Education Woes Place Focus on Common Core

With more news that the nation's students are falling behind, attention is returning to the next great hope in reform: the Common Core State Standards.
by | September 25, 2012
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan engages students, parents and teachers on education reform. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

As thought leaders debated the future of American public education during the Department of Education's "Education Drive America" 2012 Bus Tour this week, and with more news that the nation's students are falling behind, attention is once again turning to the next great hope in education reform: the Common Core State Standards.

Yesterday, the College Board announced that only 43 percent of high school students from the 2012 graduating class who took the SAT were college-and-career-ready. In its official release on the scores, the College Board took the opportunity to again the endorse the Common Core standards, which are at their essence nationalized academic standards that are intended to ensure students are prepared for either higher education or a job when they leave high school.

As Governing previously reported, nearly every state has signed onto the standards, and some have already begun to implement them. The 2014-2015 school year is the deadline for full implementation.

The Obama administration has tacitly endorsed the Common Core standards by including a requirement for "college-and-career-ready standards" in state applications for Race To The Top funding and No Child Left Behind waivers. At the Education Nation summit yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan repeated that support.

"Now they're asking more of students in reading and in math, starting in primary grades all the way through senior year in high school, now for the first time in a long time students who graduate from high school will truly be college and career ready," Duncan said, according to NBC, which sponsored the summit.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was more reserved in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams Tuesday morning, saying he opposes the federal government using financial incentives like Race To The Top to encourage states to adopt the Common Core standards.

"I think it's fine for people to lay out what core subjects might be and suggest a pedagogy," Romney said. "I don't subscribe to the idea of federal government should push states to adopt them. It's one thing to put it out as a model and let people adopt it if they will."

But as implementation moves forward, challenges remain.

As Governing has outlined, two assessment consortiums have formed to create standardized tests to determine whether students have fully grasped the curriculum being taught under the Common Core standards. They will require states to invest a significant amount of money into new technology for these computer-based assessment.

So what will it all cost?

In addition to improving classroom technology for new assessments, school districts and states will have to update their learning materials to reflect the Common Core standards. As Governing detailed earlier this year, estimates on the costs of implementing the new standards vary significantly. Some education experts see an opportunity for taking advantage of digital resources, while others are skeptical of such wide adoption. The projected price tages ranges from $3.1 billion nationwide to $15.8 billion, depending on who you ask.


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