CBS news recently reported that test scores in New York state have dropped following the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (or CCSS) last year.
We've written here before about the Common Core, which is arguably one of the most far-reaching reforms of education ever implemented in the U.S. (Click here to read a previous blog with some history about the Common Core, and how it was created.) In short, the Common Core State Standards were born out of a desire to standardize educational goals across the U.S. In the mid-nineties, when states were beginning to implement standardized testing on a large scale, it was seen that not all states agreed on what their overall goals were. Thus the need for a Common Core set of standards was recognized, and that need led eventually to the creation of the CCSS.
New York is certainly not the only state to have test scores drop with the implementation of the CCSS. Kentucky, the first state to implement the CCSS, had test scores drop as much as 30 to 40 points in different areas when they first implemented the CCSS (New York has had similar drops—in fact, every state that has implemented the CCSS has had some kind of significant drop in test scores.)
So why have so many states shifted to the CCSS? The initial reason many states made the shift to the CCSS was because federal funding was tied to their adoption, through the Race to the Top Fund. However, this requirement for funding was not continued. At the moment, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards in some form.
Though the sharp drop in test scores might indicate a serious problem with the CCSS, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is urging people to see the new test scores as a baseline to build from, rather than something to compare to prior test scores. According to Duncan, the drop in scores has more to do with previous tests being too easy than with the new one being too difficult. "What's the goal here? Is the goal to look good on paper or to help students be successful?" he asked. "I think the only way you improve is to tell the truth, and sometimes that's a brutal truth, but to have a very honest conversation and then to move from there."
Though there are many detractors of the Common Core, a new survey indicates that most teachers are in favor of the CCSS, but feel they need more support to implement it. This survey conducted by Edweek.org found that most teachers were in favor of the CCSS, but felt that they, their schools, and their districts, had received moderate to little preparation for implementing the standards. These findings indicate that the CCSS might have a bright future, but a bumpy transition to get there.
One consideration that often seems to be missing from discussions about the Common Core is college preparedness. When considering applicants, there is a reason that most colleges value the rigor of classes taken over a high GPA earned in easier classes. Just as a potential employer will value an applicant who has undertaken difficult experiences over one who has avoided them, colleges look for young people who have pushed themselves academically. One can hope that New York's low test scores announced today mean that the CCSS has raised the bar for education in the U.S., and that this means a higher rigor for students, and an eventual improvement in the quality of education across the board.
In the end, everyone involved in education can agree that the primary goal is to provide young people with the skills and tools today that they can succeed in college, and in their careers, tomorrow. The tricky part is figuring out how to make this goal a reality.
- Teachers—want a diagnostic that will reveal student knowledge gaps right away? Sign up for a free month of LearnBop:
- Parents—sign your child up for LearnBop's Back to School Review to help them prepare for the CCSS shift: