Monday, July 19, 2010

Common Core

Efforts to align K-12 and higher education student learning standards are increasing on both the state level, with nearly all states creating P-16 or K-20 councils and, on the national level, with two key groups, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the State Higher Education Executive Officers, convening a joint meeting for the first time.

Post-secondary administrators particularly need to embrace common core standards by aligning their admissions standards and assessments to them. Most of the activity has been at the K-12 level, with assessment designers aiming to link classroom and standardized assessments, and using cognitive science to create new assessment models and innovative assessment items. Few higher education faculty have been involved in crafting the standards to date. One exception is English language arts. Other efforts have engaged higher-education faculty in reviews of both English and mathematics.

Higher education administrators and faculty also ultimately will need to decide what to do to support the effort. Some are deciding how and whether to use the newly developed K-12 assessments of "college and career readiness" in their own admissions processes. To achieve better collaboration around this point, some Race to the Top applications specifically link the two levels of education. These efforts focus on developing common baseline levels of student proficiency across multiple campuses to avoid developmental, or remedial, courses. Some efforts also focus on changing teacher certification programs to ensure these graduates can teach to the common core.

The common core initiative is dogged by the usual debates about whether the standards for certain subjects are appropriate, with some suggesting other writing standards reflect college course demands better, and on whether political pressure to higher standards at the K-12 level will force state legislatures to "dumb down" the standards state by state.