The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education:

February 2012   Volume III, Number 1
by: TOM LOVELESS  Senior Fellow, The Brown Center on Education Policy

Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards—not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states—the study foresees little to no impact on student learning. That conclusion is based on analyzing states’ past experience with standards and examining several years of scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).


A final word on what to expect in the next few years as the development of assessments tied to the Common Core unfolds. The debate is sure to grow in intensity. It is about big ideas—curriculum and federalism. Heated controversies about the best approaches to teaching reading and math have sprung up repeatedly over the past century.18 The proper role of the federal government, states, local districts, and schools in deciding key educational questions, especially in deciding what should be taught, remains a longstanding point of dispute. In addition, as NCLB illustrates, standards with real consequences are most popular when they are first proposed. Their popularity steadily declines from there, reaching a nadir when tests are given and consequences kick in. Just as the glow of consensus surrounding NCLB faded after a few years, cracks are now appearing in the wall of support for the Common Core.

Don’t let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.

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