Academic standards, open educational resources (OER), and Internet technology connecting every student, teacher and educational leader to countless resources (as well as each other) have proliferated over the last 25 years. However, the promise of these tools and technologies facilitating dramatic change in how education takes place remains largely unfulfilled and this post dives into some of the reasons why.

Standards Don’t Align

Different Standards, Same Subject – Rigorous standards have been created at the U.S. state level for every major subject, many of them embracing or building on cross-state initiatives. However there is a significant issue in that many of the standards, even those covering the same subjects – are distinct from each other.

  • Common Core for ELA and Math
  • Next Generation Science Standards – NGSS
  • College, Career and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies – C3

Drift from the Common Core – Another factor has been the fragmentation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative commonly known as Common Core, which at one time was embraced by 41 of 50 U.S. States and the District of Columbia.

Common Core details what K–12 students throughout the U.S. should know in English language arts and mathematics at the conclusion of each school grade. The goal of the Common Core was to establish consistent educational standards across the States and to ensure students graduating from high school are prepared with a set of knowledge to enter college and the workforce.

Common Core has fragmented over the last decade as some states have repealed their adoption of the Common Core, some of whom have created their own version (a process referred to as“drift”). These new standards may leverage the Common Core, but they are also unique to the state that created them.

As a result, it is difficult for educators to know when they are teaching the same standard being taught in other states, which limits their ability to leverage existing resources, much less make strategic decisions at the curriculum level.

Correlated Standard Resources Are Not Affordable So Will Not Benefit Educators

Companies, like Edgate Correlation Services and Academic Benchmarks, that provide alignment services between standards have stepped in to solve issues of diversity and drift. These organizations have done substantial work over many years to correlate standards across states and countries. Because customers ready to pay for correlation services are most often educational publishers and courseware providers, technologies developed by alignment companies tend to service the needs of clients with financial and technical resources not available to broader educational communities.

Other initiatives are underway to move from proprietary to open standards, most notably the CASE Network developed by IMS Global. The CASE Network provides access to ELA and Math standards for all 50 states, free of charge, with standards frameworks built on IMS’s Competencies and Academic Standards Exchange (CASE) data format. CASE is a step in the right direction, but the organization is only offering access to standards for two subject areas, and crosswalking between those standards is not part of their “package”.

Limitations of OER and Aggregated Content

While OER, user generated content by teachers and faculty, as well as fee-based academic content from publishers, is more diverse and widespread than ever before – limited aggregation, tagging and accurate rating of such resources means that educators are just as likely to take their chance on a Google search for content, rather than navigate the “Wild West” of OER.

What’s Needed To Move Forward

Beyond sharing of resources, education is going to move from a system based on seat time and summative grades to one based on personalized learning that allows students to progress at their own rate. This would consist of a model based on demonstrating mastery of well-defined competencies as they go. Resources that are currently proprietary and fragmented need to be consolidated, systematized and built into applications and services open and accessible to all.

A huge step forward would occur if there were an open source system and technology that could evaluate content and know its alignment to all the various standards. Such a system would also house a catalog with reviews of how and where that content was utilized (e.g. 4th grade Social Studies class at Bishop School in Arlington, MA by Ms. Ferguson ).

This would build an evergreen ever growing curated and rated collection of course content for others to choose from with knowledge where it had been successfully used elsewhere. Such a system would also remove a great deal of the friction holding back what the marketplace has clearly stated it wants which is efficient access to lower cost, high quality content and assessments. The impact would be a move from content selection and adoption as a marketing and sales effort to a curation and search process.

Please stay tuned for our next post in this series. In the meantime, please connect with me on LinkedIn so we can continue this conversation!

– Mark