and time, content standards can be developed for any school subject. Based on the committee’s experience, the development of de novo, single-subject standards for a K–12 school subject, such as science, mathematics, or technology, requires several million dollars over a period of three to five years.1

These content standards development efforts, however, have generally not been associated with a plan or commitment for nationwide implementation. Instead, implementation of national standards begins when states create their own standards, based to varying degrees on the national documents. Because each state has its own educational system, history, and policies, state standards vary considerably in their fidelity to the national documents, as well as in their alignment to one another (Porter et al., 2008). This variability creates a number of challenges related to the quality, consistency, and rigor of what is taught, learned, and assessed (e.g., Finn et al., 2006) and is a major driver of the current movement to establish common standards for core subjects (Box 2-1).

BOX 2-1

Common Core Standards

Forty-eight states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have signaled their support for the common core standards initiative (, led by the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and funded largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Draft standards for K–12 English language arts and mathematics, developed by experts affiliated with Achieve, Inc., ACT, and the College Board, were released for public comment in spring 2010. Supporters of the common core approach hope the new standards will increase the rigor and decrease the number and variability of learning expectations for students.

Participating states are also expected to sign on to the development of common assessments, and the U.S. Department of Education has pledged $350 million to help develop them. It is not clear, however, how these assessments would be designed or whether states will agree to use a common set of measures to judge student performance. A central tension in the project is whether the push for consistency at the national level fundamentally infringes on the tradition of state independence in education decision making.

Some have speculated that science will be the next school subject to become part of the common core standards. Because the draft framework for the next generation of science standards being developed by the National Research Council includes key concepts in engineering and technology, it is possible those subjects may also become part of the common core. When finalized in the first quarter of 2011, the science framework will be handed off to Achieve, Inc., which will use it to create new standards. The decision to include science in the common core standards likely rests with NGA and CCSSO.


For example, the National Science Education Standards were developed over a period of five years at a cost of $7 million (P. Legro, Koshland Science Museum, personal communication, Feb. 2, 2010).

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