Wednesday, August 6, 2008

“Some States Said to Share 'Core' Standards”

So concluded an analysis by Achieve , an organization dedicated to raising “academic standards and achievement so that all students graduate ready for college, careers, and citizenship.”
The academic standards for secondary English/language arts and math were analyzed for Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and the math standards for Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Texas.

Achieve found that independently-formulated state standards tend to be more similar than different.
There is a clearly identifiable common core across the states. It’s not that they have identical standards, but there’s a high degree of commonality,” said Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve…

I’m not surprised. My undergraduate curriculum students found the same thing five years ago when I assigned them the project of investigating the state standards of at least ten states for one subject in one grade of their choice. Among them all, they managed to cover most of the states, most of the grades and most of the subjects. It was eye-opening for them to realize that no matter how strongly states insist that their standards are somehow better than the standards of other states, overall it simply was not true. The various state standards are more alike than different.
My students guessed at why this might be true. Their hypothesis closely matched that of the president of Achieve:
“The common core reflects the reality of the world—that there is fundamental knowledge in English and mathematics that all graduates must know to succeed…

Such a finding has several implications:
1. A national curriculum is very feasible. In fact, a sort of de facto national curriculum already exists by way of nationally adopted textbooks. Regardless of published standards, the scope and sequence for any particular content area is mostly predetermined by the textbook.

2. States wasted a ton of money hiring high-priced educational consultants to reinvent the standards wheel one state as a time. This money could have been used, for, I don’t know, to hire proven, competent teaching veterans who will be more expensive than the novices schools hire instead.

3. State teacher subject-area tests are another waste of money. The National Teacher Exam (NTE) will suffice for all states. I was surprised when I found out that many states require teachers to take the state’s own tests even if they have scores from the NTE or other state tests. Teachers have to pay for these tests out of their own pocket.

4. States waste a ton of money separately creating high-stakes tests. I remember when many states used the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Now every state thinks they have to have their own test.

5. Probably there is plenty of money for school budgets if special interest, politically-motivated, and, in fact, all expenditures were carefully and impartially scrutinized.

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