Issues

Assault on Common Core Keeps Coming: Research Called Into Question, Content Found Lacking

Clarksdale High School students / AP

As the school year begins, Common Core standards and tests are taking a beating in education research, while public support for the standards continues to plummet.

The standards have been promoted as "research and evidence-based." National Review reports, however, that a Common Core validation committee member said, "It was pretty clear from the start that nobody thought there was sufficient evidence for any of the standards."

While the expert depicted the process as "inclusive" of various opinions, they noted that this alone does not meet the bar to constitute "sufficient research evidence."

This committee member was not alone in his observations. Two UC Santa Barbara professors, Lorraine M. McDonnell and M. Stephen Weatherford, argued in a 2013 paper that Common Core's producers were well aware of their research's shortcomings: "They chose to downplay them because they would complicate the agenda at a time when a policy window was opening but might not be open for long."

Last week, Jason Richwine at National Review Online delved into a compendium of Common Research, and identified just two papers out of 60 that presented research on the standards' effect on test scores. The studies were tenuous at best and openly admitted the narrow nature of their findings.

In addition to the research behind the supposed benefits of imposing nationwide standards, Common Core's suggested content is also under scrutiny. Supporters argue that suggested content in Common Core is irrelevant, since the standards allow schools to choose their own curricula. But opponents contend that the new standards and the tests created for them will inevitably shape a national curriculum.

A new study, authored in part by Sandra Stotsky, one of the only validation committee members who refused to sign off on the standards, attacks Common Core's approach to U.S. history.

Stotsky said that the Common Core program "dramatically reduces the amount of classic American literature and poetry students will read in favor of non-fiction or so-called ‘informational texts.’"

Common Core authors also call for reading historical documents out of context to encourage an unbiased reading. Stotsky's study vigorously disagrees with this approach, which it characterizes as an attempt to "shoehorn little bits and pieces of decontextualized U.S. history texts."

Meanwhile, one historic anti-Common Core vote has been reversed: A Florida school board revoked its decision to opt out of Common Core-aligned testing Tuesday. After the initial decision to dump the tests, school officials lashed out at the vote and insisted it would wreak havoc on the school system.

Anti-Common Core parents at both the original vote and at Tuesday's meeting attended dressed in red to signify their protest. After the testing was reinstated, one parent declared, "8:30 in the morning, I'm looking at a room full of red. They will not be deterred."

Since 45 states adopted the standards in 2011, enticed by the promise of federal Race to the Top funds, five states with conservative governors have repealed the standards or instituted a review of them.