Collaborative for Student Success Needs to Close Its Own Honesty Gap

Photo credit: Marcin Wichary

According to the Collaborative for Student Success website, NAEP – not state assessments – is the better gauge of student performance. They call the difference between the two test results the “honesty gap.”

Parents deserve the truth. Historically, states have exaggerated the percent of students who are proficient – as demonstrated by the huge gaps that have existed between state NAEP scores and what states report as their proficiency rate. (see Honesty Gap explained here)

I couldn’t agree more. Yet, this argument is currently being used (along with other misleading data) to sway states into keeping Common Core, or “higher” standards, after implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. This is funny seeing how scores declined on NAEP since Common Core implementation and the state assessments are so screwed up one can barely decipher what they mean. Nonetheless, the pre-ESSA implementation spin by Common Core supporters is that states would be going “backwards” if they switch from CC, and this is the spin we must combat:

We can’t go backwards. Opponents of Common Core and high quality tests want to take states and the country backward. Yet they offer no alternative plan to ensuring that parents have the right information and that we are graduating kids that are prepared for success in life. Standards and assessments may not be popular terms – but opponents owe parents a plan for ensuring student success without them.

Yet, they step on their own “honesty gap” argument in a dishonest attempt to claim that Common Core has improved math proficiency rates for third graders available on their website. They use the 2015 state assessments as the gauge while ignoring the 2015 NAEP scores.

Six years after the majority of states adopted higher K-12 academic standards, new data suggest proficiency among students is improving. Among the more than 40 states that have adopted and maintained high standards, the vast majority have seen proficiency rates improve. Among third grade students – students whose entire academic careers have been guided by high standards– math scores increased by more than three percentage points. All but a handful of states saw improvements.

They use the 2015-2016 state assessments as their “proof.” Yet, students in 3rd grade that year started kindergarten in 2012, right? What about the students who started school six years ago when they claim most states adopted the standards? As we all know, kindergarten was the earliest grade to implement. In Indiana, by at least 2011, even the Catholic schools had already implemented Common Core in grades K-5.

The 2015 NAEP scores showed an overall decline in the percentage of 4th graders (under Common Core since at least 1st grade depending on implementation year) scoring proficient in math. Only the District of Columbia, Mississippi, and the DoDEA showed a gain. 16 states had declines and 33 had no change. see results here.

The dishonesty and spin is so obvious. If we start hearing the same “keep high standards” don’t “go backwards” spin from incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, it will be very telling. We need the argument to be made that the Common Core is academically inferior to prior standards and state should seize the opportunity with ESSA and the new administration to repeal and replace Common Core with better standards.