Research and Educator Feedback Critical to Common Core Success, Experts Say

The use of research-based evidence played an integral role in the formation of the Common Core State Standards, and implementation of the standards across the country is providing educators with the necessary tools to continue fine-tuning the initiative’s potential.

At a recent American Youth Policy Forum event, a group of education experts convened to discuss the critical role of research in the Common Core.

At the heart of the Common Core’s creation was the reliance on scholarly studies and research, as well as feedback from employers and college faculty. The standards were influenced equally Dr. Lorraine McDonnell, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and one of the panel’s featured speakers, has studied how research was integrated with other types of evidence into the formation of the Common Core. Utilizing a number of sources and data in her own research, Dr. McDonnell found that research-based evidence strengthened the resulting standards The emphasis on research allowed the Common Core’s creators to largely bypass the political bickering that had hamstrung previous state-level efforts to create standards, often resulting in bloated and unwieldy curriculum guidelines.

“In the views of the standard’s developers, research and evidence grounded the process in something other than personal preferences about what students should learn,” Dr. McDonnell said.

When there was a lack of relevant studies to rely on—for example, a large number of studies focused on K-2 math studies rather than math performance at higher-grade levels—the standards writers asked researchers and teachers in their fields to provide judgments about what higher grade level trajectories would look like. This reliance on so-called best judgment feedback allowed for the standards to continually be improved and modified as the implementation process evolves in the classroom.

Dr. Sandra Alberti, Director of State and District Partnerships and Professional Development at Student Achievement Partners called the Common Core “an opportunity for innovation as the process continues to move forward.” She says that the end goal is ensuring that the standards have the actual affect of improving student performance.

“The whole heart of these standards is a focus on effectiveness,” Dr. Alberti said. “And it’s very important that we not just think about this as something that happens in ivory towers or research labs, but also think about this in terms of its connection with teachers.”

With 45 different states currently pursuing Common Core implementation, the uniqueness of the states’ respective curriculum strategies will rely on the basis of research—both short-term and long-term studies—to ensure that implementation is having the desired results. As the process moves forward, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders will be able to use hands-on research and data to continue honing their curriculums.

So how will the states work together to put the ‘common’ in Common Core? In addition to ongoing national and local-level research that will present a clearer view of what’s working and what can use some improvement, teachers and administrators are encouraged to share their best practice solutions and strategies with their colleagues. While formative and summative assessments will provide real-time data, it’s the teachers’ classroom experiences that can help to shape the implementation and future of the Common Core.

“The culture of teaching is changing,” Dr. Alberti said. “Instead of having an isolated experience in the classroom, teachers are now encouraged to publicly share what they are doing and what is successful. Social media is helping to share best practices. But teachers take risks during action research. We want teachers to experiment in their classrooms. Not everything will happen perfectly. Teachers need to try strategies and make adjustments; it should be an iterative learning process. Policymakers must respect a culture of learning. Research and experimentation can be integrated into practice if the culture encourages it.”