Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Open School Standards OSS: An alternative to Common Core?

Open standards have been used successful across many industries and technologies.  They give flexibility to customize and adapt, while providing a foundation of available standards and interoperability.

Perhaps this framework could be used by states and individual schools as an alternative to Common Core?

Open Standards:

  • Seed a growing and ever updating list of standards, drawn for the best from state standards, around the country and around the world.   Encourage standards experts, to participate, evaluate, score them, encourage or discourage them.  Provide an open forum for standards to be evaluated, questioned, commented upon, rated, etc.  Include parents, teachers, education experts.
  • Provide ways to classify, group and sort them, by subject, recommended grade(s), ratings.  When standards are similar or identical, they could be combined to reduce redundancy.  Groups can work to evaluate, combine, rate them to “narrow” the list down or put forward their “recommended” set of standards.   States and schools should just not be monetarily incentivized or forced to use any particular set.
  • For each standards, test and materials publishers (see below) could “claim” alignment for their tests and study tools.  Users would be able to “rate” and/or question this alignment (or lack thereof).
  • Even the Washington D.C. lobby groups that created Common Core could “donate” their copyrights to the Common Core standards by putting them into the public domain & OSS!
  • States and local school districts would be able to pick and choose which standards they would adopt and in which grade level and even within grade levels.  Schools could have 2-3 levels of standards, based on below proficient, proficient and advanced levels.  To take it further, schools might have a different set, customized to the level of the child in each subject.  Want a particular math standard in 5th grade instead of 6th grade? No problem, just drag and drop it into your set.  Truly “plug and play” standards.

Open Tests:
  • Any company or individuals should be able to create software and/or paper tests that reference and draw from referenced open standards.  This site is a great example of how aspects of how “open source” tests could work:
  • With software, each school and/or state would have their own, customized test based on their selected set of standards.  Again, could be customized down to grades, subjects, proficiency levels, and even each student.
  • Like the standards, groups could advocate their software or tests, allowing each state and school to choose.  Smarter Balanced and PARCC could even become options, so long as they create tests that are chosen by each state and/or school, customized to their standards and open parent and teacher feedback mechanisms were in place.
  • Reliability of the providers, especially the tests, would need to be well-monitored, especially to prevent sharing of test answers, etc. 

Open Materials:

  • Publishers won’t like this.  Instead of unwieldy, expensive books, workbooks and other materials, published and purchased by states and schools en masse every 5-7 years, “books” could be produced in the form of print on demand inserts which could be customized for each state or school, based upon their selected set of standards.  Individual sheets could be inserted into ring bound books, using cost-effective printing and binding materials, such that annual costs should be comparable to current costs.  However, each state, school or student would get their own tailored set of materials, exactly matching their respective standards and tests. 
  • Likewise, teachers would get their own customized teachers books, guides and could select from a wide range of available, rated and aligned lesson plans, teaching materials, etc.  However, with standards customization available by state and/or school and down to the levels of grade, subject and proficiency groups, the materials could be a better match for the teacher’s classroom and student.  There would also be much more flexibility to modify, upgrade or downgrade the standards for the school, based upon PILOT implementations and teacher classroom experience. Here's another current example of something like this in action:
  • Like the standards and tests, open public forums could provide ratings, reviews, recommendations.  And any group (and even teachers) can certainly recommend or promote their wares.   Parents and even students currently have no forum to rate materials, perhaps this is the feedback loop that is desperately needed.  Only this close to this out there today is Great Schools, unfortunately they seem to be full steam ahead with Common Core (and got Gates money):

Data opt-out provisions:

  • Parents should be allowed to opt-out of any sharing of their child’s data.  Like just about every other company, surveys and sampling can be used to normalize results if needed, without having to have data on EVERY child.
  • Perhaps teachers could voluntarily request or opt-out of having any results tied to any incentives. 
  • Schools, likewise, should not be punished if they choose to opt-out of any statewide databases.  Again, even if shared, parents should have ability to opt out.
  • “Reformers” who want a “common” set of measurements and longitudinal test may not like it—though it would seem schools can still measure on each standard and show annual progress. Data geeks will have to live with not having data on every kid… sorry, it’s not a price parents (and teachers) want to be forced to pay.  We have to drawn the line when it comes to data on children.

Politics and money will still be factors.  Yes, publishers would likely outspend smaller rivals to push their tests and materials.  However, parent and teacher feedback loops and open forums of communication could be critical offsets.  Like most open systems, the best standards, tests and materials should rise to the top. 

Thoughts?  Has this been proposed or tried previously?  Out with “one-size doesn’t fit all” and in with “many sizes fit all”?


  1. Brilliant! I love the idea. The Common Core standards are industrial era.
    Open source standards are 21st century.
    I will be posting this blog next week.
    Diane Ravitch

    1. Thank you, Diane. Appreciate the support. Detractors would say it is too idealist. But if Common Core can pushed through against the will of the people, perhaps this can be pulled through by the will of the people.

      Feel free to contact us if you'd like to discuss the idea further when you have a few minutes:

  2. FYI, in addition to existing examples above, see as a similar idea in the creative world. While standards may not be "creative works" (and perhaps the Common Core copyright is not valid?), if it were more of a wiki in form, this would be a similar idea.


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