Earlier this month the comment period closed on the proposed Common Core Standards for English-language arts and mathematics. After a brief period of final revisions based on comments received, the standards are scheduled to be released in time for most states to consider adoption prior to or around the start of the new school year.

Governors and education officials from 48 states (not including Texas and Alaska) and 2 territories committed to the process of developing these standards, and the assumption is that most states will adopt them to replace their current standards. Strangely, Kentucky already adopted them sight unseen.

Although the parties involved have taken great care to avoid calling these national standards, the adoption of common standards across even a few states is unprecedented, and the likely adoption of these standards by most states will push us as near to national standards as we are ever likely to achieve. Adopting states have the option of modifying or augmenting the standards, but they are being encouraged to keep changes to a minimum.

I think the adoption of common standards (followed eventually by a common assessment a la NAEP) may be the educational system’s best hope of fending off the impending (but possibly endangered) NCLB 2014 deadline, and it’s the only approach proposed so far that has any chance of not leaving whole states behind (my home state being one of them).

But the new standards may present a $643.5 million problem. The) is #3 which states that “Under this priority, an eligible applicant must propose a project that is based on standards that are at least as rigorous as its State’s standards. If the proposed project is based on standards other than those adopted by the eligible applicant’s State, the applicant must explain how the standards are aligned with and at least as rigorous as the applicant’s State’s standards as well as how the standards differ.”

So the adoption of new standards after the i3 submission date but before the award start date may present some problems for applicants if they plan to use their state’s standards. Even programs based on different standards may find it difficult to describe how their standards differ from the yet-to-be-adopted standards, particularly since the final standards won’t be released before the i3 submission date.

I think the programs that are based on standards other than the state’s standards may have an easier time of it, particularly since the i3 program also requires that Scale-up proposals use the same program for which the supporting evidence is provided and that Validation proposals use the same or a very similar program with a clear and reasonable rationale for the changes.

Most of the programs based on state standards are likely to be inextricable from those standards and may be headed for the trashcan once the Common Core Standards are adopted, and even if the framework of the program can be salvaged and retooled for the new standards, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether such a proposal will pass muster during review.