New Controversial Math Standards Gain Ambitious Support
November 6, 2012

New Controversial Math Standards Gain Ambitious Support

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

As Americans head to the polls today, one of the issues that might be influencing their decisions are the different politician´s policies on education.

A new study from Michigan State University researchers supports one controversial policy about to be put into place by 46 states in 2014, the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM).

The two MSU researchers, William Schmidt and Richard Houang, found that states whose previous standards were most similar to CCSSM scored better on a national math test in 2009, according to their report published in the journal Educational Researcher.

“We can´t yet prove anything about the Common Core standards because they´re just now being implemented, but if we look back we find that those states that were closest to the Common Core on average did better on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test,” Schmidt said.

“This is another strong piece of evidence that we are moving in the right direction,” he added.

Most people agree that the new standards are more rigorous and, in many cases, will require more standardized testing for students and teachers. Advocates say the new standards will not only boost test scores, it will also allow administrators to track student performance better than ever.

In the study, the researchers first compared the CCSSM standards to the standards of high achieving nations with respect to math competency. Next, they compared individual state standards to the CCSSM and then examined how those states scored on the 2009 NAEP test. The researchers attempted to compensate for variations in socioeconomic status that typically has an effect on test scores.

The study also examined some states that had similar criteria to the CCSSM standards, but had relatively low proficiency standards. For example, the researchers´ home state of Michigan had high standards but low proficiency guidelines, giving some scores less than 40 percent a passing grade.

According to Schmidt, the Common Core standards are enforced by higher proficiency standards, effectively remedying that problem.

Like most public policies, the Common Core standards are hotly contested and study from the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution said they would have no effect on student performance. However, Schmidt refutes that study, saying it was opinion-based, while his study is based primarily in coded data.

Many pundits and politicians have also been critical of the Common Core standards. Conservative critics maintain that the standards are another example of the federal government getting involved in state affairs, despite the fact that the standards were devised as “a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO),” according to a statement on the Common Core official website.

In support of his own study and the Common Core standards, Schmidt said the U.S. it on track to boost its math competency through the adoption of these guidelines.

“This is probably the best chance we´ve had to improve America´s mathematics education in 50 years if not more,” Schmidt said. “We finally have standards that are comparable to what the top-achieving countries have. It would be foolish for Michigan or any other state to pull back now.”