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Groups to Spread Word on Standards in States, Districts

I attended a forum on the common standards effort today in Washington. Originally it was supposed to be closed to the press, but the gates opened and journos were allowed in. The event drew people from across the DC education-policy circuit, but it was also attended by teachers, college faculty, and those otherwise curious about the progress of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The event didn't yield much in the way of major revelations, though there were a few details worth noting:

—The American Federation of Teachers plans to partner with the Council of Great City Schools on a pilot project to examine how the standards can be implemented in schools. The project will focus on 10 districts, looking at issues such as aligning professional development with the standards that emerge, Patricia Sullivan of the AFT, told the audience at the forum.

—Along similar lines, the National Association of State Boards of Education is going to be staging four regional conferences that will focus on common standards sometime in early 2010. Brenda Wellburn, the executive director of the group, said the events will focus on helping their members understand the purpose of the state standards effort. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing some financial backing for those events, she said. State boards are a crucial audience for the common standards effort, because in most states those officials are expected to be the ones charged with deciding whether to adopt them.

—The organizers of the the standards effort originally predicted that a draft of the K-12 documents would be ready in mid-December. Now they're saying the release won't happen until early January. The draft K-12 document is already being reviewed by state officials, whose comments will be incorporated when the draft is unveiled, said Dane Linn, of the National Governors Association, who led the forum along with Gene Wilhoit of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Those two organizations, as most readers know, are guiding the standards effort.

—Wilhoit said that while not all states will accept the common standards at the same time, he expects a "considerable number of them to move forward" with adoption when the final standards are complete. Many states require that standards be put through a fairly extensive public comment and vetting phase, which could last anywhere between four and nine months, the CCSSO official noted. Despite that, "the support is holding, and it's moving into the adoption phase," Wilhoit told the audience. He added later: "We do anticipate a large number of states to move forward with the adoption process, based on what we see now."

Wilhoit also addressed a critical question: What does it mean for a state to "adopt" the Common Core standards? He suggested that the Common Core officials want to hold a fairly hard line on standards, requiring states to stick to much of the language and content of the final documents. The goal is to avoid "slippage" in terms of state standards not matching the Common Core. "Adoption means adoption," Wilhoit said. (Though the CCSSO/NGA have said previously that the Common Core will have to account for no less than 85 percent of the standards that the states implement.)

Readers who've been tracking this process will note that, in addition to the AFT and NASBE efforts, supporters of the standards are conducting outreach on at least one other front. As I wrote yesterday, the National PTA has announced plans for a campaign to build support for common standards in four states. While the campaigns discussed at the forum today target different audiences than the PTA's outreach, the overall goal seems to be similar.

UPDATE: I just heard from the Council of Great City Schools, which says the number of cities to participate in the standards-implementation project hasn't been determined yet. The cities will be chosen later. NASBE officials, meanwhile, say conferences on common standards will be held in Jacksonville, Fla., Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.

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