In Kentucky this year, the percentage of elementary and middle-school students who rated “proficient” or better on statewide math and reading tests declined by about a third. Kentucky high schoolers also experienced a double-digit percentage point decline in both subjects.
Those results may sound dismal, but they were better than state education officials had expected. Kentucky is the first state to tie its tests to the new national Common Core standards in English and math, and state officials had projected that the new, tougher standards could yield declines of as much as 50 percent.
Kentucky’s experience is likely to be repeated in dozens of other states. Forty-five states have signed on for the Common Core in both subjects, while Minnesota has adopted them just for English. The standards, which were developed jointly by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and released in 2010, are designed to be more rigorous than the current standards in most states, and to encourage deeper critical thinking.
Chris Minnich, incoming executive director at the Council of Chief State School Officers, says all 46 states are beginning to implement the standards, though few are as far along as Kentucky.
“Generally most of the states are in the information sharing and training stage with their teachers,” he says.
National standardized tests linked to the Common Core will be released in 2014, and Minnich thinks that many states will see dramatic changes that school year.
Anticipated BacklashEducation experts say those changes won’t be easy.
“I don’t think people fully realize the challenges that will come when the reality sets in that so few of our kids are college and/or career ready,” former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said recently, speaking at an education conference in Washington, D.C. The conference was sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Bush created to promote some of the ideas he backed as governor, including early reading tests, vouchers and charter schools.
“Moms and dads are going to be mad,” Bush said. “The reality is going to create problems for elected officials across the spectrum.”
Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education, Terry Holliday, knew this year’s results might cause a backlash from parents and students, so his department partnered with the state’s Chamber of Commerce and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an education advocacy group in the state, to help get the message out to parents about what was in store.
“Everybody knew it was coming,” Holliday says.
Federal InvolvementIn addition to the shock of the initial test results, there has been growing concern about whether implementation of the standards will reduce local control of schools and make it easier for the federal government to dictate what schools teach.
Proponents of the standards maintain they were developed by states without federal involvement.
“When we started this discussion with the chiefs and the National Governors Association, there wasn’t anybody from the Department of Education in the room,” Holliday says.
But the Obama administration did provide incentives for states to adopt the standards through its competitive Race to the Top grant program and the waivers it granted to states seeking to avoid certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. In both cases states had to adopt college- and career-ready standards, such as the Common Core, though they had the option to develop their own alternative. The federal government also provided support for the development of standardized tests pegged to the standards...
Thursday, December 13, 2012
States Nervous About New Common Core School Standards
This from Stateline: