Does Common Core Matter? An Excellent 2012 Musing by Tom Loveless
The Education Week article below was written in April 2012 by Brookings Institute member Tom Loveless.
In it, Loveless argues why having “common standards” across states will likely produce no monumental gains for states adopting Common Core.
The piece raises such excellent points that I had to offer it to my readers.
Does the Common Core Matter?
By Tom Loveless
The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education includes a study of the Common Core State Standards project. It attempts to predict the effect of the common core on student achievement. The study focuses on three arguments: that the quality of the common core is superior to that of existing standards, that the tests tied to the common core will be rigorous, and that having common standards will reduce differences across the United States by “putting all states on the same page.” It summarizes the current debate on the common core, but takes no stand on the merits of the arguments.
For example, the study does not attempt to determine whether the common-core standards are of high or low quality, only whether the quality of state standards has mattered to student achievement in the past. The finding is clear: The quality of standards has not mattered. From 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones.
The analysis of rigor takes the same tack. It investigates whether it has mattered to state NAEP scores if cut points for proficiency on state tests were set at high or low levels. There is evidence at 4th grade that raising cut points, no matter where they were set originally, is associated with increased achievement. But the effect is not large, and it is difficult to determine the direction of causality. At 8th grade, states with lenient cut points have made NAEP gains similar to those of states with rigorous ones.
The third analysis points out a statistical fact about NAEP scores: Test-score differences within states are about four to five times greater than differences in state means. We all know of the huge difference between Massachusetts and Mississippi on NAEP. What often goes unnoticed is that every state in the nation has a mini-Massachusetts-Mississippi contrast within its own borders. Common state standards might reduce variation between states, but it is difficult to imagine how they will reduce variation within states. After all, districts and schools within the same state have been operating under common standards for several years and, in some states, for decades.
For the rest of the article, follow this link.