After the hearing, I concluded that John Hill of the Alabama Policy Institute had it right when he wrote: “Although both sides of the Common Core debate make arguments worth consideration, both the potential benefits and pitfalls related to Common Core have been the subject of exaggeration and error.”
This is why Palmetto Policy Forum recently released a paper we believe cuts through the Common Core fog, outlining an eight-point plan to return unquestioned control of education standards to S.C. parents.
Several points can be taken from the release of this report on CC.
First, the report fails as many ideological think tank reports do because it speaks uncritically to its ideological base (this report has glowing images and commentary on Ronald Reagan and Jeb Bush, for example).
Second, the report also fails by offering an incomplete consideration of the extensive research base on CC and the entire standards movement.
And third, despite these weaknesses, it seems only fair to highlight that the eight recommendations have much to applaud:
[click to see full report; 8 recommendations on page 1]
These recommendations hold some promise but with caveats.
The report must be viewed through the lens of a detailed history of how CC developed as well as the entire standards movement begun under Reagan; see for example:
The research base on CC must be examined, noting that CC is unlikely to create outcomes any different than the standards movements preceding the new standards (notably about three different waves in SC); see for example:
Please note the research base:
- Hout and Elliott (2011), Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education: Most recent decades of high-stakes accountability reform hasn’t work.
- French, Guisbond, and Jehlen (2013), Twenty Years after Education Reform: High-stakes accountability in Massachusetts has not worked.
- Loveless (2012), How Well Are American Students Learning?: “Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards—not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states—the study foresees little to no impact on student learning” (p. 3).
- Mathis (2012): Existence and/or quality of standards not positively correlated with NAEP or international benchmark test data; “Further, the wave of high-stakes testing associated with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has resulted in the ‘dumbing down’ and narrowing of the curriculum” (2 of 5).
- Whitehurst (2009), Don’t Forget Curriculum: “The lack of evidence that better content standards enhance student achievement is remarkable given the level of investment in this policy and high hopes attached to it. There is a rational argument to be made for good content standards being a precondition for other desirable reforms, but it is currently just that – an argument.”
- Kohn (2010), Debunking the Case for National Standards: CC nothing new, and has never worked before.
- Victor Bandeira de Mello, Charles Blankenship, Don McLaughlin (2009), Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: 2005-2007: Why does research from the USDOE not show high-quality standards result in higher NAEP scores?
- Horn (2013): “The 2012 NAEP Long-Term Trends are out, and there is a good deal that we may learn from forty years of choking children and teachers with more tests with higher stakes: IT DOESN’T WORK!”
Smith argues at the end of his Op-Ed, “This is not a time for mutual destruction,” and I agree.
I remain skeptical, but I wonder if this report suggests the possibility that SC is moving toward a reasonable reaction to CC.
I hope so because SC remains a high-poverty state stratified by wealth and poverty; no one in the state, especially the children in our schools, can afford more partisan political grandstanding over education policy.
I am willing to set aside the misleading nods to Reagan and Jeb Bush (both key causes of this problem) in order to enact the 8 recommendations above because at least then we will have a space within which to confront the issues left unaddressed—notably the inordinate cost of yet more commitments to new standards and tests that will, I guarantee, fail our children in SC.