New Evidence Common Core Was a Waste
School Choice Weekly #30
A new set of data analyses provides more evidence Common Core is likely a massive waste of time and money. Here’s the conclusion of the Common Core portion of the Brookings Institution’s 2014 Brown Center report:
It is doubtful that even the most ardent Common Core supporter will be satisfied if the best CCSS can offer--after all of the debate, the costs in tax revenue, and blood, sweat, and tears going into implementation--is a three point NAEP gain.
The 2012 Brown Center Report predicted, based on an empirical analysis of the effects of state standards, that the CCSS will have little to no impact on student achievement. Supporters of the Common Core argue that strong, effective implementation of the standards will sweep away such skepticism by producing lasting, significant gains in student learning. So far, at least--and it is admittedly the early innings of a long ballgame--there are no signs of such an impressive accomplishment.
Shameful words. As state officials are constantly reminding lawmakers in hearings this spring on bills to repeal Common Core, states already have pushed teachers and schools into spending loads of time and money putting Common Core mandates in place and preparing for its tests. Almost all did so, of course, before doing a cost analysis or demanding hard data proving these mandates would benefit kids.
Such data are difficult to come by in education, and the Brookings report is no exception. Its section on Common Core includes two statistical analyses, one that compares the changes in test scores on the Nation’s Report Card between groups of states that an earlier study sorted into “those with math mandates like Common Core” and “those with math mandates not like Common Core.” Brookings finds states less like Common Core did better on national tests than did the states whose standards were more like Common Core.
Unfortunately, the underlying study that originally rated state standards “more like Common Core” or not has some technical problems, as Ze’ev Wurman has explained. So it’s hard to tell whether this portion of the study provides useful information. But we’re continuing to see more evidence that standards have little effect on achievement. As for the more important question of whether Common Core itself will increase math achievement, we still do not have any solid data. That in itself is astonishing, because it means nearly all states have been willing to experiment on kids and classrooms with really no good evidence to support that decision.
The second portion of the analysis shows a slight improvement (but not statistically significant) in math scores for “strong implementers” of CCSS: “If it takes four years for the CCSS to generate a .035 [standard deviation] improvement, it will take 24 years for a noticeable improvement to unfold.” That’s a noticeable improvement, folks, not a significant one. In other words, the small amount of data we currently have still says Common Core does essentially nothing for kids.
Common Core supporters will insist we wait another several years, after the tests kick in and everything is fully in place, before making this the final conclusion. The report author considers and rejects this idea, but perhaps C.S. Lewis has the best rejoinder: “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
SOURCES: Brookings Institution, Ze’ev Wurman
IN THIS ISSUE:
- TESTING vs. CHOICE: Leaders of some of the most prominent school choice-supporting think tanks sign a letter agreeing that increasing compliance to the state reduces accountability to parents.
- ARIZONA: Bills to expand the state’s trailblazing school choice program advance in the legislature. They would open education savings accounts to as many as 1 million children.
- MISSISSIPPI: The Senate passed education savings accounts for special-needs kids last week. A swath of disability advocates and community leaders support the idea.
- CHOICE: Why “accountability” shouldn’t mean making all schools the same through heavy testing mandates on all forms of K-12 schools.
- FLORIDA: Democrats joined Republicans in moving forward a bill that would offer education savings accounts to special-needs kids. Another bill would expand the state’s tax-credit scholarships, one of the nation’s biggest school choice programs.
- AD BUYS: National business groups will spend millions to push back against Common Core opponents with TV ads. Bill Gates also has been making rounds with politicians and the media to shore up the initiative.
- OKLAHOMA: Lawmakers slip a Common Core repeal bill into another for a floor vote, despite protests from the governor. It passes the House amid backroom negotiations, 72–18.
- TENNESSEE: The House votes to delay Common Core national standards and tests, using a parliamentary move to get a vote on the measure. It passed 82–11.
- FLORIDA: The state has made the final decision to drop national Common Core tests. Common Core opponents are turning up the heat on Gov. Rick Scott during his tight re-election race. Legislation to repeal or delay Common Core has stalled, and the state department of education favors the national mandates.
- POLLS: Contrary to media and advocacy reports (but we repeat ourselves), polls show those informed about Common Core are slightly more likely to be against it.
- WYOMING: State lawmakers block an attempt to phase in global-warming heavy national science standards. This makes Wyoming one of the first states to reject the standards.
- GEORGIA: A pile of hostile amendments suffocated a Common Core repeal bill.
- ACADEMIC DECLINE: Since the 1970s, adjusted SAT scores have fallen an average of 3 percent while inflation-adjusted K–12 spending has more than doubled, finds a new study. The study shows the change in spending and SAT scores nationwide and for every state since 1972.
- CALIFORNIA: A lawsuit against teachers union rules could reverberate nationwide. The lawsuit seeks to overturn seniority and tenure rules, arguing these result in assigning the lowest-quality teachers to the neediest kids.
- MATH WARS: How to know if your child’s school is using “fuzzy math,” and why that will damage your child’s learning.
- WASHINGTON: Despite a flurry of legislative activity to follow federal education directives, lawmakers did not tie the state’s teacher evaluations to student test scores and thus will likely lose its No Child Left Behind waiver.
- KANSAS: Another year of technical difficulties for annual tests invalidates the results. This means three years of lost accountability data.