“Clearly Inferior” Yardsticks

by Robert Pondiscio
July 21st, 2010

Important and compelling report from Fordham comparing our current ramshackle collection of state standards to the Common Core State Standards.  The essential question: Would replacing any given state’s math and ELA standards with CCSS be a step forward, back or no difference?  The upshot, per Fordham’s Education Gadfly:

Common Core State Standards Initiative are clearer and more rigorous than today’s ELA standards in 37 states and today’s math standards in 39 states….In 33 of those states, the Common Core bests both ELA and math standards. Yet California, Indiana and the District of Columbia have ELA standards that are clearly superior to those of the Common Core. And nearly a dozen states have ELA or math standards  in the same league as  Common Core. 

At Fordham’s Flypaper blog, Mike Petrilli sensibly points out the states that have already adopted the Common Core are moving from “clearly inferior” standards to something much better. “As a result, the national average for state standards has already gone from a “C” for both math and English (pre-Common Core adoption) to a B-plus for math and a B for English, now that these states have switched standards. In just the last month or so, America has raised the bar by at least a letter grade, from mediocre to very good standards,” he writes. 

More on CCSS and the Fordham report from Joanne Jacobs and Eduflack.  The New York Times has a debate on national standards with a collection of big thinkers, and Alfie Kohn.


  1. “The New York Times has a debate on national standards with a collection of big thinkers, and Alfie Kohn.”

    Heh. I spit out of my coffee reading that. Couldn’t agree more. What is the appeal of Mr. Kohn? I don’t get it at all.

    Comment by Matt — July 21, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

  2. Sadly, the Massachusetts BOE adopted the Common Core Standards this morning.

    I’ve always been an advocate of one set of standards for all fifty states so all our students could have access to and be expected to master the same rich body of knowledge Massachusetts students have had for the past seventeen years. However, I’m going to be real selfish on this issue and profess my disgust with this move for public education in Massachusetts.

    Massachusetts students have been at the top academically both nationally (NAEP) and internationally (TIMSS and PISA) for some time now. Anyone ever hear of the old expression, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it?

    Why should we move from a proven, highly successful academic set of standards to one that some experts in Massachusetts claim is not as good, and not as rigorous?

    If I were from some state that had a lousy track record on the NAEP or the international tests, I’d be all for adopting the new Common Core Standards. But I’m not. I from the one state in the country that has continually outperformed the other forty nine states (well, almost always) on a regular basis.

    Who was behind all this in Massachusetts? The largest teacher union in the state, the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Pardon me while I vomit.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — July 21, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  3. I read their commentary on Maryland standards and I have to say it is spot-on based on my personal experience as a teacher and a parent. It would be nice if Maryland would take their criticism to heart. I’ll be leaving before they get around to it though.

    Comment by Gina — July 21, 2010 @ 7:23 pm

  4. The actual implementation of the Common Core Standards and the assessments used are what will determine the rigor.

    On that note, you cannot evaluate the Standards without also reading the accompanying Model Core Teaching Standards released by CCSSO over the weekend.


    There is nothing academically rigorous about this vision. In fact it is the antithesis.

    Likewise the plan is for the national assessments to be used to be subjective and performance based.

    It appears that the Common Core Standards is just a vehicle for imposing a new vision for what it means to be educated in the US.

    Comment by Student of History — July 22, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  5. The State Policy Implications show that there will no longer be hardly any local control over education.

    That’s not the vision of a federal approach to education and it’s openly hostile to academic content.

    Here’s the link to the teaching standards themselves:


    Please note that these will apply to all teachers and all classrooms all over this country.

    Also please note the constant references to the inclusive classroom.

    Have we just lost our ability to offer Honors classes?

    Can anyone read these documents and tell me we have not just adopted discovery learning as the new national required model for any state that has adopted Common Core?

    Comment by Student of History — July 22, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  6. Student of History and/or Robert,

    If you know more about this, please elaborate.

    Are you talking about the national adoption of twenty-first century skills? Alternative assessments? Education of the whole child? Etc.?

    Comment by Paul Hoss — July 22, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

  7. All of the above Paul. The Model Teaching Standards says they prefer a different name but then the State Policy Implications document is quite explicit that that’s precisely what they are doing.

    I don’t think they were planning on we laypersons reading those documents which is why they are so explicit as to what is going on.

    It is worth the time to read what these documents lay out.

    It’s also extraordinarily frightening.

    It’s also consistent with the incorporation by reference of the 1989 NCTM math standards into the Common Core Standards.

    Have the states who have adopted Common Core thus agreed to abide by these Model Teaching Standards as well once they are finalized?

    Appears to be a classic bait and switch. Talk about the higher content in the Standards and then make the implementation all about the activities prescribed in the Teaching Standards and the subjective, performance based assessments LDH has already described.

    The only discretion left for local school boards may be setting the tax rates.

    Comment by Student of History — July 22, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  8. This vision of the need to change the nature of math in this country so it would be accessible for all and the resultant need to revise assessments was laid out back in 1995 by Richard Lesh and Lauren Resnick in this document.


    Go to page 79 out of 98 to read ” Equity: Providing Equal Access to Powerful Ideas” and then follow with Resnick’s “Working, Thinking, and Assessment”.

    If you notice the Teaching Standards themselves cite Resnick as their support.

    It’s taken many years but Common Core is apparently the vehicle to finally achieve this troubling vision nationally.

    Comment by Student of History — July 22, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

  9. Thanks, Student of History, for pointing out these documents.

    The Model Core Teaching Standards place heavy emphasis on teacher attitudes and give relatively short shrift to content knowledge and understanding.

    Beyond that, they are so jargon-laden that even if they did contain good ideas, they would be set up for misinterpretation.

    I plan to write a detailed comment on the document and submit it to the CCSSO.

    Comment by Diana Senechal — July 23, 2010 @ 9:38 am

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