## A Progress Report on (math &) the Common Core

William H. Schmidt of Michigan State University presented research on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics at the National Press Club on May 3, 2012.[1] A paper based on the same research, co-authored with Richard T. Houang, was published in Educational Researcher in October 2012.[2] Schmidt and Houang’s study (also referred to as the “MSU study” below) was important for endorsing CCSS’s prospective effectiveness at a time when debate on the CCSS was beginning to heat up. Opponents of the Common Core had criticized the CCSS for lacking empirical support. The MSU study showed that states with math standards similar to the Common Core, after controlling for other potential influences, registered higher NAEP scores in 2009 than states with standards divergent from the CCSS. The implication was that the math standards of CCSS would boost state math performance on NAEP.

Is there reason to believe that projection will become reality? In this section of the Brown Center Report, a two-part investigation attempts to answer that question. First, the ratings of state standards provided by Schmidt and Houang’s study are examined using NAEP data that have been collected since their study was completed. The central question is whether the MSU ratings predict progress on NAEP from 2009-2013. Second, a new analysis is presented, independent from the MSU ratings, comparing the NAEP gains of states with varying degrees of CCSS implementation. The two analyses offer exploratory readings of how the Common Core is affecting achievement so far.

Background

Schmidt and Houang used state NAEP scores on the 2009 eighth grade math assessment to model the potential effectiveness of the CCSS. They first developed a scale to rate the degree of congruence of each state’s standards with the CCSS. The ratings were based on earlier work also conducted by Schmidt and his colleagues at MSU. That work made a lasting and important contribution to curriculum studies by attempting to represent the quality of curriculum standards—both international and domestic—in a quantitative form.[3] The key dimensions measured in the MSU ratings are focus and coherence. Focus refers to limiting topics in the math curriculum to the most important topics and teaching them in depth. Coherence refers to organizing topics in a manner that reflects the underlying structure of mathematics, allowing knowledge and skills to build sequentially.

In the National Press Club talk, Schmidt presented a chart showing how the states fell on the congruence measure (see Table 3-1). Alabama, Michigan, California, and the others at the top of the scale had standards most like the CCSS math standards. Arizona, Nevada, Iowa and those at the bottom of the scale had standards that diverged from the CCSS.