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An Overlooked Benefit of Common Standards?

The Washington Post's Jay Mathews—initially a proponent of the Common Core State Standards—asserts in a recent blog post that Virginia is doing the right thing in refusing to adopt the new standards. Drawing on discussions with Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, who recently put out a report on the topic, Mathews makes the case that the standards are but the "educational fashion of the moment" and "will fail," writing:

As Loveless notes, there are three main arguments for having all public schools teach the same subjects at the same level of rigor and complexity. First, students will learn more if their learning targets are set higher. Second, students will learn more if the passing grade for state tests are set higher. Third, students will learn more if lesson plans and textbooks are all made more complex and rigorous through required high standards.

Mathews goes on to show that each of those arguments has been disproved. However, I can't help but think there's another argument in favor of the common standards conspicuously left out of both the Loveless report and Mathews' analysis: that having public schools teach the same thing could be enormously beneficial for students moving from one state to another. As of now, do students transferring within a state tend to do better than those transferring between states? It seems logical that students who stay in-state would perform better on a state standardized test, but it would be interesting to see if they do better than their peers who move from state to state on a national test, such as NAEP, as well. That is, I'd hypothesize that students who transfer to a new school with the same standards could re-enter the curriculum more fluidly than those going to a new school with different standards.

On the same wavelength, as I wrote in a blog post several years ago, common standards could help streamline the IEP process nationally—making it easier to train special education teachers and eliminating the burden of having to rewrite IEPs for transfer students. And since it looks like the implementation of the common standards is a foregone conclusion in most states, determining the less obvious benefits could, if nothing else, increase teachers' level of receptiveness.

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