July 22, 2010
New national education standards have been adopted by 27 states, reported The New York Times. The guidelines, known as the Common Core Standards, have been two years in the making and are intended to establish a uniform set of expectations for students K-12. According to CNN, each state currently evaluates students in accordance to their own expectations, creating variation across the country.
The Common Core Standards is an initiative coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed by teachers, school administrators, and experts to ensure that across the nation, students will receive a high-quality education and will graduate high school with the necessary skills to succeed in entry-level, accredited college courses as well as workforce training programs. The New York Times added that students will be expected to learn specific skills within each grade level and individual states may add standards, provided that the Common Core represents at least 85 percent of the state's academic content.
According to CNN, a study by the Washington-based Fordham Institute, which analyzed and graded the Common Core, gave the guidelines a B+ in English language arts and an A- in mathematics. The study also identified that California, the District of Columbia and Indiana had more rigorous standards in English language arts than the national guidelines. In mathematics, no state was identified as having better standards than the Common Core, but California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana and Washington were close in ranking.
Although 27 states have already agreed to adopt the Common Core, there continues to be debate over how beneficial the standards really are. Texas, Alaska and Virginia have decided not to implement the new guidelines. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, California's Board of Education will make a decision during a special meeting on August 2. Massachusetts announced it would adopt the standards on Wednesday, after three hours of public debate, reported CNN. Because Massachusetts is considered to have the nation's best education system, some felt there was no need to alter their current criteria.
The New York Times pointed out that critics worry that states are adopting the Common Core just to win the Obama administration's Race to the Top competition--states that adopt the expectations by August 2 will earn additional points towards a share of a $3.4 billion award for education reform. Critics worry that some states will not have the money to implement the changes, which in the end will hinder their students. The San Francisco Chronicle added that some argue the standards are a one-size-fits-all model that does not address the real problems within the education system, such as lack of funding and teacher quality. CNN reported that some states feel they have better standards in place and adopting the new ones will only dumb down students. Before Massachusetts made its decision, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker said, "Tinkering with [Massachusetts'] proven track record makes no sense."
Supporters, on the hand, feel the initiative is necessary as it will allow for a fair comparison of students' abilities when they apply to colleges. The New York Times pointed out that the Common Core will ensure that students from state to state will have access to a similar, high-quality education; an idea that is currently not enforced.
Regardless of how states voted, actual implementation of the Common Core Standards is uncertain and expected to be a long process.
Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
"About the Standards," corestandards.org
"Many States Adopt National Standards for Their Schools," NYTimes.com, July 21, 2010, Tamar Lewin
"National learning standards make the grade," CNN.com, July 22, 2010, Sally Holland
"State switch to U.S. school standards debated," SFGate.com, July 21, 2010, Jill Tucker