Common Core goes postmodern

A quick post today.

Mike Petrilli tweeted about the new IES standards center (of which I am a part) at Jay Greene and Rick Hess, asking them if they might be convinced of CCSS effectiveness by the results of such a study. To be clear, the study design is the same as several previously published analyses of the impact of NCLB, which are published in top journals and are widely cited. We are simply using CITS designs to look at the causal impact of CCSS adoption and then exploring the possible mediating factor of state implementation.

Jay respondedNo. Low N and choosing and implementing CC are endogenous.

Rick agreed: “Nah, the methodology on the link isn’t compelling- which fuels my skepticism. As Jay said: low n, endogeneity. Ugh.”

I’m fine with the attitudes expressed here, so long as they are taken to their logical conclusion, which is that we cannot ever know the impact of Common Core adoption or implementation (in which case why are we still talking about it?). I don’t see how, if the best-designed empirical research can’t be trusted, that we can ever hope to know whether Common Core has had any impacts at all. So if Jay and Rick believe that, by all means.

I suspect, however, that Jay and Rick don’t believe that. For starters, they’ve routinely amplified work that has at least as serious methodological problems as our yet-to-be-conducted work. In that case, however, the findings (standards don’t matter much) happened to agree with their priors.

Furthermore, both have written repeatedly about the negative impacts of Common Core. For instance, Common Core implementation causes opt out. Common core implementation is causing a retreat on standards and accountability. Common Core implementation is causing restricted options for parents. Common Core implementation is causing the crumbling of teacher evaluation reform. [1] How can we know any of these things are caused by Common Core if even the best-designed causal research can’t be trusted?

The answer is we can’t. So Rick and Jay (and others who have made up their minds that a policy doesn’t work before it has even been evaluated) should take a step back, let research run its course, and then decide if their snap judgments were right. Or, they should conclude that no research on this topic can produce credible causal estimates, in which case they should stop talking about it. I’ll end with a response from Matt Barnum, which I think says everything I just said, but in thousands fewer characters:

So are people (finally) acknowledging that their position on CC is non-falsifiable?”


[1] Note: I believe at least some of these claims may be true. But that’s not hypocritical, because I’m not pretending to believe there is no truth with regard to the impact of Common Core.


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