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Scientific research gives hard data on Common Core effectiveness

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014 11:44 AM

Scientific research has the ability to shed light on many novel ideas and project the success of long-term experiments. Undoubtedly, politicians, school administrators, educators and parents across the U.S. perceive the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as an experiment in education reform and welcome evidence-based data that shows any improvement in student achievement thus far. Advocates of the CCSS now have scientific support for their cause, but will still have to travel a long road to prove substantial improvements in student achievement have been achieved.

CCSS-integrated states outperform the rest
In 2012, Researchers William Schmidt and Richard Houang of Michigan State University conducted a study in which they examined National Assessment of Educational Progress data. They wanted to demonstrate how the integration of the Common Core in state schools affects student achievement in math. Schmidt and Houang began their study by taking the scores from the 2009 eighth grade math assessment and creating a scale that would identify the degree of similarity states' standards had to the CCSS. Dimensions of the study that were most important were focus, which refers to the level of depth and intensity of instruction, and coherence, which refers to the manner of organization and presentation of information and skill building activities. Now that the NAEP scores for 2011 and 2013 are available, even more precise data can be extrapolated.

Schmidt and Houang found that between 2009 and 2013, states that focused the majority of their efforts on implementing the CCSS in public schools experienced the most gains in student test scores. In addition, the five states that refused to adopt the CCSS did not perform as well as those that did. The researchers did concede, however, that the performance discrepancies of those five states and the rest of the country were not enormous.

Focusing on aggressive implementation
These optimistic findings should prove beneficial to educators committed to integrating the Common Core, especially in states like Oklahoma where CCSS integration is still hotly debated. Tahlequah Public Schools began using the Standards back in the 2011-2012 school year and have plans to be 100 percent CCSS compliant by the end of 2015. However, Oklahoma's Legislature wants to pass a bill that effectively terminates the implementation of CCSS in public schools.

As Schmidt and Houang's research showed, aggressive implementation is necessary to the success of the Standards. If education reform is a battlefield, then teachers are at the frontlines, and play a major part in CSSS implementation. They should, therefore, be taken seriously. According to the Tahlequa Daily Press, Oklahoma teachers like Jessica Morrison, a 12-year veteran educator, believe the Standards will benefit students just as previous guidelines have done in the past. Second grade teacher Lori Roberston feels the same way. As teachers stay committed to the Common Core, significant gains in student improvement in mathematics will likely continue across America.