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Report: States Make Headway in Aligning Curriculum to Common Core

A majority of states say they have already begun to teach a curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards in at least some districts or grade levels, new survey results show. In fact, nine of the states say they began to implement a new math curriculum reflecting the standards across their entire K-12 system during the 2012-13 academic year or earlier, and 12 report the same for English/language arts.

These are just a few of the findings from a new report that probes in depth the progress states are making on a variety of fronts—and the challenges they are encountering—to help bring the common core to life in classrooms.

Meanwhile, 11 of the 40 states that responded to the survey have started to recommend or require the use of specific curricular materials that have been validated by the state education agency as reflecting the standards, with six more planning to do so this coming year or later, according to the new report from the Center on Education Policy, a research and advocacy organization based at George Washington University.

You can find more analysis over at the State EdWatch blog. (Also, I recently blogged about a common-core survey that fielded views from middle school math teachers.)

Not surprisingly, nearly all the 40 states that responded to the Center on Education Policy survey report taking specific actions to prepare educators to teach the common-core standards, which 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted. The figures below indicate the number of states reporting that they have begun these activities.

• (37 states) Develop and disseminate professional-development materials and guides aligned to the common core;

• (36 states) Carry out statewide professional-development initiatives;

• (33 states) Work with institutions of higher education to align the academic content of teacher-prep programs with the common core; and

• (33 states) Encourage school and district professional learning communities on common-core implementation.

The data in the report are based on a survey of state education agencies conducted from February to May of this year. Forty states responded, including 39 that had adopted the common core in reading and math, and one that had adopted only the English/language arts standards (presumably Minnesota, which adopted only English/language arts).

The report also delves into some of the key challenges encountered by states in implementation. In all, 22 states said finding "adequate resources" to support all activities necessary to implement the standards was a "major challenge," and another 12 called it a "minor challenge." (Three said it was not a challenge.) Also, 13 states called identifying and developing curricular materials a "major challenge" and 13 a "minor challenge."

Only 14 of the 40 states surveyed said they had "adequate fiscal resources" to support state implementation of the standards, and only 13 said they had adequate staffing levels to do so. On the flip side, a majority, 27 states, said they did have adequate staff expertise to carry out implementation. Here's a table that spells out a whole set of data on this issue, including the adequacy of staff, expertise, and money to support new assessments (a huge issue, as this new story reminds us), technology to administer online assessments, professional development, and the creation of curriculum materials.

CEP1.JPG

"State education agencies' general lack of capacity, combined with concerns about adequate funding, may create greater implementation challenges as the adopting states move closer to administering the CCSS-aligned assessments in school year 2014-15," the report says. "If the common core is going to succeed, governors, state legislators, and state boards of education need to examine whether more resources are needed to implement the standards."

Although the survey is focused on common-core implementation issues, another piece of budgetary data caught my eye. Of the 40 states survey, 16 reported that K-12 education funding increased in the current fiscal year compared with the prior year, while in nine it declined. (Eleven said it stayed the same, and four said they did not know.)

There's plenty more information to mine in this report, as well as two others just issued by the Center on Education Policy. Those include a survey report focused more squarely on professional development to support the standards, and another examining states' views of the federal role in supporting the common core.

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