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Common Core Standards are Welcome— with Some Reservations

Education groups respond to the proposed draft of common core standards for K12 in English and math.

Shortly after the nation's governors, state commissioners of education, school administrators and education experts proposed a draft of common core standards for K12 in English and math last month, major education groups were quick to respond.

The National Education Association, the National School Boards Association and the Alliance for Excellent Education tout the new standards as promoting 21st-century skills of collaborating, problem solving and critical thinking."

"This will be a Good Housekeeping seal of approval," says Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. "This will say to businesses that want to relocate or parents considering where they might move, 'this district, this state adheres to the very rigorous standards recognized across the country.'"

On March 10, the state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) proposed the two drafts for math and English-language arts.

The standards are designed to hold all public school students from Maine to Oregon to the same math and English standards from kindergarten through high school, and they are designed to prepare such students for college and careers in the 21st century. So far, 48 states and the District of Columbia are signed on to take part in the initiative, with Kentucky already planning to adopt them.

The draft documents are open to public comments until April 2. Revisions will be made within six weeks, whereupon the CCSSO and NGA Center for Best Practices will devise a final set of standards. It will likely take up to three years for states to implement the new standards to align the curricula and provide professional development for teachers.

President Obama has recently proposed tying the common core standards adoption to Title I funding. Anne Bryant, NSBA executive director, says while NSBA and its delegates have supported the concepts of common core standards and implementing high standards, they have understood that such standards would not be "mandated as a condition for receiving federal education program funds."

The NEA also believes the common core standards could be improved if they were grouped in bands of grades, such as K3 (which New Zealand does), instead of by grade level, according to John Wilson, NEA executive director. "We think that when you just have standards by grade, you box yourself in according to the 20th-century model as opposed to the 21st-century model," Wilson says.

But he says that overall, teachers welcome this new set of standards in part because they narrow the list of standards necessary for students to reach in each grade.