Does the Common Core Matter?
The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education includes a study of the Common Core State Standards project. It attempts to predict the effect of the common core on student achievement. The study focuses on three arguments: that the quality of the common core is superior to that of existing standards, that the tests tied to the common core will be rigorous, and that having common standards will reduce differences across the United States by "putting all states on the same page." It summarizes the current debate on the common core, but takes no stand on the merits of the arguments.
For example, the study does not attempt to determine whether the common-core standards are of high or low quality, only whether the quality of state standards has mattered to student achievement in the past. The finding is clear: The quality of standards has not mattered. From 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones.
The analysis of rigor takes the same tack. It investigates whether it has mattered to state NAEP scores if cut points for proficiency on state tests were set at high or low levels. There is evidence at 4th grade that raising cut points, no matter where they were set originally, is associated with increased achievement. But the effect is not large, and it is difficult to determine the direction of causality. At 8th grade, states with lenient cut points have made NAEP gains similar to those of...
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