The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative has been in the spotlight recently, mainly because of the negative press surrounding the timing of implementing the standards, the challenges of the new and online assessments, and concerns over local education control. Despite the controversy, the adoption of Common Core will level the playing field for edtech startups entering the education market compared to the current incumbents. In a world with 50 different sets of state standards, it is much harder for smaller enterprises to compete. If your startup supports the Common Core, a much larger market will be available.
Here are some important things to keep in mind about the Common Core as you build your edtech startup:
Myth 1: It’s a Federal Initiative
The CCSS, despite common misconception, is not a federally organized initiative. The standards were developed with the sponsorship of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The initiative was wholly adopted by 44 states, Washington D.C., and four US territories. States not adopting the standards include Alaska, Indiana, Minnesota (which adopted only the English Standards), Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia, as well as Puerto Rico. Political turmoil around the Common Core is expected to continue as states work on aligning school curriculum to the new standards. Some states are changing the summative assessments they will use. Some states like Pennsylvania, which have said they are moving away from the Common Core, are actually only changing some parts of the standards.
Myth 2: The National Education Association (NEA) Doesn’t Support it
The National Education Association fully endorses the Common Core. According to a recent NEA poll, 75% of members supported the initiative outright or with some reservation. Though some educators have fears about it, many are excited about its tighter focus on content and emphasis on critical thinking. Educators want to receive the professional development necessary to enable them to work with their students to achieve the new standards.
Myth 3: The Curriculum Won’t Help Disadvantaged Students
When CCSS is fully implemented, the standards will help ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are expected to meet the same standards and graduate with the same preparedness for college or a career. Today, students in states with lower standards are told they are proficient, but find that they are not prepared for college or a career when they graduate from high school. One CCSS objective is to reduce the number of students requiring remedial work in post-secondary education.
Myth 4: Teachers are Forced to Teach a Certain Way
Though the standards define the overall outcomes that are expected of students, they do not define the curriculum or the scope and sequence of instruction. Teachers can present the material in any way they like, as long as the students are able to demonstrate their learning.
Myth 5: Publishing Giants Don’t Care
Educational content and tests are still being developed by the incumbent publishers, including Pearson, Educational Testing Service, and McGraw-Hill. The major publishers still have a big stake in continuing to develop content and assessments for schools. Pearson and the ACT have partnered to offer an alternative summative assessment with PARCC and Smarter Balance. The Common Core State Standards are likely to be a large enough change, however, to provide an opportunity for competition. The Gates Foundation report ‘Teachers Know Best’ outlines the areas in which teachers believe they need more innovative curricular materials to meet the demands of the Common Core.