“A Little Troubling”: Study by Pro-Common Core Group Finds Standards Have Failed


Yet another study confirms what a miserable academic failure the Common Core standards have turned out to be. The research was carried out by the federally funded Center on Standards, Alignment, Instruction, and Learning (C-SAIL) and reported by Lance Izumi of Pacific Research Institute in the conservative Daily Caller, as well as by Chalkbeat, a very pro-Common Core establishment outlet.

The key findings of this study are as follows:

Contrary to our expectation, we found that the CCR [College and Career Ready, i.e. Common Core] standards had significant negative effects on 4th graders’ reading achievement during the 7 years after the adoption of the new standards, and had a significant negative effect on 8th graders’ math achievement 7 years after adoption based on analyses of NAEP composite scores. The size of these negative effects, however, was generally small, ranging from -0.10 to -0.06 SDs.

Although the authors say that the negative effects were “generally small,” one of the authors admits in the Chalkbeat piece:

“It’s rather unexpected,” said researcher Mengli Song of the American Institutes for Research. “The magnitude of the negative effects tend to increase over time. That’s a little troubling.”

As Izumi states, “it is more than a little troubling.” Here are several reasons why:

  • C-SAIL, the federally funded research entity that supervised the research, is headed by Morgan Polikoff, who is very much in favor of Common Core and student data mining. If research put out by these people and entities is finding that Common Core is harmful, then the outlined problems are quite likely to be real.
  • The actual researchers are from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) which bills itself as “one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations,” and they are also strong supporters of Common Core and Social emotional learning (SEL) teaching, testing, and data collection. According to AIR’s contract with the state of Florida, they not only write state level Common Core assessments, but also the NAEP and the validation studies for the NAEP, the scores for which were examined for this study. If AIR researchers, with their vested interest in showing that Common Core and their state tests improve the NAEP scores (which they also write and which could easily be manipulated by them), found that Common Core in fact damages academic achievement measured by the very tests they write, then those findings must truly be very significant and “troubling.”
  • Tom Loveless of the center-left Brookings Institution (and long a critic of the Common Core standards as a means of improving academic achievement) said when asked about this study, “One thing standards advocates need to think about is that this doesn’t appear to work very well.”
  • Other pro-Common Core researchers and advocates admit that the methodology of this study is sound.
  • Chalkbeat is already discussing a study not even released yet that has NAEP results only through 2013 that allegedly shows improvements with Common Core in a attempt to blunt the seriously bad news for Core supporters from the C-SAIL/AIR study.

As mentioned above and by Izumi, there were many warnings by experts and parents about the impending dangers of Common Core. The Pioneer Institute has done yeoman’s work in compiling many warnings before adoption, as did the Cato Institute, the Brookings Institute, American Principles Project, and Education Liberty Watch. There has also been much evidence since implementation of how correct those warning have turned out to be:

  • Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita from the University of Arkansas and a member of the Common Core validation committee who refused to sign off on the final standards, said in 2010, “Common Core’s literature and reading standards in grades 9-12 do not prepare students for college and career better than those in California and Massachusetts.” In a 2018 analysis of the 2017 NAEP reading results, she confirmed that statement, saying: “Common Core-aligned standards and tests seem to have negatively affected the low-performing groups in Massachusetts. And that seems predictable, given the lower standards of Common Core.”
  • Dr. James Milgram, Stanford mathematician emeritus, also served on the Common Core validation committee, refused to sign off on the final product, and warned in 2010 about the significant deficiencies of Common Core, saying among other major criticisms: “Overall, Common Core’s preparation for Algebra I falls a year or two behind the standards in California and high achieving nations.”
  • Ze’ev Wurman, an engineer, former U.S. Department of Education official and now visiting scholar at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, when reviewing Florida’s Common Core standards in 2012 noted, “In summary, the full content of Common Core high school mathematics is insufficient to provide the equivalent of even a strong trigonometry and linear algebra course, let alone pre-calculus.” He then joined with another Hoover fellow, Dr. Williamson Evers, to write about the state of California math education in 2018, saying: “Adopting the Common Core math curriculum standards has proven to be a setback for California. When California had its own mathematics standards before Common Core, its students performed significantly better in math than they have after the Common Core was put into effect. The hardest hit by this change were the most vulnerable students. The state of California Education under Common Core is not good.”  

All of this shows that the January 31st executive order of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to eliminate Common Core from the Sunshine State and the more recent decision by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to pursue the same goal are extremely important and correct. The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, in consultation with multiple national experts, has just released a list of recommendations with detailed documentation to help both states achieve this critical and laudable goal. More details will follow shortly.

Please stay tuned and engaged in this crucial battle for the hearts and minds of our children.

Karen R. Effrem, MD

Dr. Karen Effrem and her husband have three children. She is trained as a pediatrician and serves as national education issues chairman for Eagle Forum and president of Education Liberty Watch.

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