by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
About a decade ago few topics generated more heat than Common Core Standards. The standards, developed by an obscure group of state education officers and embraced by the Obama Administration were sold on the promise of improved academic instruction and educational outcomes. Critics complained the standards were flawed and were a massive federal overreach. Much like today’s fights over Critical Race Theory, educators and parents found themselves on opposite sides of the issue.
Now a decade later verdicts on Common Core are coming in — and they’re not good. The most recent being a study by Joshua Bleilberg and published by the American Education Research Association. Bleilberg noted:
CC had a small positive effect on math scores (0.04–0.10 SD) and no detectable effect on reading scores. The benefits of CC were clearest in fourth-grade math. Critically, the effect of CC varies across academically vulnerable students. The CC had a large positive effect on Black economically advantaged students across grades and subjects. Academically vulnerable students whose families equipped them with the benefits of high SES in the form of economic capital benefitted when the CC raised expectations. However, for students from economically disadvantaged families that faced other barriers to academic success the CC backfired. Raising state expectations without addressing the structural issues burdening economically disadvantaged students will at best maintain the status quo. Higher expectations provide the greatest benefit to students when students also have the resources needed to succeed.
No, this isn’t a cheap told you so…It’s merely a warning against yet another federal program to “fix” education. Remember Goals 200, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top? Common Core State Standards should be added to the ash heap of federal programs the cost taxpayers billions of dollars and produced little in the way of results. To that I’d add $6 billion North Carolina is receiving in Covid relief funding. Yes, the coronavirus produced legitimate needs to help staff and students deal with the fallout of the pandemic. Still, the amount of money being shoveled to the states is unprecedented and school districts have been challenged as to how to best spend it. But that’s another story.
While many anguish over how to track and gauge student learning. Sadly, that same diligence and openness is conspicuously absent when we talk about what we learn from large scale federal education programs.
It’s a failing that’s costly in many ways.