After hearing the buzz this spring about the Common Core State Standards Initiative and knowing that in a relatively short time school districts in most states will be impacted in many ways, we decided that it was time for a progress report. We checked in with Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Dane Linn, director of the Education Division of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, who are heading up the initiative.
In a very insightful interview by Associate Editor Don Parker-Burgard, both Wilhoit and Linn stress the importance of new, clear and straightforward expectations for U.S. students consistent with countries whose educational systems have been performing at high levels. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who supports the state-led initiative, said on Face the Nation in September, “We have to raise the bar for everyone. We have to have our high expectations. We are going to make sure that every student who graduates from high school is both college-ready and career-ready and has a chance to fulfill their dreams.”
The difference between past attempts for national standards and this initiative is that the NGA Center and CCSSO have created an expert validation committee to provide an independent review of the grade-by-grade standards. These content vetters are trusted education experts who are independent of the process. If the same amount of thought going into these standards is replicated in their implementation state by state and can be tailored to the individual learner, this is an opportunity for the U.S. education system to really move forward.
Realigning State Standards
Dane Linn remarks about the transition district administrators will experience in realigning state standards using proper instructional materials, including both textbooks and digital media. In Texas, for example, Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for Commissioner Robert Scott and the Texas Education Agency, said in June that replacing the state’s English and math curriculum standards could cost the state of Texas as much as $3 billion, which could include up to $2 billion to purchase new textbooks that reflect the new requirements. This is one of the reasons that Texas, like Alaska and South Carolina, is not participating in the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Despite their lack of formal participation, these three states have not been completely removed from the process, as Gene Wilhoit notes in the expanded version of his interview (available at www.DistrictAdministration.com).
But let’s take a look at this as the opportunity that it truly is. This will be the time to take advantage of federal money for technology purchases and professional development for teachers to find the digital resources and textbooks that will not only align with the new standards but also stimulate the students. Our technology article in this issue, “Digital Classrooms Take Flight,” just happens to discuss this.
Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor-in-Chief