Study Finds Historic Drop in National Reading and Math Scores Since Adoption of Common Core Curriculum Standards

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

Read coverage of this report in Patch, Breitbart, The Washington Examiner, and San Antonio Express News.

Lower performing students hardest hit

BOSTON – As we approach the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the United States Department of Education in May, shocking trends in student performance should lead us to reconsider the federal role in education and whether the initiative for policymaking should be returned to local schools, communities, and states.

Breaking with decades of slow improvement, U.S. reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and other assessments have seen historic declines since most states implemented national Common Core English and math curriculum standards six years ago, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

While Common Core was promoted as improving the international competitiveness of U.S. students in math, our international standing has remained low while the skills of average and lower performing American students have dropped in both math and reading.

Nationally, fourth- and eighth-grade NAEP math scores were rising gradually in the years before Common Core was implemented (2003-2013).  Post-Common Core, scores at both grades have fallen, eighth grade at nearly the same rate as it was previously increasing.

The declines are most acute for the lowest-achieving students, increasing inequality.  Scores for students at the 90th percentile have mostly continued their pre-Common Core trend of gradual improvement. But the farther behind students were, the more substantial the declines, with the biggest drops occurring for those at the 25th and 10th percentiles.

“The sustained decline we’re now seeing, especially among our most vulnerable students, simply cannot be allowed to continue,” said Theodor Rebarber, author of “The Common Core Debacle.”

U.S. students fare better in reading than they do in math when compared to international competitors, but U.S. reading trends are similar to those seen in math, with gradual pre-Common Core improvement replaced by declines after Common Core was implemented.

From 2003 to 2013, national fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores were increasing at an average of about half of a point each year.  Since 2013, fourth-grade reading scores have been falling by less than half of a point each year, while eighth-grade scores have dropped by nearly a full point a year.

Rebarber also finds that Common Core is a product of the misguided progressive pedagogies and biases of the education establishment that developed it. “Several of us allied with Pioneer Institute have been pointing out, ever since it was introduced, the deeply flawed educational assumptions that permeate the Common Core and the many ways in which it is at odds with curriculum standards in top-achieving countries.”  Unfortunately, the disappointing results of Common Core—particularly for lower performing students—were predicted in 2010.

“Nearly a decade after states adopted Common Core, the empirical evidence makes it clear that these national standards have yielded underwhelming results for students,” said Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios. “The proponents of this expensive, legally questionable policy initiative have much to answer for.”

“It’s time for federal law to change to allow states as well as local school districts to try a broader range of approaches to reform,” added Rebarber.  “With a more bottom-up approach, more school systems will have the opportunity to choose curricula consistent with our international competitors and many decades of research on effective classroom teaching.”

State Analyses (See Appendix)

The study also includes summary analyses of pre- and post-Common Core performance in seven states: Massachusetts, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, and New York. These states, chosen mainly based on their size and geographic distribution, generally reveal a pattern similar to the national results.

About the Author

Theodor Rebarber has worked on education reform and policy for three decades in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. He currently leads nonprofit AccountabilityWorks, which conducts education policy research and offers online testing services at AWSchoolTest.com. Previously, he was co-founder and chief education officer of a venture capital-backed charter school management company. Rebarber served as a senior staff member in Congress. He worked on education policy, including curriculum standards and testing, at the U.S. Education Department for the office of research and at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies. He has testified before Congress and state legislatures as well as developed analyses on a range of education policy topics.

About Pioneer

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.

Get Updates on Our Education Research

Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, from 2003 to 2013, before implementation of Common Core, NAEP fourth- and eighth-grade math scores were rising. Massachusetts had the highest rate of improvement among the states analyzed prior to Common Core. Post-Common Core, they’ve declined at nearly the same rate as they were previously improving.

 

 

 

California

In California, pre-Common Core NAEP fourth- and eighth-grade math scores were rising. Post- Common Core, fourth-grade math scores have barely risen by less than 0.2 points a year and eighth-grade scores have dropped.

Florida

In Florida, Pre-Common Core NAEP fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores were rising. Post-Common Core scores have fallen.

Georgia

In Georgia, pre-Common Core, NAEP fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores were rising. Post-Common Core, they’ve fallen.

Illinois

In Illinois, before Common Core, NAEP fourth- and eighth-grade math scores were rising. Post-Common Core, they’ve fallen.

Kentucky

Kentucky was the first state to adopt and implement Common Core. In the years prior to imple-mentation (in this case, 2003-2011), fourth-grade math scores were rising at a substantial pace. Post-Common Core (2011-2019), fourth- and eighth-grade scores have fallen.

New York

New York implemented Common Core in 2013. Prior to Common Core, NAEP fourth-grade math scores were rising. Post-Common Core, fourth- and eighth-grade scores have fallen, espe-cially in mathematics.

Ignat Solzhenitsyn on His Father’s Nobel Prize-Winning Fight with Communism

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a pianist, conductor laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and son of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. They discuss his father’s legacy, his courageous work to debunk the Soviet Union’s utopian myths, and key lessons American educators and students should draw from his life, writings, and battle with Soviet communism.

Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy on Charter Schools, Achievement Gaps, & COVID-19 Learning Loss

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard kick off the new year with Eva Moskowitz, CEO & Founder of Success Academy Charter Schools, a network of 47 schools enrolling 20,000 K-12 students in New York City. Eva shares her own education path, and how it influences her leadership and philosophy.

USED Asst. Sec. Jim Blew Talks Sec. DeVos, School Choice, & K-12 Politics

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Jim Blew, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the U.S. Department of Education. Assistant Secretary Blew shares lessons from leading and implementing K-12 public education reform efforts in often contentious policy environments, and the unique challenges of the current partisanship and gridlock in Washington, D.C.

New Study Provides Toolkit for Crafting Education Tax-Credit Scholarship Programs

In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key impediment to private school choice, Pioneer Institute has published a toolkit for designing tax-credit scholarship programs. Now available in 18 states, nearly 300,000 students nationwide use tax-credit scholarships to attend the school of their family’s choice. TCS policies create an incentive for taxpayers to contribute to nonprofit scholarship organizations that aid families with tuition and, in some states, other K–12 educational expenses. This paper explores the central design features of TCS policies—such as eligibility, the tax credit value, credit caps, and academic accountability provisions—and outlines the different approaches taken by the TCS policies in each state.

Oxford & UCLA Pulitzer Winner Prof. Daniel Walker Howe on Horace Mann, Common Schools, & Educating for Democracy

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Daniel Walker Howe, Rhodes Professor of American History Emeritus at Oxford University in England and Professor of History Emeritus at UCLA. Drawing from his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, he provides background information on Horace Mann, the first secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, founder of the common school movement in public education, and a prominent abolitionist in Congress.

Stanford’s Prof. Caroline Hoxby on Charter Schools, K-12 Ed Reform, & Global Competitiveness

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Caroline Hoxby, the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution.

SABIS® President Carl Bistany on International Education, Charter Public Schools, & At-Risk Students

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Carl Bistany, the president of SABIS® Educational Systems, an education company founded over 130 years ago that serves young women in the Middle East, and poor and minority students in the U.S.

UConn’s Prof. Wayne Franklin on James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans, & American Democracy

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Wayne Franklin, professor of English at the University of Connecticut and definitive biographer of the American literary figure James Fenimore Cooper. As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month, Prof. Franklin reviews Cooper's background and major works, especially the "Leatherstocking Tales," including The Last of the Mohicans, which are distinguished for their enlightened and sympathetic portrayal of the disappearing tribes.

Wall Street Journal Columnist Jason Riley on the 2020 Election, School Choice, & Race in America

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Jason Riley, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Jason shares insights on the 2020 election, its implications for the next two years, and assuming Vice President Biden becomes president, how he may govern on K-12 education.

Nationally Recognized Author Tara Ross on the Importance of the Electoral College

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Tara Ross, the nationally recognized author of Why We Need the Electoral College. On the eve of the 2020 election, they discuss the critical and controversial role of the Electoral College in determining which candidate will become the next President of the United States.

Pulitzer-Winning Author Stacy Schiff on the Salem Witch Trials

In our special Halloween edition of “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Pulitzer-Prize winner Stacy Schiff, whose most recent book is The Witches: Salem, 1692. They discuss why, in Schiff’s view, the Salem witch trials are the “the best known, least understood chapter” of American history, and why the trials, false charges, and finger pointing, remain relevant today in our Internet culture.

LSU’s Prof. Andrew Burstein on Washington Irving, the Headless Horseman, & the Presidency

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Andrew Burstein, the Charles P. Manship Professor of History at Louisiana State University, and author of The Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving, and with Nancy Isenberg, The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality.