Now, I’m really confused. Remember a few days ago when I said Wyoming was one of those states? The ones that are so local-control centered that they will never take part in a national initiative like Race to the Test? Well, yesterday to my surprise, Wyoming announced they are adopting the Common Core Standards. The AP reported that state schools superintendent Jim McBride called the Core Standards, “a significant improvement over the standards that we currently have in Wyoming.” The Wyoming Education Department said they were a state-led effort, which is probably the reason they were OK with adopting them. They don’t have to tell people they’re bending to Washington if it’s a “state-led” initiative. The Core Standards reportedly start math earlier and are more rigorous in English than Wyoming’s current ones. Wyoming is now the 14th state to adopt the Common Core.
Is this a turning point, either for Wyoming or Common Core? I’m still having trouble reading Wyoming. I’m not sure whether they’ll join either of the assessment consortia. Common sense would say “yes”, since they will now need new state tests. PAWS will no longer be applicable (yes, that’s the actual name of their state assessment). But common sense doesn’t always guide political decisions. Whether or not Wyoming does anything further to join the fray, I do think this is big news for Common Core. It’s hard to think states, even ones with decent standards, won’t start wondering how Wyoming could possibly be more progressive than them (outside of Alaska and Texas, that is). I predict that within the next month or two, we will see the majority of states signing on, perhaps as many as 40 or 45 by the end of the year. The standards are out in public now and decision makers can clearly see whether their standards measure up. So can their constituents. It’s also an easy financial decision to make. Why spend tens millions of dollars paying Pearson to develop tests for you when you can just adapt ones that other states are already making? R&D is already being done. All you need to do is pay people to reassure yourselves that the legwork was done well.