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Something in Common: The Common Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education

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October 21, 2011 03:19 pm


On October 18, the Alliance hosted a book release party for Alliance Senior Fellow Robert Rothman’s new book, Something in Common: The Common Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education.

Something in Common is the first book to provide a detailed look at the groundbreaking Common Core State Standards and their potential to transform American education. It tells the story of the unfolding political drama around the making of the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts, which have been adopted by forty-five states and the District of Columbia, after decades of similar proposals had gone down in flames.

The October 18 event featured a panel discussion with national and state leaders on the opportunities and challenges that will be part of the implementation process of the Common Core State Standards.

Video from the "Something in Common" book release partyThe panel was moderated by Richard Lee Colvin, Executive Director, Education Sector, and featured Lucille Davy, Senior Advisor, James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy; Paul Reville, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Bob Rothman, Senior Fellow, Alliance for Excellent Education; and Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education.

Watch video from the event by clicking on the image to the right. Additional images from the event are available on the Alliance’s Facebook page at

Prior to the event, Rothman discussed his new book with Erik Robelen, who writes Education Week’s Curriculum Matters blog. An excerpt is posted below. The complete article is available at

Although debates persist about the common standards now adopted by 45 states, a new book suggests they hold the potential to “transform American education.” And with this in mind, author Robert Rothman has just written something of a primer that seeks to explain the standards effort to a broad audience, and that also highlights the challenges ahead in realizing their potential.

Rothman, a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education, and a former Education Week reporter, spoke about his book yesterday at a forum hosted by the alliance on the common standards. I wasn’t able to attend that event, which also included several other speakers, but I did chat with Rothman by phone yesterday about the common standards and his new book-Something in Common: The Common Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education, published by the Harvard Education Press.

To be clear, Rothman is definitely a fan of the common standards in English/language arts and mathematics, which he describes as “clear and coherent” and says are rightly and effectively aimed at preparing students for college and a career.
“This is a very significant milestone in American education, and it happened very quickly, and I don’t think a lot of people really knew the whole story behind it,” he told me. “I thought it was worth examining what this is, how it came about, why it might be different from previous efforts, and what the promise and challenges are ahead.”

As you might imagine, our conversation focused mainly on the promise and challenges.

“Since the inception of the standards movement, the idea was that if states developed standards and used them as the centerpiece of their education system, that that would drive improvement, but it hasn’t resulted in as much improvement as had been hoped,” Rothman said.

Part of the problem, he argues, is that “the translation of the standards from state documents to the classroom didn’t happen very well, and so these documents didn’t really drive changes in classroom practice in the way they could.”

One reason for this, he explains, is that state assessments in general have not followed along as closely to the standards as was expected. “A lot of research on alignment of tests and standards found that there were big gaps, and tests tended to measure relatively low-level skills and knowledge and didn’t capture all the expectations in the standards,” he said.

As the stakes attached to tests have steadily risen, Rothman said teachers have placed more emphasis on the assessments rather than the standards. He also suggested that there was never the level of quality professional development to help teachers bring state standards into the classroom.

Read the complete Education Week interview with Robert Rothman at

To learn more about Something in Common: The Common Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education or to order a copy, visit


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