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THE CASE FOR COMMON STANDARDS: New Profiles from the Alliance for Excellent Education Examine Need for (and Potential of) Common Standards and Assessments

"Zip codes might be great for sorting mail, but they're no way to educate America's future workforce."

In spring 2009, the Common Core State Standards Initiative was launched with forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, and two territories coming together under the auspices of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop a common core of state K-12 English language arts and mathematics standards. New state profiles from the Alliance for Excellent Education offer evidence for why all states need improved standards and assessments while also examining the potential benefits of educating all students to meet common college- and career-ready standards.

“Zip codes might be great for sorting mail, but they’re no way to educate America’s future workforce,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Under the current education system, there is wide variation between states and even school districts on what students are expected to know and do-a situation that is unfair to all students, and one that is especially harmful to low-income students, students of color, and students who move from state to state.”

The Alliance’s common standards state profiles contain a great deal of information on how much progress each state has made in moving toward college- and career-ready standards, including information on when a state last revised its math and English language arts standards and whether a state is one of the thirty-one to align its high school graduation standards with college and career expectations.

Also included is information on whether a state is one of the forty-eight states whose governor and chief state school officer signed a Memorandum of Agreement to develop common core state standards in English language arts and math in June 2009. The profiles also reveal whether a state has plans to adopt the common core state standards, and, if so, note what entity in each state has formal adoption authority for standards.

In describing the need for common standards, the profiles analyze the gap between eighth-grade proficiency as measured by states’ tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Nationwide, the average gap between state- and NAEP-reported reading scores is 39 percentage points, although five states have gaps that are larger than 60 percentage points. The average gap in math is 30 percentage points, but four states have gaps that are larger than 50 percentage points.

The common standards state profiles include information on teachers’ attitudes on clearer academic standards, common standards across all states, and tougher academic standards based on a state-by-state survey released in 2010, as well as two- and four-year college graduation rates and unemployment rates by education levels.

The profiles also outline several ways states can benefit by adopting common standards and assessments. For example, states collectively spend $1.3 billion annually to develop, publish, administer, score, and report on tests. By working together to develop a common assessment, states can improve test quality and save money-a huge priority for states in today’s tight budget environments.

Common state standards would also ease the transition for students who move from state to state. According to the profile on Texas, about 93,300 school-aged children moved to Texas from another state in 2006 while more than 61,000 moved from Texas to another state. But the largest states are not the only ones affected; in North Carolina, more than 50,000 students moved into the state from another state in 2006 while nearly 40,000 moved out.

Common state standards and assessments that are aligned with college and career readiness will help to prepare students for success after high school; they will also help save states money that would normally be spent on college remediation. For example, if California’s high schools graduated all of their students ready for college, the state would save over $687.9 million a year in community college remediation costs and lost earnings; Illinois would save $210.2 million; and New York would save more than $192 million.

“With expectations that are the same no matter where students live, all students-from Sarasota to Seattle-can be confident that they will have the skills necessary to succeed after high school and compete with their international peers,” said Wise.

Common standards state profiles for every state are available here

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