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What could states do once implementation of Common Core’s standards is halted? Most states are unlikely to want to return to the standards they once had, mainly because their boards and departments of education loudly claimed they were adopting more rigorous standards when they adopted Common Core. In most cases, they would be rightly accused of returning to equally nonrigorous standards. It will also be difficult for 45 state boards and departments of education to say to the public and their state legislators that Common Core’s standards are really not more rigorous than what they had, because they will look foolish. How can they justify having voted to adopt Common Core’s standards and committing the state to huge future technological and professional development expenses in implementing standards that were not better than what they had and that had many hidden strings attached. Nor will they be able to explain exactly how they were not more rigorous. Most states never tried to show exactly how Common Core’s standards were more rigorous than what they had, mostly because they couldn’t (crosswalks simply showed coverage—broadly speaking). State boards of education and department of education staff have simply repeated like parrots that Common Core’s standards are/were more rigorous (clearer, cleaner, promote critical thinking, deeper learning, etc.). As a long-time reviewer of all states’ ELA standards I can agree that most states’ standards were, overall, pretty bad in ELA. So, most of these 45 states need to move on. And move on, they must, because public education is not in good shape and hasn’t been in good shape for over 40 years. What can states do to save face and do the right thing? Here are a few possibilities. 1. Legislatures (not state departments of education) should set up committees of academic experts from a state’s own colleges and universities to work out secondary standards with a range of high school teachers that prepare students for different levels of achievement (some for different colleges/universities), but all of which meet high school diploma requirements. Not all standards need to aim for college admission. 2. Legislatures and governors should work out a plan for a network of specialized high schools across a state, supported where possible by local industry and business, and developed by experts in state industries as well as by academic experts. We need high school curriculum options for young adolescent students to choose among, to address the drop-out problem and to allow those with, e.g., musical, artistic, or science interests and talents the opportunity to develop them while young. 3. States should adopt their own revisions of the best state standards in the country, revised for the secondary level, first, by experts in higher education and high school teachers, and then, for the elementary level, by teachers in K-6. The idea is that the elementary standards should aim for the secondary ones (not vice versa). The standards should go through whatever procedures are used in a state to engage public discussion and agreement. 4. In mathematics, states could begin with Singapore’s original mathematics program for K-6 and for grades 7 and 8. For ELA, states could begin with the ELA curriculum framework I have made available at no charge on the ALSCW website. http://www.alscw.org/index.html
We don’t need the same standards in every state in the country. We can continue to find out how states compare with each other on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests. We can continue to participate in TIMSS (The Trends in the International Mathematics and Science Survey), as a country and as individual states, to find out how our students as a whole, and in each state, compare with other countries in mathematics and science. And we can continue to let local school boards respond to local needs, something they have always done. 5. Legislatures need to raise the academic bar for those who are admitted to education training programs in their education schools, whether for administrators or teachers. That should be the first step. Attached is a paper with a number of suggestions that could be put in place by a state legislature. http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2000/01/Stotsky-Why-Raise-Bar-for-Admissionto-Ed-School.pdf