Opinion
Standards Letter to the Editor

Brookings Report Based On Flawed Research

March 13, 2012 1 min read

To the Editor:

Tom Loveless’ recent Brookings Institution report, “How Well Are American Students Learning?,” described in a Feb. 16, 2012, Curriculum Matters blog post “Study: Common Standards Will Not Affect Student Achievement” and a Feb. 22 Report Roundup item, relies on flawed research by Andrew C. Porter et al. and ignores other pieces of evidence (“Common Standards.”)

Porter—who wrote about the research in the Education Week Commentary (“In Common Core, Little to Cheer About,” August 10, 2011.)—and his co-authors trumpeted the laughable claim (which they later corrected in the Educational Researcher) that state standards had advanced algebra, a high school topic, as a subject covered in grades 3-6 (the result of mixing up rows in a table). Their definition of focus is different from the one used in the Common Core State Standards, and even when they transcribe their coding correctly, it is of dubious quality, indicating erroneously, for example, that addition and subtraction of whole numbers is absent from the common core in kindergarten.

Meanwhile, Loveless ignores evidence about coherence from William H. Schmidt and his colleagues at Michigan State University, and about the variability in grade-level topic placement among state standards from the Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum. Loveless’ point that the common core is only one piece in a wider effort is as undisputed as it is unremarkable. But he neglects to mention one important opportunity provided by the common core: a focused and coherent approach to teacher preparation and professional development.

See Cathy Kessel’s blog for a more detailed analysis of both the Brookings report and the Porter et al. paper.

William McCallum

University Distinguished Professor and Head of Mathematics

University of Arizona

Tucson, Ariz.

The writer is the lead of the mathematics work team for the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2012 edition of Education Week as Brookings Report Based On Flawed Research

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