Part fourteen of an ongoing series on higher standards in New York State.
Common Core critics sometimes argue that common standards are “one-size-fits-all,” to the detriment of our children, who are each unique and learn differently. In the case of the Common Core, however, standardization is leading to greater variety in the educational materials available to teachers and students.
Before the Common Core standards, each state had its own set of learning standards and its own definitions of “proficiency” at each grade level. These variations posed challenges for teachers, schools of education, test developers, and textbook companies when they were deciding what material to cover, and for students when they moved from one state to another. Rather than custom-develop materials for each state, publishers of tests and textbooks sought to save on development costs and increase profits by developing generic materials that covered the common elements of multiple states’ standards. In an attempt to cover multiple states’ standards in a single volume, textbooks often contained more material than could be taught in a single year. Through a series of mergers, the educational publishing industry became increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small number of companies.
The Common Core standards have transformed the market for educational materials. With the adoption of common ELA and math standards in more than 40 states, all the major publishers are competing to create Common-Core-aligned textbooks and tests, and newer/smaller developers are entering the marketplace as well. Groups of states have formed consortia to share the costs of developing standardized tests aligned to the Common Core. During the initial years of implementation, most teachers and districts have struggled to find good materials aligned to the standards, but over time, the Common Core standards are leading to a greater variety of innovative, high-quality materials at lower prices. Entities such as the New York State Education Department and the non-profit Khan Academy are developing and disseminating free Common Core curriculum materials online, and individual teachers can develop and share their own Common Core-aligned resources with one another via the American Federation of Teachers’ Share My Lesson portal. To aid districts and teachers in choosing among the many options, there are a variety of tools to vet Common Core-aligned curriculum materials, including an organization that provides online Consumer Reports-style reviews.
Thus, with publishers now benefiting from a larger market for each product they develop, and consumers benefiting from a larger selection of better-aligned materials at lower prices, there is tremendous economic momentum behind the Common Core standards.
Please click here to read part thirteen in this ongoing series.