Common Core’s standards can be replaced by first-rate standards overnight

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In a funny story in the Washington Post on December 24, 2014, Mike Petrilli and Michael Brickman (experts on nothing at all) claim that it will not be easy to replace Common Core’s standards with something better.

They even go so far as to claim that “The basic problem is that it’s impossible to draft standards that prepare students for college and career readiness and that look nothing like Common Core.”

Why is their claim funny?  Because we have already had standards that did exactly that, looked nothing like Common Core, and were remarkably easy to implement. As I noted here:

Unlike Common Core’s standards, which are not designed to prepare American high school students for authentic college coursework, the Commonwealth’s previous standards accelerated the academic achievement of minority groups in the state and did prepare our grade 10 students for authentic college coursework.

We know that achievement on the grade 10 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) was related to authentic college readiness from a report relating our high school students’ performance on their grade 10 MCAS to the type of public college they enrolled in after graduation in 2005 and the extent of remedial coursework they needed.* Almost all the students at the Advanced level and about 80% of the students at the Proficient level who had enrolled in four-year public colleges and universities in the Bay State in 2005 needed no remediation in mathematics or reading.  They were college-ready as well as high-school diploma-ready, whether or not they took a mathematics course in their senior year of high school (which the report doesn’t tell us).

On the other hand, about half of the 2005 high school graduating students who had enrolled in a Massachusetts community college in 2005 and had earlier been placed at the Needs Improvement level on a grade 10 MCAS test needed remediation in mathematics, reading, or both.  (Again, we don’t know if they had taken a mathematics course in their senior year of high school or tried in other ways to improve their academic records in their junior and senior years of high school.)  Sounds completely rational.

How do I know that it was easy to implement the Massachusetts 2001 English language arts and 2000 mathematics standards?   Because, unlike Petrilli and Brickman, I vas dere, Charlie.  Bay State teachers did not moan and groan after these standards were officially approved by a Board of Education chaired by incoming Secretary of Education James Peyser.  They simply implemented them without a fuss.  In fact, when it was time to start revising the 2001 ELA standards (by statute), less than 30 teachers in the entire state bothered to reply to the Department of Education’s survey on what changes they wanted.  None were substantive, and none were from English teachers. Moreover, there is no record of complaint by Bay State parents, either.

Why don’t Petrilli and Brickman ask each Department of Education or Department of Public Instruction in each state to send out a survey to all the state’s teachers just asking for suggestions to upgrade the state’s Common Core-based standards.  They will soon find out how welcome a different set of standards would be.  And how much they might support a new use for Common Core-based tests so long as they are tied to accountability for education schools, not the teachers they graduate.   See