Education Week - March 30, 2016 - (Page 6)
Common Core: Is Its
Starting to Dissipate?
NONFICTION ON THE RISE
A growing number of 4th grade teachers say they're emphasizing nonfiction reading "to a great extent."
"to a great extent"
The common core's impact on student achievement may have peaked
early and already tapered off, according to a new analysis of national
test scores by the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education
"Most people when they think
about common core, they think we
won't see an impact for 10 years,"
said Tom Loveless, a nonresident
senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the report.
"This is telling me the opposite."
Most states adopted the common
standards in 2010, although they
may not have fully implemented
them in classrooms for some time
after. According to this year's Brown
Center Report on American Education, 4th and 8th grade students in
states that adopted the Common
Core State Standards outperformed
their peers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between 2009 and 2013. But between
2013 and 2015, students in nonadoption states made larger gains
than those in common-core states.
This means that "common core
may have already had its biggest
impact," said Loveless.
However, other experts say it's still
much too early to be drawing conclusions about how the common core is
affecting student assessment data.
States are in all different stages of
implementation, said Michael W.
Kirst, the president of the California state board of education. "At
least speaking only for California, in
the early part, we were doing very
little," he said. "There isn't enough
treatment to do the measurement."
The report, the 15th in the Brown
Center series, also looks at whether
the common-core standards really
are altering classroom instruction-
and finds evidence that they are.
The common core aims to get students reading more nonfiction than
they have previously. In 4th grade,
about half the texts students read
should be fiction and half should be
nonfiction, the standards say. By 8th
grade, the balance should tip toward
Looking at NAEP survey data,
Loveless found that many teachers
appear to be making this change. In
8th grade, just 25 percent of teachers said they put a heavy emphasis
on nonfiction reading in 2009. Six
years later, that share was up to 36
"The dominance of fiction is waning," writes Loveless.
Math and Coursetaking
The study also shows that 4th
grade teachers are not teaching as
much data and geometry as they did
previously-a shift that also aligns
with the common core.
And the common core may be
changing 8th graders' coursetaking
habits, the study finds. For decades,
there have been concerted efforts in
many places to get more 8th graders taking Algebra 1, traditionally
a high school course. But Loveless
writes that, "from 2011 to 2013, the
relative growth of advanced courses
stopped dead in its tracks." Then between 2013 and 2015, 8th graders'
enrollment in Algebra 1 declined
from 48 percent to 43 percent, according to NAEP data, while enrollment in general math increased.
That's likely because the common
core delineates a single 8th grade
math course for all students, Loveless explains.
A NAEP-score analysis raises the question
By Liana Heitin
The Brown Center Report
on American Education,
Common-core experts have noted
that the 8th grade math course is a
much tougher course than what was
traditionally taught at that level-
it now includes many concepts that
students used to learn in Algebra 1.
So getting to advanced math early is
now a tougher climb.
Overall, Loveless said, these findings in 4th and 8th grades indicate
that "curriculum and instruction
are changing at the ground level of
That's not a hugely surprising
finding, many say. But the Brown
Center analysis likely doesn't tell
the whole story. The NAEP teachersurvey data on implementation are
all self-reported, and the study only
looks at small slices of the common
core at two grade levels.
"It's interesting to see [common
core] is grabbing hold," said Kirst.
"However, what he has is pretty
superficial. Common core features
analysis, synthesis, interpretation,
modeling, communication, extrapolation. ... [For a full picture of implementation] you'd have to measure
really deeply how things are being
taught and changed and what's
going on in classrooms in terms of
instruction at a deeper level than
this report has."
In analyzing how NAEP scores
and common-core implementation
are linked, Loveless divided states
into three categories: strong implementers, medium implementers, and
nonadopters of the common core.
States that planned to have fully
implemented the English/language
arts common-core standards by the
end of the 2012-13 school year were
considered strong implementers.
Those with slower adoption timelines were in the medium category.
However, some experts have questioned those labels.
"Frankly, the timeline states set
up may or may not have a relationship to when the standards were
implemented in classrooms," said
Michael Cohen, the president of
Achieve, which led the development
of the common-core standards.
The nonadopters category includes seven states, three of which
initially adopted but then reversed
Indiana and South Carolina both
reversed adoption, but then ended up
approving new standards that look
very similar to the common core. "If
you count Indiana as a nonadopter
but don't look at the standards,
you're not characterizing it the right
way," said Cohen.
Loveless said it's a "legitimate
concern" that the nonadopters
ended up with common-core-like
standards. "But what went on in
Indiana was a political controversy, which even if they winded
up adopting the same standards
and giving them a different name,
that controversy may have had an
impact on classrooms and curriculum," he said.
Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State
School Officers, which facilitated
the development of the common
core, pointed out that all states have
raised the expectations for students
in recent years-even those that
never adopted the common core.
Other critics of the Brown Center's
report noted that NAEP may not be
the best means for measuring the
common core's effect. A recent report
by the NAEP Validity Studies Panel,
an independent panel run by the
American Institutes for Research,
in Washington, found that NAEP
is reasonably, though not entirely,
aligned with the common core. For
4th grade math, for example, the
researchers found that 79 percent of
NAEP's test items matched material
from the common-core standards at
or below that grade level.
"There's real dispute as to whether
NAEP is an appropriate and complete assessment to measure common
core," said Kirst. "If we're teaching
stuff in 5th grade that they're testing
in 4th grade, that's a problem."
Loveless agreed NAEP may not
be a perfect measure. "There's some
truth to that," he said, "but we don't
have any other national assessment
to judge what's going on."
Visit the CURRICULUM MATTERS blog,
which tracks news and trends on this issue.
ACT's New 10th Grade Test Provides Competition for PSAT
By Catherine Gewertz
ACT Inc. has added a new test to its lineup:
the PreACT, a multiple-choice test designed to
prepare 10th grade students for the company's
The PreACT, which will be available next
fall, is a paper-based test in the same four subjects as the ACT: English/language arts, math,
reading, and science. It will not include a writing section. That section is optional on the ACT.
The PreACT uses the same format and
1-36 score scale as the ACT. At one hour and
55 minutes or less, the PreACT is an hour
shorter than the ACT without the writing
portion. The Iowa-based testing company is
aiming the new product at schools, districts,
and states. It's not linked to scholarship opportunities, as is the College Board's PSAT.
Announcing the new test last week, ACT officials said its core purpose is to give students
a preview of the experience of taking the ACT,
and a sense of how they'll do on the collegeentrance exam. In fact, they'll be answering
real ACT questions. Paul J. Weeks, ACT's senior vice president for client relations, said that
all the questions on the PreACT will be repurposed items from earlier ACT exams.
The PreACT aims at the same age group that
takes the rival College Board's PSAT, and the
two companies have been battling for market
share for their respective product lines. Asked
whether the PreACT, at $12 per student, is
a competitor for the PSAT, which costs $15,
Weeks said, "I think it will be." But he added
that that wasn't the original idea behind it.
Vehicle for Practice
The PreACT was developed because school
and district staff members said they wanted
a test that would let students practice for the
6 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 30, 2016 | www.edweek.org
ACT, produce early scores that would signal
areas of weakness, and yield results quickly,
Weeks said. ACT puts free, full-length practice
versions of the college-entrance exam online,
but Weeks said the PreACT program would
make a practice experience available to all students in a school or district, rather than leaving
it to individual students to seek out online.
Because the questions are nonsecure-they
won't appear again on the ACT, so they're no
longer secret-schools and districts can give
the test whenever they wish, and students can
see the questions, and their answers, within
two weeks of taking the test, Weeks said.
The PreACT could fill a hole left in the market
by the demise of two tests which were run-ups to
the ACT: Explore, for grade 8 or 9, and Plan, for
10th grade. Those tests accounted for 1.8 million
administrations in 17 states in 2014. But that
same year, ACT announced that it was sunsetting them, as it unveiled a new line of summa-
tive tests for grades 3-10 called ACT Aspire.
ACT Aspire was intended to capture a chunk
of the common-core testing market just as the
federally funded PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests were set to make their debut. Four
states-Alabama, Arkansas, Wisconsin, and
Wyoming-bought the Aspire system to use
statewide this school year, and it's also used in
more than 900 individual schools or districts.
Ellen Forte, whose consulting company, edCount, works with states on assessment, said
she sees the launch of the PreACT as a strategic bid for district-level business.
"Having an entire suite of products that is designed to consider progress toward college- and
career-readiness as indicated by the ACT could
be very enticing [to districts]. And profitable,"
she said in an email.
Visit the HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND blog, which tracks news and
trends on this issue. www.edweek.org/blogs
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 30, 2016
Education Week - March 30, 2016
State Boards Feel New Need To Flex Muscles
Distress Call Issued On K-12 Facilities
Can ‘Micro-Credentialing’ Salvage Teacher PD?
Sanders Gets Educators’ Attention Despite Limited Specifics on K-12
Table of Contents
DAVID GAMBERG: What Makes a School?
News in Brief
Common Core: Is Its Achievement Impact Starting To Dissipate?
ACT’s New 10th Grade Test Provides Competition for PSAT
N.C. Law Restricts Transgender Student Restroom Access
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Group Probes Ed-Tech Pricing, Buying
Home Schooling Gains Popularity With Military Families
Blogs of the Week
‘Teach to Lead’ Projects Face Uphill Climb at State Level
Hearing Weighs Student-Data Privacy Concerns
High Court Weighing Birth-Control Mandate
ESSA Rule Negotiators Grapple With Issues of Flexibility, Equity
ROBERT EVANS: Principals, Get Your Irish On
PATRICK O’CONNOR: Why Good Teachers Don’t Have to ‘Like’ Teaching
JONATHAN ECKERT: Finding Joy in Teaching
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - March 30, 2016