More 'Pilot Study' Would Not Help Rollout of the Common Standards

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To the Editor:

In Mike Schmoker's recent Commentary about the Common Core State Standards, he argues that the standards are "not ready" and need a pilot test. There are several issues with this argument, but I will focus on two.

First, the last several years—before the tests and accountability have rolled out—have been a pilot test on perhaps the grandest scale possible. If we have learned about specific problems with the standards, states should address those problems by changing the standards. Indeed, many states have edited the standards already, and there is nothing prohibiting them from doing so.

Second, while I can understand what it means to pilot standards for clarity, it's not clear to me how one could pilot standards for efficacy (that is, to see if they're "good" or "right").

Would one want aligned curriculum materials and tests to be a part of the pilot? Well, publishers don't produce those materials for pilot studies. Efficacy evidence would require things like large samples, experimental or quasi-experimental designs, high-quality outcome measures, and conditions similar to full implementation. To my knowledge, that kind of pilot has never been undertaken in the history of standards, and it never will be. Of course we all want the standards to be the best they can be; that's one reason the rollout has been historically slow.

If we don't have a specific sense of what the problems with the standards are and how to change them by now, it's not clear what we could learn from more time spent on pilot studies that won't produce the evidence we need.

Morgan Polikoff
Assistant Professor of Education
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.

Vol. 34, Issue 07, Page 24

Published in Print: October 8, 2014, as More 'Pilot Study' Would Not Help Rollout of the Common Standards
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