A think tanky pal of mine wrote me today to ask why adoption of the Common Core standards is not getting more press. Fair question; I think when it comes to national ed reform right now, 89 percent of the attention is going to teacher quality, 9 percent to turnarounds and 2 percent to everything else.
I told him that ... standards are boring. I don’t mean to be glib. Among policy people, the question of state standards vs. common standards is and always has been interesting. But for beat reporters, far less so. Perhaps that is because on a day-to-day level, standards are wallpaper. What’s on the benchmark test, what’s in the district curriculum (if there is any), what’s in the Open Court book: This is what determines what happens in classrooms each day. Yes, state standards influence all that, but they are not on educators’ minds as much as policy makers think they are.
Maybe it is just too removed, the question of whether and how much the Common Core standards will change curriculum, teaching and testing. Maybe it’s only interesting in the states that have the toughest, or easiest and vaguest, standards now—which is why we have seen a little coverage out of Massachusetts and Virginia. (Don’t assume, though, that just because a state’s standards don’t explicitly say third-graders should count by 10s, districts don’t make their teachers teach that. Don’t assume they do, either.)
I think where journalists can conclude that the Common Core will really mean a change in the way a state’s schools do business, they should write about it—though that is easier said than done. I don’t, however, sit around wishing we had more coverage of the politics of standards. What do you think? What kind of stories would you like to see, if any? Why haven’t you written about the Common Core?