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Reading List: Why Common Standards?

**U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). College and Career Ready Students. Washington D.C.: Author. Available at

This piece, prepared by the U.S. Department of Education as part of a research base for the key elements put forth in the Department’s blueprint for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, advocates for the creation of common college-and career-ready standards. The brief argues current state standards have not properly prepared students, vary greatly in quality from state to state, and have decreased in quality in some states under No Child Left Behind.

Quay, L. (2010). Higher Standards for All: Implications of the Common Core for Equity in Education. Berkeley, CA: UC Berkeley School of Law, Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity. Available at

This brief highlights criticisms regarding existing state standards and discusses how the Common Core Initiative will address numerous concerns, including the inconsistency across states’ standards. After discussing how implementation of the Common Core Standards may affect low-income students and students of color, the author ends with three recommendations for consideration in moving forward with the Common Core, focused on aligning assessments, creating standards-aligned curriculum frameworks and instructional materials, and ensuring effective teaching and instructional capacity.

Goertz, M. E. (2008). Standards-Based Reform: Lessons from the Past, Directions for the Future. Paper presented at Clio at the Table: A Conference on the Uses of History to Inform and Improve Education Policy. Available at

This paper spells out arguments for and against common standards in education, pointing out that the discrepancy between individual state and NAEP proficiency standards has created a push for national standards, even in the highly decentralized US education system. The author presents a historical perspective and a summary of research related to standards and standards-based reform in an attempt to inform future policy decisions in these areas.

National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, Inc. (2008). Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-Class Education. Washington, DC: National Governors Association. (Excerpted from Pages 5-7, 13, and 20-21.) Available at

The executive summary addresses the importance of quality education to remain competitive in an increasingly global labor market and the need for international benchmarking to learn from high-performing countries and ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills to be globally competitive. The included chart highlights the subpar performance of U.S. 15-year-old students in the areas of mathematics, reading, science, and problem solving. The authors also address several myths about the U.S. student population and testing practices that are often used to explain lower educational performance.

Smith, M.S., O’Day, J.A., Cohen, D.K. (1991). A National Curriculum in the United States? Educational Leadership, 49 (1), 74-91. Not Available online.

This article, selected to provide a historical perspective of previous conversations about common standards, explores the conditions under which a national curriculum could be executed. The authors consider implementation of a curriculum that preserves teacher initiative and democratic control of education while involving students in more demanding work in order to ensure improved teaching and learning. The authors discuss how designing such a national model would need to focus on key aspects of curricular materials and assessments. The piece then discusses challenges in implementing a national curriculum, including technical concerns, local flexibility, professional development, and approval from both parents and educators.

**This document is considered a priority reading.