Fordham: Common core raises standards

The Common Core State Standards are “clearer and more rigorous” than English Language Arts standards in 37 states and math standards in 39 states, concludes the Fordham Institute’s newest study.

Yet California, Indiana and the District of Columbia have ELA standards that are clearly superior to those of the Common Core. And nearly a dozen states have ELA or math standards in the same league as Common Core.

Mike Petrilli adds on Flypaper:

But what’s heartening is this: as you can see from our nifty maps, most of the 28 or so states that have already adopted the Common Core are moving from “clearly inferior” standards to something much better. As a result, the national average for state standards has already gone from a “C” for both math and English (pre-Common Core adoption) to a B-plus for math and a B for English, now that these states have switched standards. In just the last month or so, America has raised the bar by at least a letter grade, from mediocre to very good standards.

Of course, as everyone knows, standards alone don’t change anything. They are just aspirations. But if combined with rigorous assessments, high “cut scores,” meaningful accountability, and strong implementation, they can move mountains, as we’ve learned from Massachusetts over the past decade.

Yes, that’s a huge “if,” but still, the country is raising its expectations, and for that we should be glad.

Massachusetts Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the common standards today. The new standards are better than Massachusetts’ acclaimed standards, said two former education commissioners of the state. But former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld called for sticking with the state’s standards, adding,  “It would be madness to eliminate the MCAS test.”

In California, another state with rigorous standards, a state commission endorsed the common core standards “with modifications  that will set up students for taking a complete Algebra I course in eighth grade,” reports Educated Guess.

The common core standards split algebra between eighth and ninth grades, so California, where 60 percent of students already take Algebra I in seventh or eighth grade,  would continue to be out of sync with much of the nation – though in concert with some high-achieving nations in math, like Singapore.

The State Board of Education must vote yes or no on the recommendations by Aug. 2.

The common core initiative’s sponsors, the National Governors Assn. and the Council of Chief State School Officers, permit states to add up to 15 percent more standards.  California’s commission used that authority liberally, grafting on sections of the state’s generally acclaimed rigorous standards.  It added standards for penmanship, formal presentations and oral recitations to the common core English language arts standards, and significant numbers of math standards in algebra and advanced subjects.

National standards will be watered down or ignored, predicts Cato’s Neal McCluskey.

. . . the same political forces that have smushed centralized standards and accountability in almost every state — the teacher unions, administrator associations, self-serving politicians, etc. — will just do their dirty work at the federal rather than state level. Indeed, those groups will still be the most motivated and effectively organized to control education politics, but they will have the added benefit of one-stop shopping!

Washington, D.C. is expected to approve the common standards today. By the Aug. 2 deadline for Race to the Top eligibility, three-fourths of the states are expected to be on board.

Will national standards improve education? The New York  Times hosts a debate.

Update: There’s no evidence national standards improve economic competitiveness or raise achievement, argues an EPIC paper.

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