Professor William Mathis and NEPC: Common Core Unlikely to Improve Learning or Close Achievement Gap   Leave a comment

In case you don’t read the whole thing, I’m starting off with a bullet point list from a recent academic article from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) by Dr. William Mathis, entitled “Research-based Options for Education Policymaking,” available here, which among other things, gives advice for educators and policymakers, including these facts:

The nation’s “international economic competitiveness” is unlikely to be affected by  the presence or absence of national standards.

Common Core standards and assessments are unlikely to  improve learning, increase test scores, or close the achievement gap.

• As testbased  penalties have increased, the instructional attention given to non-tested areas has decreased.

Policymakers need to be aware of the significant costs in  instructional materials, training and computerized testing platforms the CCSS  requires as it is unlikely the federal or state governments will adequately cover these  costs.

For schools and districts with weak or non-existent curriculum articulation, the  CCSS may adequately serve as a basic curriculum.

• Schools must take proactive steps to  protect vital purposes of education such as maximizing individual student talents 

 

Here is the rest of the article:

RESEARCH-BASED OPTIONS FOR EDUCATION POLICYMAKING
Common Core State Standards
William Mathis, University of Colorado Boulder
October 2012

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have ardent supporters and strong critics.1 The actual effect of the CCSS, however, will depend much less on the standards themselves than on
how they are used. Two factors are particularly crucial. The first is whether states invest in the  necessary curricular and instructional resources and supports, and the second concerns the
nature and use of CCSS assessments developed by the two national testing consortia.

The movement toward nationwide curriculum standards began in 2009 and has been led  by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers,
accompanied by the Gates Foundation’s fiscal support. The CCSS goal is to assure a highlevel  “internationally competitive” set of standards, help teachers organize their lessons,
and assure educational continuity for mobile students.2 A claimed advantage is that an  economy of scale is created (particularly for corporations supplying professional  development, instructional materials, and standardized testing).3 Another claimed benefit  is the facilitation of comparisons among states, although such information is already  provided by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Since the CCSS has not been implemented, many questions cannot be definitively  answered. Yet, there are informative lessons from related research. There is, for example,   no evidence that states within the U.S. score higher or lower on the NAEP based on the  rigor of their state standards.4   Similarly, international test data show no pronounced testscore
advantage on the basis of the presence or absence of national standards.5 Further,  the wave of high-stakes testing associated with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has resulted  in the “dumbing down” and narrowing of the curriculum.6  Owing to the historically limited educational role of the federal government, those behind  the CCSS have taken care to avoid having the effort characterized as “national standards”  or a “national curriculum.”7 Four states (Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia) have, as of  October of 2012, declined to participate, and Minnesota has agreed to adopt CCSS in only  one subject area. (Five currently participating states are considering legislation to slow  down implementation 8). But that refusal has come at a cost. For a state to be eligible for  federal Race to the Top or NCLB waivers, for example, it must adopt “college and career  ready standards.”9 Nevertheless, in many minds, curriculum and standards are a state
responsibility, and the CCSS represents federal over-reach.10  Since the 1994 passage of the Goals 2000 legislation, state standards have been  increasingly linked to large-scale assessments of those standards. With NCLB, high-stakes  consequences were attached to the test scores. As a predictable consequence, the  assessments have driven curriculum and instruction much more than the state standards  themselves. It is now again predictable that the nature and use of the CCSS assessments  will largely determine the impact of CCSS. Two national assessment consortia (the Smarter  Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for  College and Careers) are developing computer-based testing for a scheduled  implementation in 2014-15. 11

Among the unresolved issues are:

1) the amount and impact of testing time required for the new assessments;
2) whether the results have enough validity and precision to justify high-stakes applications currently being eyed by lawmakers (e.g., evaluation of principals and teachers);
3) the ability of the two consortia to sustain the effort given the current fiscal needs and  available resources;
4) whether the assessment systems will be ready on time; and
5) most important, whether the tests will create incentives for teaching a rich, engaging,  comprehensive curriculum.12

A paramount issue is whether, given the current status of federal and state budgets, there  will be the political will to provide schools and students the professional support and  learning resources necessary for the effort to be successful.  As the absence or presence of rigorous or national standards says nothing about equity,  educational quality, or the provision of adequate educational services, there is no reason to  expect CCSS or any other standards initiative to be an effective educational reform by  itself. 13

Key Research Points and Advice for Policymakers

• The adoption of a set of standards and assessments, by themselves, is unlikely to  improve learning, increase test scores, or close the achievement gap. 14
For schools and districts with weak or non-existent curriculum articulation, the  CCSS may adequately serve as a basic curriculum. 15
• The assessment consortia are currently focused on mathematics and  English/language arts. Schools, districts, and states must take proactive steps to  protect other vital purposes of education such as citizenship, the arts, and  maximizing individual talents – as well as the sciences and social sciences. As testbased  penalties have increased, the instructional attention given to non-tested  areas has decreased. 16
• Educators and policymakers need to be aware of the significant costs in  instructional materials, training and computerized testing platforms the CCSS  requires.17  It is unlikely the federal or state governments will adequately cover these  costs. For the CCSS to be meaningful depends directly on whether it is adequately  supported.
• The nation’s “international economic competitiveness” is unlikely to be affected by  the presence or absence of national standards.18
• Children learn when they are provided with high-quality and equitable educational  opportunities. Investing in ways that enhance these opportunities shows the greater  promise for addressing the nation’s education problems.

Notes and References

1 In support, see Finn, C.E. Jr. (2010, March 16). Back to basics. National Review Online. Retrieved October 2,  2012, from http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/229317/back-basics/chester-e-finn-jr/.
For a strongly critical voice, see Greene, J. P. (September 21, 2011). My testimony on national standards before  US House. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://jaypgreene.com/2011/09/21/my-testimony-on-nationalstandards-before-us-house/
Finn and Greene are both generally on the political “right” on educational issues. But similar division is found on  the “left.” In support, see Weingarten, R. (2010, June 3). Statement by Randi Weingarten, president, American  Federation of Teachers, on Common Core standards. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.
Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://www.aft.org/newspubs/press/2010/060310.cfm/.
And in opposition, see Ravitch, D. (2012, July 9). My view of the Common Core standards (blog post). Diane  Ravitch’s Blog. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/09/my-view-of-the-commoncore-standards/.

2 NGA, CCSSO, Achieve (2008).Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U. S. Students Receive a world-Class  Education. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/0812BENCHMARKING.pdf
3Ash, K. (2012, February 29). Common core raises PD opportunities, questions. Teacher PD. Retrieved October 2,  2012, from http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2012/03/01/02common.h05.html/.
4 Whitehurst, G, (2009, October 14). Don’t forget curriculum. Brown Center Letters on Education, #3, 6.  Washington, DC: Brown Center on Education Policy, Brookings Institution. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from  http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2009/1014_curriculum_whitehurst.aspx/.
Bandeira de Mello, V. D., Blankenship, C., & McLaughlin D. (2009, October). Mapping state proficiencies onto  NAEP scales: 2005-2007. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education  Statistics. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/studies/2010456.asp/.
5 Kohn, A. (2010, January 14). Debunking the case for national standards: one size fits all mandates and their  dangers. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from  http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/national.htm/.
McCluskey, N. (2010, February 17). Behind the curtain: Assessing the case for national curriculum standards,  Policy analysis 66. Washington: CATO Institute. Retrieved February 18, 2010, from
http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11217/.
6 Robelen, E. (December 8, 2011) Most teachers see the curriculum narrowing, survey finds (blog post).  EdWeekOnline. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2011/12/most_teachers_see_the_curricul.html/.
Wisconsin Center for Educational Research. (1999, Fall). Are state-level standards and assessments aligned?
WCER Highlights, 1–3. Madison, WI: Author.
Amrein, A. & Berliner, D. (2002). High-stakes testing, uncertainty, and student learning. Education Policy  Analysis Archives, 10(18). Retrieved October 4, 2012, from  http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n18.
Shepard, L. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4–14.  Phillip Harris, Bruce M. Smith,B. M. & Harris, J. (2011) The Myths of Standardized Tests: Why They Don’t Tell  You What You Think They Do. Rowman and Littlefield, 100-109.
7 Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “The idea that the Common Core standards are nationally-imposed is a  conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy.”  Duncan, A. (2012, February 23). Statement by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, on a legislative proposal  in South Carolina to block implementation of the Common Core academic standards (press release). Washington,
DC: U.S. Departmentof Education. Retrieved October 4, 2012, from  http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/statement-us-secretary-education-arne-duncan-1/.
8 Klein, Alyson (2012, September 26). Rift seen among Republicans on Common Core. Education Week, 32 (5), 19.
9 Obama, B (2012, February 9). Remarks by the President on No Child Left Behind Flexibility. Washington, DC:  Office of the Press secretary. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/09/remarks-president-no-child-left-behind-flexibility/.
Note that these standards need not be the CCSS, although in all cases but one the CCSS has been used. Virginia was  granted a waiver based on college- and career-ready standard other than the CCSS.
Klein, A (2012, June 29). Five more states get NCLB waivers (blog post).Politics K-12/Education Week..  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/06/five_more_states_get_nclb_waiv.html)…

See Full List of Notes and References Here:  http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Research-Based-Options/02-Mathis_CommonCore.pdf

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