’s the right thing to do is a game-changer.” Even Massachusetts, which many regard as having the nation’s best education system–and where the proposed standards have been a subject of bitter debate–is expected to adopt the standards on July 21. But some supporters of the standards, like Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, worry that the rush of states to sign up–what Weingarten calls the “Race to Adopt”–could backfire if states do not have the money to put the standards in effect. “I’m already watching the ravages of the recession cutting the muscle out of efforts to implement standards,” she said. “If states adopt these thoughtful new standards and don’t implement them, teachers won’t know how to meet them, yet they will be the basis on which kids are judged.”

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Final common standards in English, math released

Education stakeholders are urging adoption of the final standards.
Key education stakeholders are urging adoption of the final standards.

A year-long effort to define a common set of academic standards for English and math culminated on June 2 with the release of the final version of the Common Core State Standards, which aim to establish consistent learning goals across states.

The K-12 English, language arts, and math standards are intended to ensure that students in Kentucky have the same learning opportunities as students in Wisconsin, for instance, and were developed in collaboration with content experts, state officials, teachers, school administrators, and parents.

A draft of the standards elicited roughly 10,000 public comments, and the final version reflects some of this feedback. Supporters and developers said they looked to standards in other top-performing countries for inspiration. The standards were released in a joint launch by the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).…Read More

Feds to shape the future of assessment

Educators say it’s time to move to multiple=

Federal officials are leading the charge to develop a new generation of summative, end-of-year exams that are delivered and scored by computer; focus on a deeper understanding of the curriculum, instead of just multiple choice; and can measure students’ readiness for college or a career more accurately.

“There is widespread concern that the most prominent assessments currently being used in the U.S. are inadequate and may have a significantly negative impact on student learning,” says Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) Senior Fellow Robert Rothman, author of a recent issue brief called “Principles for a Comprehensive Assessment System.”…Read More

‘Math wars’ over national standards might erupt again in California

The contentious debate over how California students should learn math is ready to erupt again, reports the San Jose Mercury News. As the United States prepares for the first time to adopt nationwide K-12 “common core” standards, mathematicians and educators are split. Some hail the proposals as a groundbreaking advancement, because students will develop a more solid footing in math before rushing to the next level; others fear the plan would propel California backward. Each side warns that America’s future as a global science and technology powerhouse is at stake. A national committee representing 48 states and the District of Columbia has drafted the common standards for what students should learn in English and math. California can choose not to adopt the federal standards but would miss out on competing for hundreds of millions in federal stimulus dollars. While the proposed English curriculum hasn’t provoked an outcry, the math debate echoes California’s “math wars” that raged in the 1990s and led to repeals of reforms that favored problem-solving, applications, and group work over traditional teaching. Under the new proposed standards, primary students would spend more time going in depth on concepts before learning new skills. That means California students would learn multiplication in fourth grade rather than third. But some critics think the new standards set the bar too low for college readiness. Rather than following in step with other states, these critics say, California should be looking to keep up with India, Singapore, and Europe…

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