New Evidence Common Core Was a Waste

New Evidence Common Core Was a Waste
March 19, 2014

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)

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


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Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)