Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cautionary notes on those education standards we just adopted

Before getting into this, I want to make it clear that I am keeping an open mind on the new ‘Common Core’ education standards that Kentucky just adopted – especially because so far we’ve only seen drafts. More work is still expected before the final version releases, perhaps in April.

But, I can’t help noting that others are neither so cautious, nor confident. Heat is starting to come from a fairly broad spectrum of viewpoints.

Today, Education Week reports (subscription?) that two critical reports have just been issued on the Common Core standards.

One study comes from the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research in Massachusetts and the Pacific Research Institute. It is written by Ze’ev Wurman, who helped write California’s math standards, and by Sandra Stotsky, who helped with the very excellent and highly regarded education standards in Massachusetts. Both authors spent a lot of time in the trenches of the standards issue. Their comments should not be idly dismissed even though those comments are obviously based on a recent draft of the Common Core Standards rather than the final, still to be delivered, version.

The second report comes from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Texas is one of the two states that refused to join the Common Core initiative. Some of the findings in the news release from the TEA say the Common Core Standards don’t include the following, which are in the Texas standards now:

• Analyze works of literature for what they suggest about the historical period and cultural context in which they were written;
• Use effective reading strategies to determine a written work’s purpose and intended audience;
• Identify and analyze the audience, purpose, and message of an informative or persuasive text;
• Geometric reasoning that makes connections between geometry, statistics and probabilities;
• Connecting mathematics to the study of other disciplines by using appropriate mathematical models in the natural, physical and social sciences.

The National School Boards Association also has chimed in, raising questions about what it sees as excessive federal pressure to adopt Common Core or something similar. Is Kentucky selling its rights as a state to the feds?

Again, I retain an open mind on the Common Core Standards, and I am hopeful they will be a good improvement on Kentucky’s past, very disjointed and overly broad education policy. Certainly, some very credible groups like the College Board and ACT, Incorporated have been involved.

But, we also need to keep our eyes open. Rushing into these particular standards before they are even finalized may not be a wise move.

No comments: