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Jerry P. Becker

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Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Studies Offer Insights on Implementing C. C.
Posted: Apr 19, 2014 8:35 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, April 16, 2014, Volume 33, Issue 28, p. 9. See
Studies Offer Insights on Implementing Common Core

By Holly Yettick


In 2013 alone, state legislators introduced nearly 300 bills related
to the Common Core State Standards. This year, they are on track to
do the same, according to the National Conference of State

Yet in a series of meetings convened last year by the Center on
Education Policy at George Washington University, lawmakers,
advocates, and educational leaders said they were starved for
research that might help them make evidence-based decisions about the

At the annual meeting of the American Educational Research
Association here this month, legislators and leaders got a bit of an
appetizer: Although firm, final research results were rare, as is
often the case at academic conferences, the common standards were the
subject of more than 100 papers or sessions and the subtext of
countless others.

According to the Washington-based Center on Education Policy, which
issued a follow-up paper this month to its meeting series last year,
one of the things that policymakers are especially hungry for
research on is "strategies for mounting outreach campaigns around the
CCSS, especially in light of how politically charged the standards
have become." [See ]

Several studies presented at the conference provided information on
the subject. One came from the multiuniversity Consortium for Policy
Research in Education, which has been studying common-core
implementation in the New York City public schools since 2010. [See ]

Consortium researchers shared results of a study that tested New York
City educators on what they knew about the common core and asked how
they found out about it. [See ]The
study, based on a spring 2013 survey of 456 educators from a diverse
set of eight elementary and middle schools with higher and lower
levels of common-core implementation, found that educators knew more
about the English/language arts standards than they did about the
mathematics standards. Educators who received help on the common core
from colleagues had higher levels of knowledge on that topic.

Those who sought information from outside sources such as, a nonprofit website begun by some of the standards'
developers, knew significantly more about the English/language arts
standards than colleagues who did not consult these sources. This was
not the case for math. [See ]

Information Pipeline

The top sources of information tapped by teachers were their
districts' library of common-core resources,, other
district teachers, and the teachers' union-all of which points to the
value of external resources in disseminating information to teachers.

The more-preliminary findings of another study are also relevant to
outreach campaigns in that researchers explored which factors shaped
teachers' perceptions of the common core. The study, led by Jason
Endacott, an assistant education professor at the University of
Arkansas, in Fayetteville, surveyed a representative sample of 951
teachers from 44 of the 45 common-core-adopting states and the
District of Columbia. For a similar study, the Arkansas researchers
surveyed 1,300 teachers in that state in January 2013 and interviewed
28. They found that teachers' perceptions of the standards were much
more positive when administrators had an "open" leadership style,
meaning they were flexible and receptive to teacher input.

Effective leaders also were found to share information.

"Many teachers referenced the way that 'CCSS expects' the standards
to be implemented, as though the standards themselves held sway over
the process, though more often the complaints were aimed at state-,
district-, and building-level administrators who sent mixed signals
and left it to the teachers to decipher them," Mr. Endacott said.
Like some other researchers who presented at the conference, Mr.
Endacott was critical of the standards and their implementation. In a
presentation based on the Arkansas study, he described the creation
and adoption of the common core as a "corporate-led process" that did
not account for teachers' needs or views. He said that some district
and school leaders' narrow interpretation and autocratic
implementation styles had contributed to deprofessionalizing teaching
by imposing scripted curriculum and limiting teachers' ability to
make their own decisions.

"In situations where implementation was handled more democratically,
teachers reported far more autonomy, ability to differentiate
instruction, and feelings of professionalism," Mr. Endacott said.

In another presentation, researchers shared insights from Common Core
Meets Education, a volume of nine articles pulled together by
Frederick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane of the American Enterprise
Institute, a think tank in Washington.

Navigating Score Drops

In his piece from the book, assistant education professor Morgan
Polikoff of the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles,
suggests that states postpone using common-core assessment data to
evaluate teachers until they have fully transitioned from old to new
exams and ridden out the declines in student-proficiency rates that
usually occur when states switch tests. (Kentucky's proficiency
rates, for instance, dropped 30 percent when it adopted
common-core-aligned assessments.) If lawmakers do not wait, Mr.
Polikoff said, teacher pushback against unfair evaluations could
torpedo the evaluation changes and the new assessments.

At another session, Mr. Polikoff presented his well-publicized
research on the failure of textbook publishers to align their
materials to the standards. That work found that the majority of the
content in supposedly common-core-aligned textbooks was identical to
earlier, pre-core versions. Associate education professor Mindy
Kornhaber and other researchers from Pennsylvania State University,
in University Park, are surveying school districts about common-core
implementation. They are also following up with proponents of the
original push to implement the standards. These state and national
"policy entrepreneurs," first interviewed in 2011, are now being
asked how their expectations played out in practice. [See ]

In research presented at the conference, the scholars aimed to
identify who was benefiting financially-and how-from implementation,
by identifying four main pathways for federal and philanthropic
funding related to the standards. In three of the four pathways, the
money was donated by philanthropies that ended up in the hands of
nonprofit organizations that provided common-core-related resources
or services either directly or indirectly to districts. The fourth
path, exemplified by the federal Race to the Top program that offered
incentives for states to adopt the standards, ended up in the hands
of for-profit vendors whose services were purchased by districts.

"I'd like to draw a comparison between the common-core funding
pathways and the 1849 gold rush," researchers stated. "When the gold
rush began, prospectors sought their fortune in the West. But the
journey required equipment and supplies to even get started. Whether
or not the prospectors found gold, purveyors of pickaxes, maps, assay
equipment, and salt pork stood to profit by selling their wares. In
this analogy, schools are the prospectors."

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