Study Finds Common Core English and Math Standards Not Properly Validated
Some Validation Committee members refused to attest that the standards are comparable to those in the world’s highest-performing countries
BOSTON – Five of the 29 members of the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign a report attesting that the standards are research-based, rigorous and internationally benchmarked. The report was released with 24 signatures and included no mention that five committee members refused to sign it, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.
No member of the Validation Committee had a doctorate in English literature or language and only one held a doctorate in math. He was one of only three members with extensive experience writing standards. Two of the three refused to sign off on the standards.
“Since all 50 states have had standards for a decade or more, there is a pool of people out there experienced in writing English and math standards,” said Ze’ev Wurman, author of “Common Core’s Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House.” “It’s unclear why so few of them were tapped for the Common Core Validation Committee.”
Wurman describes two studies conducted by members who signed the Validation Committee report in an attempt to provide post facto evidence that supported their earlier decisions. In both cases, the research was poorly executed and failed to provide evidence that Common Core is internationally competitive and can prepare American high school students for college-level work.
One study, conducted by Validation Committee member and Michigan State University educational statistician William Schmidt and a colleague, explored whether the Common Core math standards are comparable to those in the highest-performing nations and what outcomes might reasonably be expected after Common Core is implemented.
Wurman describes how even after Schmidt and his colleague rearranged the logical order in which concepts would be taught to make Common Core look more like the math standards in high-performing countries, there was still less than a 60 percent congruence between the two. Their initial results also found no correlation between student achievement and the states that have math standards most like Common Core.
After engaging in highly unconventional steps to increase both the congruence between Common Core and the international standards and the correlation between Common Core and student achievement (based on states whose standards were most similar to Common Core), Schmidt and his colleague wrote that they estimate congruence “in a novel way… coupled with several assumptions.” They acknowledge that their analyses “should be viewed as only exploratory… merely suggesting the possibility of a relationship,” yet such caution disappears in their final conclusion.
Wurman’s research also uncovered that basic information was coded incorrectly for Schmidt’s study and shows examples of concepts introduced in high school under Common Core listed as being taught in seventh grade.
Other studies have come to very different conclusions. Stanford University mathematician R. James Milgram, the only member of the Validation Committee with a doctorate in mathematics, said that Common Core is two years behind the math standards in the highest-performing countries. Milgram also wrote that Common Core fails to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Ze’ev Wurman is a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution and a former senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Development, and Policy Development. In 2010, he served as a commissioner on the California Academic Content Standards Commission that evaluated Common Core’s suitability for adoption in that state.
Pioneer’s comprehensive research on Common Core national education standards includes: Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM; How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk; Common Core Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade; The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers; National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards, and A Republic of Republics: How Common Core Undermines State and Local Autonomy over K-12 Education. Pioneer produced a video series: Setting the Record Straight: Part 1, and Part 2, and has earned national media coverage, including op-eds placed in The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard.
Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.