Common Core’s Flimsy Basis


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Two outstanding posts today on the flimsy basis of Common Core are very much worth your attention. At NRO, Jason Richwine notes an academic article that examines anonymous interviews with Common Core’s leading designers:

McDonnell and Weatherford are clear that research evidence did play a role in Common Core’s development, but almost all of the evidence was used either to identify problems (such as America’s poor ranking on international tests) or to generate hypotheses (for example, that higher achieving countries have superior standards). When it came time to actually write the standards, the developers could not draw from a large store of empirical evidence on what works and what doesn’t. They had little to go on except the standards of high-performing nations and the “professional judgment” of various stakeholders.

Professional judgment – where have we heard about that before?

One member of the validation committee admitted that “it was pretty clear from the start that nobody thought there was sufficient evidence for any of the standards” but defended them as “thoughtful professional judgment, applied systematically.”

The academic article also notes that CC designers were aware CC could not succeed without certain “enabling conditions” in place, but chose to ignore this fact for political reasons:

Common Core advocates understood what researchers were telling them about enabling conditions. However, during this stage of the policy process, they chose to downplay them because they would complicate the agenda at a time when a policy window was opening but might not be open for long.

Also very much worthy of your attention is this handy overview of five CC “half-truths” from Rick Hess. He demonstrates the lame rationalization behind claims that:

  1. CC is “internationally benchmarked” (nope)
  2. CC is “evidence-based” (nope)
  3. CC is “college- and career-ready” (double nope)
  4. CC is “rigorous” (only if your definition of rigor is unrigorous)
  5. High-performing nations have national standards (so do the low-performing nations)

Based on Rick’s review, they look more like non-truths than half-truths to me.

One Response to Common Core’s Flimsy Basis

  1. Eugene Paik Sr says:

    As this post points out…
    The authors and backers of CCSS, including the U. S. Dept. of Education, claim that CCSS is “research- and evidence-based”. This claim has been made repeatedly, emphatically, and unanimously by CCSS spokespersons. However, this claim has not been substantiated. There is no published document that identifies the research and evidence that CCSS is claimed to be based on.

    Because the claimed research and evidence is unavailable, outside experts (i.e., those not involved with the CCSS project) cannot evaluate the quality (e.g., bias, completeness) of the research and evidence, or the soundness of the manner in which the research and evidence was applied to CCSS. In essence, the nation is being asked to accept on faith that there is no significant flaw in the research and evidence base of CCSS. Clearly, this is an astoundingly high and unnecessary risk given the enormous impact that CCSS will have on the nation’s educational system and tens of millions of parents and children.

    Therefore, the U.S. Dept. of Education should be challenged to: 1) publish a document that identifies with specificity the research and evidence that CCSS is based on; and 2) how that research and evidence influenced the design of CCSS.

    Furthermore, major american educational organizations, such as AERA and teachers unions, should be challenged to evaluate the quality of the research and evidence base of CCSS and the soundness of the way that research and evidence was applied to CCSS. As the experts in our society, and given the enormous impact of CCSS on our society, these organizations have a professional responsibility to conduct this evaluation and inform the public of their findings. If they are negligent in doing so, they will complicit should the CCSS research and evidence base turn out to be of poor quality or unsound.

    The general public, many of whom trust the “experts” to hash out these details, will be surprised that the claimed research and evidence base of CCSS have been kept hidden from the experts. Further, whether or not CCSS organizations choose to publish their claimed research and evidence, it will help everyone to get a clearer and more truthful understanding of the underpinnings of the reforms, which we, as a nation, are in dire need of.

    One way to challenge the U.S. Dept. of Education in a way that will raise the public’s awareness on this “research and evidence” issue would be to take out a full page ad in a national newspaper. Of course, this requires someone (such as you, perhaps) to garner enough support and raise enough money.

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