The Pioneer Institute is no friend of the
Common Core—which needs to be remembered when reading its latest missive.
Released last week, this report claims that it will cost the nation $15.8
billion to implement the new standards over a seven-year period, with the lion’s
share of those costs incurred during the first year. (Worse, the authors further
remind readers that this is, at best, a “midrange” estimate.) The Institute projects
a $10 million-plus invoice per school
for professional development, technology, and textbooks and instructional
materials in the first year alone—a number that strikes us as radically
inflated, to put it kindly. To be sure, implementing the Common Core well will bring
costs: Aligning materials, instruction, and assessments with new standards
cannot be done on the cheap if it’s going to be done well. But Pioneer’s
estimates are misleading. Not every dollar spent on CCSS will be “new money.” (It’s
not as if we’re spending zip on professional development, textbooks, and the
rest currently.) Nor do states need to follow the tired blueprint we’ve been
modeling implementation off of to date—and that has too often failed to move
the achievement needle. Examine Pioneer’s take on professional development, for
instance. The authors project a one-time professional development cost of $5.26
billion across all states—a third of Pioneer’s total CCSS implementation
estimate. Unfortunately, this fantastical number rests on two goofy
assumptions. First, that the CCSS adopters should (and will) use our current and
dramatically flawed
PD-delivery model to prep teachers. Second, that all
teachers—regardless of their strengths, subjects, or years of experience—need
exactly the same level of (expensive and outmoded) training. That said, Pioneer
does raise some
legitimate concerns about CCSS implementation. (In particular, the authors
question the assessment plans outlined by each assessment consortium and
question whether they can deliver given the proposed budget.) Let’s hope these
red flags spur innovation and cost-saving implementation—rather than serve as an excuse to walk away from what are stand-up
standards. As for a saner, real-world estimate of Common Core implementation
costs, stand by for others, Fordham included, to weigh in.

Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project, National Cost of Aligning States and
Localities to the Common Core Standards
(Boston, MA:
Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project, February 2012).

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