Common Core Standards Inspire Hope Among Experts

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Shared education standards may have failed in the past, but at least one education expert is optimistic that this time, the Common Core State Standards are going to stick.

Robert Rothman, a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education and author of Something in Common: The Common Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education, says past attempts to create common education standards have failed, in part, for lack of implementation plans and distrust of a policy that was handed down to the states. This time around, the standards were developed by states for states and, says Rothman, are "compelling" and "coherent."

More reason for hope: These "clearer, fewer and higher" standards have already been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. And the associated assessments being developed around them will really help as well, says Rothman.

Speaking at a Feb. 15 education policy forum hosted by the AFT and sponsored by the American Educational Research Association and the Institute for Educational Leadership, Rothman said the standards still face challenges. There is some question, for example, about what will happen when states adopt the standards and tailor them for their specific needs in 2014. And it is not clear who will take responsibility for standards governance if they are to be changed or championed in a particular way. Their development was state-led, and coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Perhaps the most pressing problem is funding. Who will pay for professional development so that teachers can transfer the standards into the classroom? It appears that states are passing the buck to districts, where funds are notoriously lacking. The AFT is training our own members, but at a session two weeks ago it became clear that even teacher leaders are getting little, if any, support from their districts where Common Core standards are often distributed with no support, no training and little explanation.

AFT executive vice president Francine Lawrence praised the standards for incorporating real-world teacher experience—30 AFT members helped write them. But, she added, "The standards themselves are the beginning. The real work lies ahead." [Virginia Myers]

February 15, 2012