Brookings Institute: States Using Common Core Math Standards Show Little Progress

imageThe Brookings Institution released a report that undermines the belief that the Common Core will better prepare students for STEM.  If that is the case and these standards are so great why are states with standards that are the most dissimilar to the Common Core have better assessment scores?

The progress report proceeds along two lines of inquiry. First, a ranking system crafted by researchers at Michigan State University is employed to evaluate progress on NAEP from 2009–2013. The MSU experts found that states with math standards that were similar to the Common Core in 2009 scored higher on the eighth grade NAEP that year compared to states with standards dislike the Common Core. The current study examines data from the NAEP tests conducted in 2011 and 2013 and asks whether the same finding holds for subsequent changes in NAEP scores. Have the states with CCSS-like standards made greater gains on the eighth grade NAEP since 2009? It turns out they have not.

The second line of inquiry utilizes a rubric that categorizes each state on the strength of its implementation of CCSS.  NAEP gains were again compared.  Here the news was more encouraging for the Common Core.  States with stronger implementation of the CCSS have made larger NAEP gains.  The downside to this optimistic finding is the difference is quite small.  If Common Core is eventually going to fulfill the soaring expectations of its supporters, much greater progress must become evident.

The authors later write:

Supporters of Common Core argue that strong, effective 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 ball game–there are no signs of such an impressive accomplishment.

The Daily Caller interviews Neal McClusky of the Cato Institute and Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute:

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, noted that Brookings isn’t typically known for publishing arch conservative opinions.

“This study, from the hardly Tea Party aligned Brookings Institution, is another nail in the coffin of the over-hyped promises of many Core advocates,” he told The Daily Caller.

The study provides useful evidence than Common Core in theory and Common Core in practice are two very different things, said McCluskey.

“It’s increasingly clear that even if the Core is a significant uptick in rigor over previous standards in many states–a contested ‘if’–translating that into improved academic performance is very difficult,” he said.

Joy Pullman, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News, said that the Brookings study might not be quite so damning, but only because its research was based on a wildly flawed pro-Common Core study.

“The authors [of the original study] basically played with their data to push their conclusion that Common-Core lookalike states had higher performance,” she told TheDC. “So this new study bases its analysis on the old study’s rating scale, which itself is flawed.”

In either case, there’s little solid data to suggest that Common Core-aligned states perform better on math. Pullman pointed to a portion of the Brookings analysis that predicted Common Core would make no difference in students’ math performances for a least a quarter century.

“What a horrific condemnation of the piles of mandates, taxpayer money, teacher time, and disruption to students Common Core has caused,” she said. “All that — so far for nothing, and with no signs of any positive return in sight.”