At five-year mark, is Common Core delivering on promise of improved academics?

The battle against Common Core never gained the traction in Georgia that it did in other states. (AJC File.)

The debate over Common Core State Standards has subsided in Georgia, which rebuffed efforts to jettison the nationally developed framework for what students ought to know in math and English.

Despite former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s critical role in creating Common Core, Georgia takes care to refer to its standards as the Georgia Performance Standards. (We’re not alone; 25 of the 43 states following Common Core call their standards something else to mollify opponents.) While a few states claim to have revised or be in the midst of revising Common Core, most of the changes are minor.

The standards – or education policy in general, for that matter — haven’t surfaced in the presidential race in any real depth. In a speech a few days ago in New Hampshire, Donald Trump said,  “Common Core will be ended, and disadvantaged children will be allowed to attend the school of their choice.” He didn’t elaborate on how either would occur.

Still, the question remains: Is Common Core working?

In this piece for InsideSources.com, Scott Sargrad, managing director for K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress, and Coleton Whitaker, education campaign associate at the center, conclude Common Core is working.

By Scott Sargrad and Coleton Whitaker

Five years ago, Kentucky became the first state in the country to start implementing the Common Core State Standards in classrooms and measuring whether students are reaching those standards. While Kentucky has not yet released its most recent test scores, more than half of the states across the country have done so. What the scores tell us is clear: states have raised expectations and have put in place better tests, and students are showing real progress.

What’s more, the changes that states have made to improve their testing practices and to reduce pressure typically stemming from these tests have slowed down the movement to opt out of testing.

Since the 2015-2016 school year marked the second year of new tests aligned with the Common Core, policymakers and advocates can finally start to compare test scores over time and see how student achievement has changed under the standards. As it turns out, achievement is up in nearly every state that has released scores.

In fact, in 27 of the 28 states that have released scores from this spring and where the data are comparable to last year, student performance is up — and some of the biggest increases are for third-grade students, who have learned to higher standards for their whole time in school.

Take California, for example, where statewide English language arts proficiency is up 5 percentage points from last year, and math is up by 4 percentage points. Or New York, where overall English language arts scores increased by nearly 7 percentage points between 2015 and 2016 — with scores for third- and fourth- graders increasing by 11 and 8 points, respectively. Math scores in New York increased as well.

Or South Dakota, where students in every grade but 11th improved in both English language arts and math by between 2 and 7 percentage points.

At the same time these states are making improvements in teaching and learning and helping students reach higher standards, they’re also making improvements in testing to reduce pressure on tests, shorten testing time and make sure that tests have value for students and parents. As a result, more students are taking the tests and fewer are opting out.

In New Jersey — which shortened its tests by 90 minutes and made other changes to reduce time spent testing — 56,000 more students took the English language arts test and 65,000 more students took the math test this year compared to last year. And in Washington state, where half of 11th-graders opted out of state tests in 2015, nearly 90 percent participated in the English language arts test and more than 60 percent participated in the math test this year.

f course, critics of the Common Core will continue to push states to get rid of the standards. But their push has less and less credibility as scores go up and students see more and more success. And it’s probably not a coincidence that the one state so far where scores have gone down — Indiana — is a state that dropped Common Core and has since changed its standards and tests multiple times.

It’s time for these critics to accept that under the standards, students are making progress.

To be sure, these results aren’t a slam dunk, and no one who supports higher standards and better tests should declare victory. One year of increases isn’t yet a trend, and it’s too early to say whether these gains will continue. What’s more, achievement across the country is still far too low, especially for students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities and English language learners.

Over the next year and beyond, states and districts need to make sure that teachers have the support and resources they need to help students continue to make progress and meet these higher standards.

But there’s no denying that this progress is real. And it’s a testament to the hard work of educators, parents, and state and local leaders who have continued to push forward and make adjustments where needed. Most of all, it’s a testament to our students, who are showing once again that they will rise to meet whatever expectations we set for them. That’s why we need to make sure that the expectation for every child is to graduate from high school ready for college and a career.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

14 comments
wafuy
wafuy

The standards – or education policy in general, for that matter — haven’t surfaced in the presidential race in any real depth. In a speech a few days ago in New Hampshire, Donald Trump said,  “Common Core will be ended, and disadvantaged children will be allowed to attend the school of their choice.” He didn’t elaborate on how either would occur.  





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Kathryn Antman
Kathryn Antman

Nope, still as developmentally inappropriate as it was to start with.

Tom Green
Tom Green

^^^^^Perhaps, since the scores are never defined it would be easy to do.

class80olddog
class80olddog


"Take California, for example, where statewide English language arts proficiency is up 5 percentage points from last year, and math is up by 4 percentage points."  Where does the authors get their numbers.  From the California DOE site for NAEP eighth :  2015 math - 275, 2013 - 276.  2015 Reading - 259, 2013 - 262.  Those numbers look like decreases to me.  Of course, they may using their own "special" assessments. 


class80olddog
class80olddog

"But there’s no denying that this progress is real." - I deny it.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I will also point out (once again) that these "standards" have been implemented, but are never enforced (that is, if a student does not test as "proficient", they are seldom retained). What good are standards if not enforced?  If I have a standard that there only be so many listeria bacteria present in my ice cream, but it tests as ten times that level, but I allow the ice cream to be sold anyway, Is this not a problem?  It might be to those who eat the ice cream.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I agree with Wascatlady.  Also, in consulting Ga DOE website, it says that 8th grade NAEP scores in math went from 278 in 2009 to 279 in 2015.  In Reading, the scores went from 260 to 262.  Improvement, yes, but miniscule.  If anyone has a source, I would love to see a graph of Georgia NAEP scores from the sixties through the present.  This is, of course, if you believe NAEP score to be truly representative, given that they only test selected students.  I am not sure that the "selected" students are not "selected" to show improvement. 

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@class80olddog NAEP, of course, is state-level assessment conducted every four years using random samples of students as test takers.

Similarly, NAEP TUDA (Trial Urban District Assessment) is urban district-level assessment conducted every two years since 2002 or 2003, depending of subject assessed, and also using random samples of students as test takers.

The following link goes to a look at all urban districts voluntarily assessed by NAEP TUDA since its inception.  It includes callouts on Austin Independent School District (AISD) and Atlanta Public Schools (APS) that spotlights Meria Joel Carstarphen, Ed.D., (M.J.C.) as superintendent of both districts.

https://files.acrobat.com/a/preview/842434b7-bcaa-4ed9-8572-ae2cf4534d2f

NAEP assesses how well the states themselves are doing.  NAEP is not an assessment of the students. 

Likewise, NAEP TUDA assesses how well the urban districts that volunteer to be assessed are doing.  NAEP TUDA is not an assessment of urban students.

Assessing state and district educational systems themselves versus assessing the students in those systems is a distinction likely to challenge those accustomed to always wanting to make simplistic, reductive comparisons and rankings so as to praise or blame a WHO rather than a WHAT.  Consequently, little, if any, attention goes to improving the educational systems themselves. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@EdJohnson @class80olddog  I am trying to find a consistent assessment of student learning - I was told that the NAEP was the closest thing to that.  Everyone on here tells me how the test results are fixed, and passing criteria changed, and generally that test scores mean nothing.  SAT scores are useless since not all students have to take them, plus the SAT just recently was changed to increase scores (no guessing penalty such as they had when I took it).  So basically you are saying there is no assessment of student learning, just trust you (or the authors) when y'all say CC is now improving things. 

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@class80olddog @EdJohnson If you look holistically at either or both NAEP and NAEP TUDA you should see, in general, stagnation and/or decline that corresponds with CC implementation, realizing correspondence does not necessarily mean causation.  But, again, and I realize it's usually a stretch for the analytical kind of thinker, it is stagnation and/or decline in the state and urban district educational systems themselves that effect the quality of student learning.  The problem is the WHAT, not the WHO.

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

Again, it won't matter.  The "elephant in the room" that remains is that poorer kids tend to do worse because of the lack of proper parenting, particularly with kids having kids and especially with so many being fatherless. We have done much of this to ourselves by rewarding bad behavior since the mid-60's.  So, we are paying the piper now.  How sad. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I cannot address the CC in the higher grades, but some of the expectations for even upper middle class very young kids are inappropriate and unrealistic developmentally.  For kids from lower income, lower-educated homes where even less elaborative language is used or modeled, they are ridiculous.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady  That's OK, Wascatlady, just teach the calculus in the third grade, and if they don't score well, just pass them with an "A" anyway.  Same as usual.