As a Relinquisher, I’m weary of broad government mandates. I believe educators should run schools, parents should choose amongst these schools, and government should hold schools accountable for performance and equity.
So what to make of the Common Core—which will be the broadest combination of federal- or state-initiated regulatory overhaul that we’ve seen in decades?
Admittedly, it took me a while to sort through my competing impulses. But here’s the path I followed:
Skepticism: The research on standards
1. There’s very little evidence that higher standards lead to higher achievement. As Tom Loveless notes, states with better standards do not show more growth on NAEP.
2. There’s also a financial, political, and labor-opportunity cost to working on standards over other things more directly related to Relinquishment (charter expansion, human-capital pipelines, etc).
Pragmatic hope: The research, logic of assessments
1. All states have standards, and experts seem to agree that the Common Core standards are better than most existing state standards—so if we’re going to have standards, we might as well make them higher quality.
2. Why? Because I think this standards shift will include something that has not consistently happened under the NCLB standards shift: assessments will become more rigorous.
3. Great standards can sit on shelves. Great assessments must be dealt with—and there is some evidence that increasing rigor of assessments in fourth-grade math and reading (by raising cut scores) is correlated to achievement gains. While causation is difficult to prove, this finding...