In all the excitement in the buildup to the New Hampshire primary, one important educational development seems to have gotten overshadowed. Last week, a New Hampshire law allowing parents to demand alternatives to curricular materials that they find objectionable took effect. It could have far reaching consequences not just in the Granite State but—if it catches on—for schools across the country.
Specifically, the law (which was passed over the governor’s veto) requires all districts to adopt a policy that:
“…include[s] a provision requiring the parent or legal guardian to notify the school principal or designee in writing of the specific material to which they object and a provision requiring an alternative agreed upon by the school district and the parent, at the parent’s expense, sufficient to enable the child to meet state requirements for education in the particular subject area.”
Do parents not have a right to ask that assignments not insult their beliefs and teachings?
In a post on Curriculum Matters last week, Erik Robelen explained that New Hampshire Governor John Lynch “said the measure was too vague about what might be deemed objectionable and would prove burdensome to school districts. He also said it risked stifling teachers, who might shy away from exposing students to ‘new ideas and critical thinking’ for fear of sparking complaints.”
Governor Lynch went on to say that the legislation “encourages teachers to go to the lowest common denominator in selecting material, in order to avoid 'objections' and the disruptions it may cause their classrooms.”
Of course, it’s reasonable to wonder whether such policies will lead to
Two months ago, Apple celebrated the 10th anniversary of the release of the iPod. Sunday, we will “celebrate” the 10th birthday of NCLB.
The iPod is universally seen as a game changer—something that not only transformed the way we listen to music, but that changed the music industry itself.
Few would say the same about the transformative power of NCLB.
Yet, what if the iPod hadn’t evolved in the ten years since its initial release? What if, after Steve Jobs released the 2001 version—the first-generation iPod—the different divisions at Apple couldn’t come to agreement about how it should evolve?
As one tech-expert explained:
[The iPod] debuted in the fall of 2001 as a Mac-only, FireWire-only $399 digital audio player with a tiny black-and-white display and 5 GB hard disk. The iTunes Store didn’t exist until April 2003. The Windows version of iTunes didn’t appear until October 2003—two years after the iPod debuted! Two years before it truly supported Windows! Think about that. If Apple released an iPod today that sold only as many units as the iPod sold in 2002, that product would be considered an enormous flop.
The transformative power of the iPod was unleashed not by its first iteration, but by the way Apple constantly evaluates, reevaluates, improves, and changes its products. And that’s why, ten years later, the iPod is seen as a
I believe that the right combination of rigorous standards, effective assessments, and strong implementation can transform teaching and drive outstanding student achievement.
But we have a long road ahead to reach that goal. The quality of state standards has been all over the map and implementation of those standards has been mixed at best. Now that nearly every state has adopted the Common Core, states have a chance to reboot and to get standards- and assessment-driven reform right.
To get there we will have to find the right answers to some key questions. How do we ensure the assessment consortia develop the rigorous assessments we need? Will state-driven professional development be focused where it needs to be? Will states focus too much on mandating curricular and instructional materials? Not enough? And, most importantly, will district leaders and teachers embrace the new standards and drive the classroom-level changes we need? Here, I hope to explore these questions and more.
But first a few answers about how I ended up as editor of Common Core Watch: I’m a Connecticut-based education policy analyst who’s been committed to and working in education for 15 years. I began as a classroom teacher, taught both middle and high school and served as a high school department chair. I currently work as a senior director here at Fordham, leading all of our projects related to standards. This is my second stint at Fordham—I worked here from 2003-2005, but left to
If you’re to believe the rhetoric around Common Core, these new college- and career-ready standards are poised to usher in major education changes—changes that will help better prepare American students for the rigors of university coursework and the workplace.
On the other hand, if you’re to read individual states’ own descriptions of the differences between the Common Core and existing ELA and math standards, the changes seem far less dramatic.
Since they have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), nearly every state has undertaken some kind of review that compared existing ELA and math standards to the CCSS. And, almost without exception, these comparisons found near-perfect alignment between the CCSS and state ELA and math standards.
A Tennessee’s curriculum and assessment “crosswalk,” for example, found that “97 percent of the CCSS ELA standards have a match in Tennessee’s ELA standards, with 90 percent being rated an excellent or good match.” On the math side, Tennessee found that there are “no grade-level difference[s] in Kindergarten and only a 1 percent difference in 1st grade…” Similar comparisons by state departments of education around the country have found similar levels of alignment. (This despite the fact that our own analysis of state ELA and math standards found significant differences between a majority of state standards and the CCSS.)
There are several problems with these crosswalks and their findings.
For starters, these crosswalk comparisons too often lose the forest for the trees, focusing on narrow and sometimes
About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Kathleen Porter-Magee is a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she leads the Institute’s work on state, national, and international standards evaluation and analysis.
Sign Up for updates from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Core Knowledge Blog
- Daniel Willingham: Science and Education Blog
- Education Next Blog
- Getting Smart
- Gotham Schools
- Jay P. Greene
- Joanne Jacobs
- National Journal Education Blog
- NCTQ Pretty Darn Quick
- NCTQ Teacher Quality Bulletin
- Ohio Education Gadfly
- Politics K-12
- Quick and the Ed
- Rick Hess Straight Up
- The Corner
- The Hechinger Report
- Tim Shanahan on Literacy