Eight years later, did the Common Core Standards help or hurt? This might be the million-dollar question with equal numbers of supporters on each side of the debate. While this question can be posed regarding any set of state or national standards followed by a district in the past or present, one important distinction to remember is that not all districts providing scores started the implementation of the Common Core Standards at the same time. The debate rages based on measures of learning and implementation of instruction, which both might be valid or invalid to varying degrees. A look at some factors could lend skepticism in the use of data collected at this point, both positive and negative. No matter on which side of the debate one finds themselves, some common arguments cannot be easily dismissed. However, the cause of the success or lack of success is harder to pinpoint without taking a closer look.
In an article published by Matt Barnum in Chalkbeat, April 2019, there is a list of pros and cons of the Common Core and a summary of the reasons that student learning data is or is not as strong as expected. The descriptions of positive statements about the Common Core Standards mostly refer to the standards themselves. However, the negative statements about the Common Core Standards mostly refer to the implementation of the standards within the classroom or the district. Researcher Mengli Song of the American Institutes for Research summarizes the results of the Common Core Standards in much the same way, as Meador reported in an article for ThoughtCo in September 2019. Song also cites the lack of consistent data collection techniques and the fact that the research is lacking in reports on success.
We at the Curriculum Leadership Institute (CLI) have been working with districts for more than 25 years in finding solutions for districts to overcome the shortcomings in student success. Our hands-on research has led to conclusions supported by district and state data across the country. CLI finds that the solution is often not limited to the existence or non-existence of standards. Our use of a specific model to establish a systemic process of determining curriculum, implementing curriculum, and developing and implementing measures of success within the district affect positive gains in student learning regardless of the standards in place.
Standards are essential and can lead to comparisons across various districts and currently across states. However, standards are not curriculum, and it requires collaboration among district teachers and stakeholders to define standards as curriculum.
Curriculum without thoughtful implementation produces less success in improving student learning than expected. Collaboration among classroom teachers for best practice and in seeking professional development for improving instruction produces positive results across the district.
Developing valid student assessments to measure success also requires the collaboration of classroom teachers and other professionals within the district. Following the administration of the assessments, analysis of the data is critical to critiquing and improving instruction.
Structured, consistent collaboration among district stakeholders, classroom professionals, and local specialists produce positive results as long as there is a systematic approach to making and monitoring systemic efforts for improved student learning.
All of these pieces have been critical parts of the CLI Model and the evolution of the model is in reaction to current research and current mandates at the state and federal levels. Need help to get it going? Contact us and we will get you started!
Barnum, Matt. “Nearly a decade later, did the Common Core work? New research offers clues” Chalkbeat, April 29, 2019. https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/04/29/common-core-work-research/
Meador, Derrick. “What Are Some Pros and Cons of the Common Core State Standards?” ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2019, https://thoughtco.com/common-core-state-standards-3194603.