Standards and Assessments

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The current hodgepodge of state standards and assessments leaves students and educators without a clear vision of what they should be aiming for and the whole K-12 system without direction.

Standards for what students should know and be able to do vary dramatically from one state to the next, as does the rigor of the assessments that tell us whether students are meeting those standards.

Read this Fact Sheet to find out how Congress can provide support and incentives for states as they transition from current standards and assessments to new, higher college- and career-ready standards.


Meeting College- and Career-Ready Standards Depends on Sound Implementation

Editor's note: Click on a state name to see its standards waiver summary. Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee.

On May 29, eight more states were granted NCLB waivers by the Department of Education: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island. The Education Trust does not currently plan to perform the same analyses for these states as for the first 11.

The Education Trust has eagerly and actively engaged with stakeholders at every stage of the No Child Left Behind waiver development and approval process. All along, our goal has been to ensure that the opportunities for progress in closing gaps and raising student achievement are maximized, and the risks minimized. Now that the first 11 waiver requests have been approved, we’ve created brief, independent summaries of each plan with a focus on three critical areas: accountability systems; educator evaluations; and implementation of college- and career-ready standards.

Today, we release the final set of our waiver summaries. These analyses focus on state plans for the implementation of college- and career-ready standards. Among the 11 states that received waivers, 10 have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS); the 11th, Minnesota, has adopted the CCSS for reading and language arts, and has already implemented separate college- and career-ready standards for mathematics. For most states, the new standards will raise the expec¬tations for students and for educators. However, the difference these more rigorous standards will make for student achievement depends on how well they are implemented.

Therefore, we reviewed state waiver plans with a close eye on  several key standards-implementation questions. How will teachers be trained and supported to teach to the new standards? How will the public be prepared for the new level of rigor that the new standards demand? How will teacher-preparation entities prepare their teacher candidates to effectively teach to these new standards?

In many states, the standards-implementation plan outlined in the waiver request does not necessarily reflect all the work currently underway in a state. However, the waiver plans do provide a useful window into how states are approaching this complicated and critical work. In reviewing each plan, we saw examples of promising practices that could offer guidance to other states that are still finalizing their approach to implementation. For example:

  • In Georgia, all educators in the state will attend professional learning sessions on the new standards, specific to subject and grade. These sessions, conducted by trained curriculum specialists, will ensure that educators across the state are exposed to the standards and are provided information on how to teach them in a consistent and coherent way.
  • Educators in Kentucky, Georgia, and New Jersey will be able to access substantial statewide resources for lesson planning and classroom instruction. Recognizing districts’ limited capacity to build robust systems of instructional supports, these three states are taking steps to provide educators with high-quality materials that are aligned with the new standards and easily implementable. New Jersey plans to develop a model curriculum that organizes learning objectives into units of study, complete with end-of-unit assessments. And Kentucky and Georgia are both building databases that will house a rich array of sequenced, coherent materials and supports.
  • Florida and Indiana are revising their teacher-certification exams and state teacher- preparation program approval standards to align with the new standards. To maintain state approval and make sure that the teachers they are preparing can pass new certification exams, teacher-preparation programs in these states are expected to update their curricula to reflect the new standards. Tennessee is also focused on ensuring that new teachers are prepared to teach to the new standards, and outlines plans to develop a statewide, pre-service training curriculum aligned with CCSS; and will require teacher candidates to demonstrate mastery of CCSS content before entering the classroom.

Our summaries also identify issues that will be critical for states to consider as they continue to develop, refine, and implement their plans. In particular, many of the waiver plans are vague about how states will ensure alignment between the content of teacher-preparation programs and the new standards. Also, some states plan to place the development of teacher instructional supports on the shoulders of individual districts, even though most districts do not have the capacity to do this work well.

It is our hope that these summaries will help the public gain a clearer understanding of what the waiver states pledge to do in their proposals, as well as offer a lucid perspective on the promise and potential pitfalls of this important undertaking by the states.

Click on a state's name to see its standards waiver summary: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee.