Ramesh Ponnuru makes an excellent point in his op/ed at Bloomberg:
For that matter, how common will that core really be? Classroom practice doesn’t always reflect the standards written in a state’s official documents. That’s one reason the rigor of state standards doesn’t correlate with student achievement. But ensuring uniformity in practice would require the kind of heavy-handed central governing body that supporters of the Common Core strenuously deny they want.
The real problem with the Common Core is not that it represents Big Brother in the classroom, but that it seems unlikely to do much to increase the amount of learning that students do. Perhaps that’s because there’s not much that can be done on the national level to make K-12 schooling better.
I don’t agree with everything he said in his column, but he is spot on in his statement that the rigor of state standards doesn’t correlate with student achievement. I’ve been stating much the same for the last three years. Changing state standards is not a silver bullet approach to raising student achievement and bring about education reform. There’s absolutely no evidence that shows centralizing education around a set of standards will increase student achievement and yet we’re told that the Common Core is the cure for what ails public education. Shoot it’ll even lower the juvenile crime rate.
A new study commissioned by the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance and EducationNext was recently released. They compared student achievement internationally and among the states. They studied the improvement trend in 41 states from 1992 to 2011 looking at four different U.S. tests specifically looking at performance in math, science and reading of students who at the time of testing were in 4th or 8th grade.
Internationally, the United States is barely keeping pace with the rest of the world. Within the United States, Iowa is last in terms of student achievement showing the slowest rate of improvement. The study also demonstrated that our increase in education dollars have done nothing to help increase test scores. Iowa from 1992-2011 under three different administrations (technically four if you count Governor Branstad’s 5th term as a new administration) has seen little growth in student achievement even after an increased involvement by the state in education.
Local control has been diminished, centralization increased and student achievement in our state is no better off. Even with increased spending, the introduction of the Iowa Core Curriculum along with other reforms kids are lagging behind.
Governor Branstad in his fifth term has shown the same proclivity to push centralized education and double-down on top-down standards so there is little evidence (as the Common Core State Standards have not been field tested – anywhere) that Iowa will improve its standing.
Perhaps it is time to change things up and see how we can lead the nation in education reform rather than mimic other states in adopting unproven standards. Perhaps it is time to respect once again honor our longstanding tradition of local control which placed Iowa as a leader in education and decentralize and let parents and school boards come up with local solutions. Perhaps it is time to empower parents in making educational decisions for their children with real choice instead of shoddy public school options.
The current course of action right now is more of the same and it is leading Iowa toward failure. Increased decentralization and greater school choice would help buck the trend.
Originally posted at the From The Right Blog at The Des Moines Register.