Common Core Standards: The New U.S. Intended Curriculum
Into the fracas over the Common Core initiative dives this Education Researcher paper by UPenn education dean Andy Porter and several of his colleagues. It explains similarities and differences between the Common Core and current state and international standards, using the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) as its metric. The SEC is an analytic framework developed at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research that categorizes ELA and math content by two variables: topic (e.g., multistep equations, inequalities) and cognitive demand (e.g., memorize, perform procedures, demonstrate understanding). In all, the SEC identifies nearly 2,000 of these distinct types of “content” (the product of combined topic and cognitive demand variables). Experts then analyze and match individual standards with SEC content components and use these metrics to compare various sets of standards and curricular materials. The paper finds that—of the twenty-seven states’ standards that are analyzed—state and Common Core standards differ significantly, with the latter generally demanding a higher level of cognitive reasoning than the standards of the states. Despite this rigorous cognitive demand, the Core standards place less emphasis on advanced mathematical concepts in algebra and geometry than do the average set of state standards. What’s more, the Common Core standards don’t align all that well with international standards. For example, Finland, Japan, and Singapore all place greater emphasis on “perform[ing] procedures” than does the Common Core. Whether or not you completely buy into the SEC’s framework model, with its levels of rigor and definitions of content, these findings raise a cautionary flag about states’ abilities to quickly implement the Common Core standards and leads one to question whether these common standards are less aligned with the expectations of other countries than was previously thought.
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Andrew Porter, Jennifer McMaken, Jun Hwang, and Rui Yang, “Common Core Standards: The New U.S. Intended Curriculum” (Washington, D.C.: Educational Researcher, vol. 40, no. 3, 2011).
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