The new Common Core Standards are dramatically different from the state standards and tests now in place, writes Rick Hess. UPenn Ed School Dean Andy Porter and grad students analyze the new standards’ content, looking at topics covered and cognitive demands, in the April Educational Researcher. The new standards “represent considerable change” from state standards and what U.S. teachers report they’re currently teaching, they write. The Common Core Standards “are also different from the standards of countries with higher student achievement.”
The alignment between the Common Core and state standards was 0.25 in math (where 1.0 would be perfect alignment and 0.0 would be no alignment) and 0.30 in reading. Because those low correlations could be due to the fact that the Common Core is just addressing material in a different grade than in a given state, the researchers then aggregated across grades 3-6 and 3-8. That boosted alignment slightly, to 0.35 in math and to 0.38 in reading.
The stark differences between state standards and the Common Core are partly due to differences in topics addressed, but also to the fact that the Common Core emphasizes somewhat different cognitive skills: devoting less time to memorization and performing procedures, and more to demonstrating understanding and analyzing written material.
Massachusetts is the nation’s top-performing state on NAEP, so the team compared Common Core to Massachusetts standards for seventh grade. Alignment was only 0.19 in math and 0.13 for English Language Arts.
“The Common Core puts considerably more emphasis on operations, less on basic algebra and geometric concepts, and more on probability.” In English language arts, the Common Core places “substantially” less emphasis on memorization and “somewhat” less on performing procedures, less on reading and language study, and more on writing processes, writing applications, and oral communication.
The new standards are supposed to be internationally benchmarked. Yet Common Core’s eighth-grade math standards don’t match Finland (o.21), Japan (0.17) or Singapore (0.13), primarily because these countries stress performing procedures. On language arts and reading, alignment ranges from 0.09 with Finland to 0.37 with New Zealand.
Should we be worried? Common Core Standards represent “a change for the better” when it comes to “higher order cognitive demand,” Porter concludes, but the “answer is less clear” when it comes to the topics that are covered.
States rushed to adopt the new standards in hopes of qualifying for federal Race to the Top money, Hess writes. Only now are we discussing whether the new standards are solid enough to become the new national norm.