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Five Myths About the Common Core State Standards

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October 17, 2011 07:45 pm


Writing for the Harvard Education Letter, Alliance Senior Fellow Robert Rothman explores five myths about the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by forty-five states and the District of Columbia.

To hear more from Rothman on the common standards, register for the book release party the Alliance is hosting for him on October 18 in Washington, DC. Alternatively, you can order a copy of his new book, Something in Common: The Common Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education, at

Rothman’s five myths about the Common Core State Standards appear below:

Myth #1: The Common Core State Standards are a national curriculum.

Rothman writes that the Common Core State Standards are not curriculum, but merely spell out what students should know and be able to do at the end of a year. “Curriculum defines the specific course of study-the scope and sequence that will enable students to meet standards,” Rothman writes, noting that there are many possible curricula schools could use that would lead students to the Common Core State Standards.

Myth #2: The Common Core State Standards are an Obama administration initiative.

Rothman acknowledges that the Obama administration is a “strong supporter” of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, but underscores that the initiative was, and continues to be, state-led. He adds that no federal official served on the work teams and feedback groups that developed the standards and stresses that each state-acting on its own-chose to adopt the standards. Rothman does suggest that the Obama administration, through the Race to the Top program, provided incentives for states, but did not force states to adopt the standards.

Myth #3: The Common Core standards represent a modest change from current practice.

Although the content of the sets of standards in English language arts and mathematics is similar, Rothman argues that the level of knowledge and skills the Common Core calls for is in many respects quite different from what current standards expect and what schools currently practice.

Myth #4: States cannot implement the Common Core standards in the current budget climate.

Although inadequate funds for implementation is a major challenge, Rothman cites a 2011 survey by the Center on Education Policy finding that 80 percent of districts had efforts to implement the standards underway or planned for 2011-2012. 

Myth #5: The Common Core State Standards will transform schools.

Acknowledging that advocates have high hopes for the Common Core State Standards, Rothman says even the most passionate advocate of standards will admit that standards, by themselves, do not improve education and are only the first step on the road to higher levels of learning.

“To have an effect on the day-to-day interaction between students and teachers, and thus improve learning, states and districts will have to implement the standards,” Rothman writes. “That will require changes in curricula and assessments to align with the standards, professional development to ensure that teachers know what they are expected to teach, and ultimately, changes in teacher education so that all teachers have the capability to teach all students to the standards.”

For more details on Rothman’s five myths, read the Harvard Education Letter at

Register for the Alliance’s book party for Robert Rothman’s new book, Something in Common, at

Order a copy of Something in Common at


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