The common standards aren't just for public schools, it seems.
With all but four states having adopted them since 2010, districts have little choice but to implement the Common Core State Standards. But many private schools are also making the transition.
More than 100 Roman Catholic dioceses spanning the nation from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, have decided to adopt the standards, according to a recent survey from the National Catholic Educational Association. Even the El Paso Diocese in Texas, a state that wanted no part of the common standards, signaled last spring that it was signing on.
Experts say practical considerations are likely an important motivator, as many private schools feel the pressure from the tidal wave of states beginning to implement the new standards, which cover K-12 mathematics and English/language arts. That's having profound effects on textbook and test publishers, for instance, which are revising their wares to better reflect the standards. Observers also suggest the common core will even reshape college-entrance exams.
It's not just Catholic schools making the move. Some Lutheran and other denominations of Christian schools are shifting to the common core, including Grand Rapids Christian in Michigan and the Christian Academy School System in Louisville, Ky.
The Aspen Country Day School in Aspen, Colo., meanwhile, isn't adopting the common core wholesale, but has used portions of the standards to help revamp its curriculum.
A number of leaders in private education emphasized that they adopted the common standards only after careful study and see them as worthy guideposts.
"What we came to decide was that if the public schools were going to implement them, it was something that we should take a good, hard look at," said Kevin C. Baxter, the superintendent of elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which oversees 270 Catholic schools. "We looked at them with an honest eye ... and realized they were something we wanted to pursue."
"It fits with what we're trying to do, going for depth, understanding, higher-level thinking skills," said Lisa H. Meyers, the academic dean at Valley Lutheran High School in Saginaw, Mich., which has long followed the state's standards. "We can buy into that."
Another issue for some leaders in private education is staying competitive with public schools.
"We feel there is a credibility factor for us," said Thomas J. DeJonge, the superintendent of Grand Rapids Christian Schools, a set of four private schools in and around that Michigan city. By using the same state standards and tests as public schools, as his schools long have done, parents can better gauge how their schools compare, he said.
The common core is by no means universally embraced, however.
Patrick F. Bassett, the executive director of the National Association of Independent Schools, in Washington, said that while he sees much to admire in the standards, he doesn't expect many NAIS member schools will adopt them.
"This notion of independence is central to [us]: local control, school by school, of what to teach and how to teach," he said. "So, decisionmaking through a national effort runs counter to our very being."
'Every Hand Went Up'
The earliest and most widespread adoption of the standards beyond public education appears to be among Catholic schools. Mr. Baxter from the Los Angeles Archdiocese recalled attending a recent regional conference for Catholic educators where the common core came up.
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