Most of the 45 states that adopted the Common Core State Standards haven’t updated their high school graduation requirements to comply with the new K-12 academic standards, according to a new report.
Only 11 states have graduation requirements that incorporate the math curriculum laid out in Common Core, according to a study by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and Change the Equation, a group that advocates for a greater focus on science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) in public education. The Common Core standards, released in 2010 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are new national academic standards that are intended to better prepare students for college or a career. They are supposed to be fully implemented during the 2014-2015 school year.
Another 13 states are partially aligned, according to the report, which leaves 22 states with graduation requirements that are not at all aligned with Common Core.
"While many states have done a lot, the analysis that we conducted reveals that the goals of college-and-career readiness may actually be in jeopardy unless more states align their graduation requirements with Common Core," said Claus von Zastrow, director of research at Change the Equation, in a conference call with reporters. "We hope this report will be a conversation-starter for states."
The Change the Equation study focused on state high school requirements for math. A state was considered aligned with Common Core if it required students to take one math class every year and those classes covered three subjects—Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra II—along with additional coursework.
California, for example, is considered not aligned because it requires that students only complete two math credits before graduating, without even specifying what courses are required. South Dakota, on the other hand, is considered partially aligned because it requires the three courses above, but also allows students to opt out.
Researchers noted that a few states had actually scaled back their graduation requirement recently, which took them out of alignment with Common Core. Florida, for example, passed a law this year that made Algebra II optional instead of mandatory. A similar measure is currently being considered in Michigan. Von Zastrow also cautioned that the study did not delve into specific course content, so even states that appear to be aligned with Common Core could still be falling short in preparing students for life after high school.
The Common Core standards were created to ensure that students would be ready for college or a career when they left high school, but the study’s authors questioned whether they would achieve their desired effect if states failed to update their high school graduation requirements. Patte Barth, director of the NSBA's Center for Public Education, told reporters that states might therefore delay or ease implementation of Common Core -- by, for example, considering the first round of assessments in 2014-2015 to be a trial run.
"States should maybe tap the brakes a little," she said. "All of this is supposed to be fully implemented in a year, but we think a little more time would help make sure this implementation is done right."