Common Core and Common Ground: New
Standards as Driver for Open Educational
Resources and Practice in American Schools – with
some reflections on the implications for Europe
Sara Frank Bristow (Salient Research), with Giles
Pepler (Sero Consulting)
15 April 2015
Outline of presentation
• Common Core State Standards (CCSS) – case
• Implications for Europe
• The Common Core case study was part of a research project “SharedOER” undertaken for
IPTS by Sero Consulting over the period June-December 2014. The aim of this study was to
make an inventory of the existing cases within the context of formal education (school
sector, vocational education and higher education) where a curriculum or syllabus is shared
across borders (e.g. state, national, linguistic and cultural) and consider in particular the
OER aspects, existing or prospective.
• The study was in three parts. The first (Deliverable 1) involved scoping and classifying
cross-border syllabi/curriculum initiatives and their drivers (Jeans, Pepler & Bacsich, 2014).
It was followed by a detailed case study (Deliverable 2) of the US Common Core State
Standards Initiative and its impact on OER (Bristow, 2014), with both these elements
brought together in Deliverable 3 (the final report,). This final report is due for publication
by IPTS shortly. It discusses the research findings and the issues they raise and identifies
potential areas for further investigation on synergies between cross-border
syllabi/curriculum and OER in the context of formal education in the EU.
• In this study, the term cross-border use is extended to any curriculum, or syllabi, when it is
used in above described situations, including between states in federal countries such as
the US or Germany. By curriculum we broadly refer to a specifically planned sequence of
instruction incorporating (or not) the specific content and resources.
What are CCSS?
• The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are designed to ensure that students
graduating from high school are prepared to begin two- or four-year post-
secondary programmes or enter the workforce. The standards identify specific
goals for language and literacy, as well as for Mathematics, that students should
acquire at each grade level.
• The CCSS Initiative was first formed in 2009, and the standards for kindergarten
through grade 12 (K-12) were made available in 2010.
• The standards focus on core concepts and procedures starting in the early grades,
which “gives teachers the time needed to teach them and gives students the time
needed to master them”.
• For kindergarten through grade 8 (K-8), these are grade-by-grade; at high school
level, the standards are grouped into bands for grades 9-10 and grades 11-12.
Bands are intended to allow schools, districts, and states flexibility in course
US Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
Initiative and its impact on OER: Backdrop
• US law prohibits the federal education department from
controlling state or local districts’ academic standards or
• Educational system is fully devolved to the states
• Major policy decisions made by state legislative bodies
(state senate, house of representatives)
– …while local governing bodies are charged with establishing
their own curriculum (learning materials), professional
• Under No Child Left Behind (2001), each state adopts its
own rigorous standards and definition of adequate yearly
• States not showing AYP lose critical federal funding
Where did the CCSS Initiative come from?
• Development spurred by National Governors Association (NGA)
and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), with Achieve,
Inc. (nonprofit) – support from philanthropy and many educator
• Designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are
prepared to begin two- or four-year post-secondary programmes
or enter the workforce
• Adoption allows states to meet federal No Child Left Behind
• In 2009, 48 out of 50 US states signed a memorandum of
agreement committing to the initiative
• Actual standards made available in 2010 for optional adoption –
not from federal government, but by these independent groups.
States may develop their own standards, but choose to adopt
What are the CCSS?
• Terminology check:
– Standards set goals for what students should know and be
able to do while learning academic content.
– Curricula provide educators with an outline of what should be
taught in classrooms.
– Assessments determine how much a student has learned and
whether he or she has performed to a level of proficiency set
by academic standards.
• Identify specific goals for language and literacy, as well as
for mathematics, that students should acquire at each
grade level (K-8, 9-10, 11-12)
• “Accompanying model course descriptions, or pathways,
are not intended to be prescriptive for curriculum or
pedagogy” – that is, no learning materials are provided
What’s happening now?
• By October 2014, 43 US states working to implement CCSS
• Survey (2013) by Center for Education Policy found most
states unprepared for the transition
– Curricular – We need new textbooks!
– Technology – The assessment are all online!
– Professional development – We have to do what?
– Cost – Estimated at $8 billion to implement nationwide!
– Political – Many, but momentum keep CCSS moving
“The standards are not curricula and do not
mandate the use of any particular curriculum.
Teachers are able to develop their own lesson plans
and choose materials, as they have always done.
States that have adopted the standards may choose
to work together to develop instructional materials
and curricula. As states work individually to
implement their new standards, publishers of
instructional materials and experienced educators
will develop new resources around these shared
standards.” – CCSS web site
Enter the K-12 OER Collaborative
• OER emerge as a viable and potentially cost-saving option, but
previous efforts are disjointed (districts, states, companies)
• Formal launch November 2014: 12 states of 50 have signed on so
• Led by those with most visible OER policies, players and
commitments (Washington State, Utah, Minnesota )
• RFP issued to create a comprehensive, openly licensed curriculum
aligned to Common Core State Standards
• Early efforts date to 2012 (Achieve Inc.); Hewlett funding awarded
2015; supporters include iNACOL and national member
• In March 2015, three-month rapid prototype sample units now
being developed (all materials will be CC-BY)
The Collaborative approach
• Needs assessment survey across 3 leading states; several
thousand educators selected “comprehensive curriculum”
• Adaptable materials developed for online learning (no “static
PDFs”); easy to update/maintain
• RFP used “the free market to get the best solution at the best
price”; content proposals reviewed by educators in 9 states
• Each unit will be evaluated against same criteria (EQUIP rubric),
reviewed by nominated “expert educators” and applicant
• Later phase will invite applications from reviewers from all 50
• Materials to be available across multiple formats/ platforms
• OER curriculum to be truly cross-border, available for adoption by
Why might CCSS be interesting to Europe in an OER
• CCSS was a states-led effort, not a federal one.
• Each of the 50 states bears full responsibility for the
education of its children. Most states then devolve further
curricular decision- making to the local level, a state of
governance described as ‘local control’. Depending on the
state, responsibility for ensuring a high-quality education
may be shifted to regional school boards, city (municipal)
school boards, school unions, or in some cases schools
themselves (e.g. charter schools). As a result, the nature and
quality of education provided across the United States can
vary dramatically, not just from state to state, but from
district to district (and even school to school).
• There are parallel patterns in many EU countries.
Europe – existing cross-border
curricula and content
International Baccalaureate, iGCSE etc.
IT vendor qualifications – Cisco, Java,
STEM subjects and languages
But how portable are the experiences of CCSS?
If the goal is cross-border adoption of common
standards, as in the US
• Look beyond the public education sphere for partners, funding and
thought leadership. Foundations and commercial entities, for example,
have been great supporters of the Common Core State Standards
Initiative, as have non-profit education organisations.
• In Europe, it will be up to each state whether it adopts − and how it
executes – the common standards.
• Cross-border regulation should make it financially desirable, but not
strictly necessary, to adopt the standards.
• Act swiftly, as there may be widespread criticism/backlash. Solicit public
feedback swiftly and efficiently through supporting consortia members.
• Ensure adequate technological capability at school/school district/state
level if technology is to feature prominently in measuring achievement.
• Prepare states for reform of curricular content, professional
development, and assessment systems after introduction of new
If the goal is to spur development and uptake
of OER in particular
– As above, seek funding/guidance from non-governmental
entities, e.g. foundations and private partners.
– Look to those states with the most OER experience at the
state policy level for sample implementation models.
– Encourage cross-border meetings, partnerships and
consortia – states will have many completely different
concerns, but will have at least one critical common
driver: saving money.
– Take advantage of any/all links to higher education
– Seek out/designate OER Champions in each state to lead
the way and, hopefully, work together through
– how might key current collaborative initiatives might
be further developed?
– explore the potential for extended collaborative
initiatives in particular subject and content areas,
specifically STEM and languages;
– seek collaboration between commercial and non-
– further research into the potential economic benefits
of shared OER and cross-border curricula;
– explore the potential for upscaling ‘seed corn’ and
– explore the transferability of current government-
– Further develop validation of informal learning.
Thank you for listening
– Parts 1 and 2 of this study are now available at
Report is forthcoming
– Study commissioned by IPTS-JRC,
– Report by Sero Consulting Ltd, http://www.sero.co.uk/
– More info on CCSS at http://www.corestandards.org/
– Giles Pepler, firstname.lastname@example.org
– Sara Frank Bristow, email@example.com