A recent Fordham Institute report, Putting a Price Tag on the Common Core: How Much Will Smart Implementation Cost?, sheds some light on what districts and states can expect to invest in implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The report focuses on costs associated with instructional materials, assessment, and professional learning, with the researchers considering the cost of three implementation scenarios, each with different price tags and each with pros and cons.
The authors make three notable points. The first is that professional learning is one of three crucial considerations for successful implementation of Common Core. However, the use of the term cost suggests that the funds do not return value. Improvement in the capacity of educators does indeed produce a return in terms of student success that extends beyond the implementation of Common Core. In a decade, when upgrades to the Common Core are underway, educators will build upon what they learn today and continue to benefit in their daily practice.
Professional learning is an investment that pays dividends in terms of educators' capacity to address change, meet the needs of all students, and increase student academic success. Yet only professional learning that is aligned closely with specific educator and student outcomes will pay dividends. Learning Forward's Outcomes standard reinforces the importance of coherence and alignment. Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students aligns its outcomes with educator performance and student curriculum standards.
The second key point made in the study is the importance of using existing resources to support Common Core implementation. The authors acknowledge that the actual funding to support implementation using either a bare bones or balanced implementation approach is within reason if current investments in professional learning are repurposed to support Common Core. To do this, districts and states need to consistently track, monitor, and evaluate costs for professional learning so they can analyze their current investments and realign them with new priorities. Because many states and districts lack ways to analyze professional learning expenditures, it is difficult to make informed decisions about investments in professional learning.
The third point is that Common Core implementation is likely to require a new way of doing business, one that increases efficiency and effectiveness. As districts and states look at how collaborative investments and technology can support their efforts to accomplish the same high-level goals more efficiently, it is essential that they turn their attention to equity in investment decisions as well. Some students, teachers, schools, districts, and even states will require greater investments in professional learning than others. Policy makers and decision makers must be willing to take bold stands for equity in resource allocation in order to accomplish the promise that all students be college- and career-ready.
This study is an important reminder about the thoughtful, deliberate, and considered decisions policy makers and education leaders must make regarding implementation of Common Core, and serves as a challenge to those responsible for implementation to be accountable for their decisions.
Senior Advisor, Learning Forward