To the Editor:
Educators at every level—from teachers and principals to chief state school officers—have become increasingly comfortable using evidence-based research data to make sound educational decisions to maximize student learning outcomes. The developers of the Common Core State Standards are no exception. On the introductory pages of the English/language arts, or ELA, standards is this statement: “The standards are intended to be a living work: As new and better evidence emerges, the standards will be revised accordingly.”
Interestingly enough, some “new and better evidence” about text-complexity measures has emerged (“New Research Expands Thinking on Text Complexity,”, Aug. 15, 2012). Specifically, a 2012 study conducted by Student Achievement Partners found that several other text-complexity measures clearly support the goals of ELA text-complexity requirements: Renaissance Learning’s ATOS, the Educational Testing Service’s SourceRater, Pearson’s Reading Maturity, Questar Assessments’ Degrees of Reading Power, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test, and MetaMetrics’ Lexile. The study can be found on the Council of Chief State School Officers’ website.
As a result of this “new and better evidence,” the common-core authors have posted a supplement to Appendix A of their work on new research on text-complexity grade bands for all of the reading measures, highlighting the CCSSO’s 2010 acknowledgment of a “need for further research into text-complexity measurement.” The supplement provides a much more inclusive list, allowing educators to use what they already have in place.
There is no question that making changes to the common core must not be done impulsively; rather, it must be based on evidence-based research. To maintain the common language and common goals, the targets must be steady. At the same time, when independent, compelling scientific evidence emerges, the authors of the common core have proved the standards really are a “living work"—and have evolved accordingly.
Senior Vice President
State and Federal Programs
The author served as the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services from 2009 to 2012.
A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 2012 edition of Education Week as Common Standards Are a ‘Living Work’