Kentucky is a focal state in a new report by Theodor Rebarber, “The Common Core Debacle, Results from 2019 NAEP and Other Sources,” which has just been released by the Bluegrass Institute’s counterpart organization in Massachusetts, the Pioneer Institute.
The report shows in general how education went South across the nation after the Common Core State Standards came along and how Kentucky shared that downward trend.
This set of graphs comes from the Kentucky section of the new report. The graphs show how Kentucky’s small average annual gains in NAEP reading and mathematics between 2003 and 2011 got reversed after Common Core testing started in the 2011-12 school year in both the fourth and eighth grades.
Whether we consider math or reading for either Grade 4 or Grade 8, Rebarber shows Kentucky’s average annual improvement in NAEP scores between 2003 and 2011 was definitely positive.
However, after Common Core hit Kentucky’s classrooms in 2011-12, including the introduction of Common Core aligned testing in the spring of that school year, Rebarber indicates that all the trends shown turned negative.
Kentucky is a focus in the report because it actually implemented Common Core in its classrooms ahead of every other state. However, as Rebarber points out on Page 19 of his report:
“Kentucky’s longer implementation—due to an earlier start—does not yield substantially different results from the rest of the states.”
The report contains discussion of national trends as well as more examples from key states other than Kentucky.
The report also points out that the most adverse impacts from Common Core have been felt by lower performing students, something that a number of education observers (including me, see some discussions here and here) considered likely to happen because Common Core set the stage for adoption of a lot of Progressive Education fad ideas that had already been shown in earlier research to be especially detrimental to disadvantaged students.
Overall, the Rebarber report shows that implementation of the Common Core is definitely correlated with a decline in school performance all across the nation – and Kentucky is no exception.
Unfortunately, truly getting rid of Common Core is proving difficult. Rebarber points out that:
“Common Core will not be easy to dislodge because it represents the common curricular assumptions and conventional wisdom of the educational establishment.”
Those common assumptions certainly live on in Kentucky as the current Kentucky standards, supposedly no long Common Core, in fact still contain a great deal of Progressive Education fad ideas including some from the Common Core and Kentucky’s current standards not infrequently contain the exact same Common Core language.
And, with COVID-19 now creating some dramatic new issues for schools, so long as Kentucky continues along with problematic standards, the situation is just going to be – problematic. However, as Rebarber says:
“…the historic declines we are now seeing, especially for the most vulnerable students, simply cannot be allowed to continue.”
As our schools start to adjust to what will probably be a “new normal” thanks to COVID-19, I hope the entire standards issue will be revisited. The wrong standards will just make the “new normal” even harder to implement.