The right of individual states to steer their own ships has been widely valued throughout U.S. history, but there are areas where it makes sense for states to pool their resources and work together to tackle more widespread issues. This is especially true when state budgets are constrained by an economic downturn.
The states-led effort to develop Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for K-12 education in math and English language arts represents just such a collaboration. The standards were crafted with representational participation from nearly all U.S. states and territories and were launched in June 2010 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Since then, more than 40 states have adopted the standards. The goal of this initiative has been to “provide a common core of state standards to ensure all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in college and work.”
- Publishers will now be able to develop educational materials for a national audience with greater clarity around a common set of standards; the laborious and costly need to track changes to many disparate state standards will no longer be necessary.
- Publishers need to develop materials that support the instruction and assessment of multiple skills integrated into higher-level activities.
- States are allowed to adopt the standards and augment them with an additional 15% of their own content. Publishers will need to be aware of this additional content and make decisions about how they will accommodate it.
- Many states are foregoing their own state-specific high-stakes tests to adopt multi-state assessments. Developing content for fewer high-stakes tests will benefit publishers; however, the activities on which students will need to demonstrate proficiency are more challenging to assess.
- The larger market afforded by greater consistency across state education systems means that there is greater financial incentive for non-traditional players to enter this space. Publishers should take a hard look at their business models in order to make sure they will be able to compete with these new entrants.
- Publishers of products for higher education are not exempt from CCSS impacts. The hope is that CCSS will evolve into a seamless set of standards from elementary school through college throughout the United States.
- Teachers are looking to publishers to provide instructional materials and resources aligned with the standards.
- The confusion and uncertainty resulting from these changes will forestall textbook purchasing decisions. Districts are postponing textbook purchases as they sort out the implementation of the standards and wait for the new materials on which they are based. This will re-enforce delays that have already been triggered by budget shortfalls throughout the U.S.
Words of Wisdom
Given the competitive atmosphere around developing successful CCSS materials, it is important that publishers thoughtfully align their content with the new standards rather than rush to market with materials that are superficially repackaged as CCSS-compatible. In fact, one set of guidelines issued by Achieve, warns educators to be wary of materials that “boast of CCSS alignment too soon.”