Mapping Standards

Katie Pak
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The flapping of butterfly wings can influence the formation of a hurricane much further away, according to the commonly cited butterfly effect, or chaos theory, employed often in scientific or mathematics circles. Applied more generally, an initial set of minute conditions can affect change in nonlinear and substantial ways.

State-by-state comparisons of policy decisions linked to college- and career-readiness standards can improve communication, partnerships, research, and transparency.

And indeed, the adoption of college- and career- readiness (CCR) standards in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.), like the flap of the butterfly wings, jumpstarted the implementation of scores of other policies designed to support administrator, educator, and student acclimation to these rigorous learning expectations. Keeping track of these changes is a useful endeavor for instructive purposes, as state-by-state comparisons of policy decisions linked to CCR standards can improve communication, partnerships, research, and transparency. Such readily accessible information helps people from all levels of the system acquire a holistic view of the entangled (and perhaps chaotic) policy environment surrounding CCR reform.

To serve this purpose, some organizations have accumulated 50-state information in databases available to the public. Education Counts, an Education Week repository of over 250 state level K-12 education indicators, provides multi-year data on policies, performance ratings, and statistics culled from annual surveys. The American Institutes for Research College & Career Readiness Success Center maintains an interactive map containing information on state definitions, metrics, programs, and structures associated with college and career readiness. The National Council on Teacher Quality provides State of the State reports on teacher evaluation policies in this standards-driven era. The Center on Standards, Assessments, and Implementation uploads snapshots of state data on their standards and assessments implementation processes. The Education Commission of the States compiles comparison reports on a variety of issues and policies prevalent in every state, as does Achieve.

C-SAIL’s 50 state policy database is a response to the sheer number of extant sources that all aim to capture and distill the sea of policies enacted to support standards reform. We have incorporated data researched by these esteemed organizations and filled in knowledge gaps by reviewing official documents, by reaching out to state officials to confirm or provide additional information, and by remaining abreast of updated policies reported in the news. It is our hope that the database operates as a comprehensive, well-researched, and current tool for all sorts of inquiries relating to college- and career-readiness implementation.

The categorization of the policies in C-SAIL’s 50 state database takes this tool one step further. While it might be interesting to see which states required the use of certain textbooks in 2012, for example, it is also helpful to know why that information matters, or what purpose it serves in the grand scheme of CCR standards implementation. Those of us who wonder what predicts successful policy implementation should turn to the policy attributes theory, which posits that the combined elements of stability, authority, power, consistency, and specificity cause stakeholders to be more likely to adopt or enact these policies. Our database highlights not just the 50 state policies, but also whether they add to the stability, authority, power, consistency, and specificity of potentially successful implementation (though, the question still remains, successful according to whom and based on what metrics?).

The utility of this database rests in the freedom afforded to individuals to customize diverse comparisons of state efforts to design policies in concert with CCR standards implementation. While previously cited databases focus on particular topics, ours presents a wide breadth of indicators spanning several policy domains, beginning with the year 2010 when CCSS entered the national arena. One would be able to explore the intersection of state policies to mandate professional development aligned to the standards, to require that high school graduation requirements reflect CCR coursework, and to base personnel decisions on performance ratings in a single year or across many years, to name one type of analysis that a practitioner or researcher could conduct. Someone else can track the rate at which one state progressed in their curricular roll out over another, or analyze if and how the number of legislative bills approved to delay standards implementation correlates with lagging graduation rates. The options are numerous and hopefully generative.

Listed below are some general examples of the indicators gathered to highlight different aspects of states’ transition processes to new standards, for the time period beginning with 2010 and ending with 2016. They are organized by the five levers that predict effective realization of CCR standards implementation:

Stability

  • Shifts in grades K-12 ELA and math standards implementation from 2010 to 2016
  • Shifts in grades K-12 ELA and math assessments implementation from 2010 to 2016  

Authority

  • Professional development to train and support teachers and principals transitioning to CCR standards
  • Institutional resources to support teachers’ implementation of CCR standards (curricula, test item banks, accommodation and modification guides for students with disabilities, etc)

Power

  • Plans for teacher evaluations (including plans to make them high stakes, how they affect tenure, how they use data, etc)
  • Requirements for accountability reporting (do metrics include number of students completing college and career ready coursework, how do they assign ratings, etc)

Specificity

  • Specificity of supports provided for students with disabilities and English language learners
  • Specificity of definitions for college and career readiness

Consistency

  • Alignment between English and math high school credit requirements with college admission requirements
  • Alignment between high school course requirements and state college and career readiness definitions

Please enjoy the maps we have created to showcase the timeline for standards and assessments implementation, information that has been confirmed by state contacts. As we continue to develop interactive maps to display more of the database, and as we continuously search for additional information to make this database richer, we hope that it gets used in creative ways that advance our collective understanding of state policy decision making. If you have ideas for more indicators to add to our current list, please contact C-SAIL at gse-csail@gse.upenn.edu. Thank you for your input!