Grading the Common Core Standards

by Robert Pondiscio
October 8th, 2009

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
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.”


  1. The actual commentary is much more negative than the “B” grade would indicate.

    Comment by Tom Hoffman — October 8, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  2. That’s a pretty good observation, Tom. Perhaps Checker & Co. are merely being good teachers. Give a “D” and the student gives up; give a “B” and he’s motivated to try harder.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — October 8, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

  3. Well… this situation is a bit unique considering how it is linked to RttT and probably NCLB II. Not really the time to be patting people on the head for giving it a good try.

    Also, “English Standards” is a very well understood problem. We know they had access to and read many well regarded examples of the form (Mass, Indiana, American Diploma Project, Canadian examples, etc.) and decided to do something rather dramatically different. I guess you can chalk that up to a sort of inexperience, but it is at best a very intentional sort of inexperienced approach.

    Comment by Tom Hoffman — October 9, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  4. <<<Not really the time to be patting people on the head for giving it a good try.

    I dunno, Tom. If it's good enough for the Nobel Prize Committee…

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — October 9, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  5. Yes, but that doesn’t have the real world implications of adopting a set of common standards!

    Comment by Anonymous — October 9, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

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