A new report from the Fordham Foundation gives a grade of “B” to the draft of the proposed “Common Core” standards in ELA and Math.
Fordham’s report, Stars by Which to Navigate: Scanning National and International Standards in 2009, asked subject-matter experts to review the “content, rigor, and clarity of the first public drafts of the ‘Common Core’ standards” as well as the reading, writing and mathematics frameworks of NAEP, TIMSS, and PISA. How’d they do?
Common Core Reading/Writing/Speaking & Listening: B
Common Core Math: B
NAEP Reading/Writing: B
NAEP Math: C
TIMSS Math: A
PISA Reading: D
PISA Math: D
The executive summary (I have not read the full report, which was just released this morning) makes a couple of important points, explaining and justifying the “B” grade for the common standards:
The document properly acknowledges that essential communication skills must be embraced and addressed beyond the English classroom….These skill-centric standards do not, however, suffice to frame a complete English or language arts curriculum. Proper standards for English must also provide enough content guidance to help teachers instill not just useful skills, but also imagination, wonder, and a deep appreciation for our literary heritage. Despite their many virtues, these skills-based competencies cannot serve as a strong framework for the robust liberal arts curricula that will prepare young Americans to thrive as citizens in a free society. States adopting these standards must, therefore, be very careful about how they supplement them so as to achieve that goal.
Hard to disagree with any of that, and the B grade sounds fair. “The Common Core standards are off to a good start,” says Fordham’s Checker Finn, “though there’s room for improvement—and a sound English curriculum will require plenty more than the valuable skills set forth here.”