Common Core no more? New York and 21 other states revise or rename K12 standards

The Common Core has lost another state, at least in name. In September, New York’s Board of Regents voted to revise the standards and drop the Common Core name in favor of “Next Generation Learning Standards.” The updates, which range from eliminating some standards entirely to small wording changes to others, will roll out in September 2020.

New York is not alone. As of January 2017, 21 other states had revised or were changing the Common Core, according to an analysis from Abt Associates, an international research firm that studies education, among other fields.

At that point, of the 46 states that originally adopted the Common Core, eight had officially repealed or withdrawn, and 17 had not yet made any changes.

“There was a lot of backlash to the Common Core, and we did see a lot of states wanting to find ways to make those standards more their own” said Julie Rowland Woods, policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States.

Simple changes

After further analyzing nine of the states that had made revisions—Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio and Utah—Abt Associates found that most changes were very minor.

In ELA, just 23 percent of the standards were changed. The most common revisions were clarifying or rewording concepts, and reformatting materials. For math, 27 percent of the standards were changed, primarily with similar word clarifications as well as additions to make the standards more rigorous.

For example, one state clarified a fifth-grade math standard “Use place value understanding to round decimals to any place” by adding “millions through hundredths.”

Another added the word “perspective” to the high school ELA standard “Analyze a particular point of view, perspective, or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.”

In other words, “the Common Core experiment worked” says Jill Norton, principal associate of social and economic policy at Abt Associates. “Most states are still using Common Core, or a version of Common Core standards.”

It also remains to be seen if the eight states that repealed the standards will replace them with something similar, or something drastically different, Norton says. No state has repealed the standards since December 2015.

Fading fears

The controversy over the standards has largely died down, says Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“A lot of states have simply rebranded the standards, changing the name or slightly tinkering with them without making any great change in substance” Loveless says. “That to me suggests that it’s more a political response than anything else.”

This is likely the case in New York, where the standards generated substantial resistance, and where the opt-out movement was popular, says Mindy Kornhaber, associate professor of education at Penn State.

“No doubt policy and political lessons have been gleaned from the initial reform effort” Kornhaber says. “Whether the public is now sufficiently cooled down for the policy to be smoothly implemented, time will tell.”

Curriculum and PD also need updates when states revise standards, Norton says. States also must ensure their assessments are aligned with the changes.

“One purpose of the Common Core was to help make education systems more comparable across the states” Rowland Woods says. “The more you tweak them, the less comparable they can be.”

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