A Revelation Regarding the Common Core Sale: Evidence is needed.

On October 22, 2014, the corporate-reform-friendly think tank, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), hosted a panel discussion entitled, What Now for the Common Core? Below is the description of the panel participants and the *implementation-focused* conclusion is actually what should have happened before the Common Core (CCSS) was adopted by any state and certainly before CCSS was ever proclaimed as “ensuring college and career readiness for all students:

Evidence that it works.

A profound revelation, no?

Here is AEI’s entire event summary spiel:

What is the current state of the Common Core, and what is its future? Moderator Michael McShane of AEI posed these questions to a group of experts at an AEI event on Wednesday. Frederick Hess of AEI, Chris Minnich of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Catherine Gewertz of Education Week largely agreed that districts and schools are at very different stages of the implementation process, that the public is still underinformed, and that the Common Core comprises more states and has been more federally driven than anticipated.

Hess and Minnich dove into the issue of federal involvement, with Hess emphasizing that the effort should focus on ensuring comparability and rigor across states, not on recruiting as many states as possible. Minnich agreed that governors and school chiefs must take the Common Core out of federal hands.

Gewertz said that most teachers focus on making the Common Core work in their classrooms, not on debating its political implications. One of the biggest impediments has been finding high-quality, Common Core–aligned materials.

To conclude, McShane asked panelists what must happen for the Common Core to be successful. All of the panelists focused on outcomes: there needs to be evidence that students are performing better and that this progress translates into greater college and career readiness. [Emphasis added.]
–Jenn Hatfield

A couple tidbits: First, “moderator” McShane co-authored a CCSS-promo book with Hess in November 2013, entitled, Common Core Meets Education Reform.

That title is redundant.

Second, it is interesting that the above AEI panel summary includes zero discussion of the public rejecting CCSS because CCSS is a top-down, imposed product that teaching practitioners and parents, among other stakeholders, genuinely do not want. Period.

No, no. According to the three non-teacher-practitioner individuals on this panel, what CCSS needs in 2014– four years after it was rushed to its hardly-transparent finish in 2010– is “evidence that students are performing better.”

The horse continues to push the corporate reform cart.

Indeed, the CCSS Promise of College and Career Readiness as being “research and evidence-based” goes back to before CCSS was written. That term– “evidence based”– is a term that can easily serve as a bait-and-switch for what should have happened given the very-high-stakes nature of CCSS: a subjecting of the CCSS product to empirical testing.

Here is the full CCSS announcement from July 4, 2009:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a joint effort by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in partnership with Achieve, ACT and the College Board. Governors and state commissioners of education from across the country committed to joining a state-led process to develop a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. These standards will be research and evidence-based,internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills. The NGA Center and CCSSO are coordinating the process to develop these standards and have created an expert validation committee to provide an independent review of the common core state standards, as well as the grade-by-grade standards. The college and career ready standards are expected to be completed in July 2009. The grade-by-grade standards work is expected to be completed in December 2009. [Emphasis added.]

Yeah, the top-downers “jointing this effort” thought they would be done six months before they actually were– and even with the delay in completion until June 2010, this CCSS product has “rush job” stamped all over it.

In June 2010, America got a press release.

In place of empirical evidence, America received a short list of endorsements.

Endorsements are not evidence.

No readily available site or search engine to offer the public a comprehensive view of that supposed “research base,” and no empirical “evidence” because, well, there just isn’t any.

Now, this Hunt Institute set of CCSS talking points for governors to use in promoting CCSS– a doc that happens to be posted on the USDOE website (hmm…)– states that there is “evidence.” However, nothing listed includes any practical, real-world testing of CCSS to demonstrate the proclaimed “ensuring” of “college and career readiness.

What is offered is a lit review justifying the idea of CCSS, not its actual utility.

No evidence prior to the June 2010 proclamation that CCSS was a product ready to be used and guaranteed to deliver.

But in 2014, the AEI panel states that evidence is needed. 

Meanwhile, the CCSS website continues to advertise the CCSS Guarantee. Here it is, on a page entitled, “What Parents Should Know”:

Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before. To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12thgrade. [Emphasis added.]

What complicates the “evidence is needed in 2014″ issue is that one month after CCSS was released, in July 2010, the standards-grading Thomas B. Fordham Institute proclaimed CCSS as “the winner” despite its own grading of CCSS as lower than or equal to existing state standards– a grading that is further complicated by an utter lack of any logical connection between state results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)– and a proclamation that CCSS were “clearly superior to those currently in use in thirty-nine states” based upon the *evidence* of “our observations.”

And when a state such as California had highly-esteemed standards in Fordham Institute’s view yet low NAEP scores– former Fordham Institute President Chester Finn blamed (go ahead and guess)– faulty implementation.

For any CCSS supporter, the “faulty implementation” card is the gift that keeps on giving.

But if California has great standards and poor NAEP scores, and other states have “poor” standards and above average NAEP scores, then is it possible that the entire standards-driven idea is too rudimentary to capture the education enterprise?

Here is another hard-hitting question: Is it possible that CCSS cannot be “properly implemented,” period?

Anyone who answers definitively that CCSS is fine and that “implementation is the problem” is only offering an opinion. It might be a fiscally-fueled, ego-stroking, well-publicized opinion, but no number of high-profile endorsements or USDOE talking points will transform it into empirical evidence.

Know who wins in the absence of empirical evidence to support a standards-to-promised-CCSS-results connection given that the nation is now in the middle of the CCSS mud?

For one, the peddlers of CCSS materials– tests, curricula, professional development, and (let us not forget) data collection.

Pearson wins.

AEI panelist and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) CEO Chris Minnich has Pearson connections… and his CCSSO is one of the CCSS owners.

A thought with which to leave readers.

There is much more that I can write about this AEI meeting of the pro-CCSS minds (yes, Hess, that includes you), but I will save it for another post.