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Tom Loveless: Why the Common Core Standards Failed

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Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, interviewed scholar Tom Loveless about the failure of the Common Core on her weekly radio show called “Talk Out of School.” Loveless is a former teacher, professor, and researcher at the Brookings Institution.

Loveless recently published a book titled Tom Loveless’ book, Between the State and the Schoolhouse, Understanding the Failure of Common Core. [Use code BSSS21 to get 20% off when ordering from Harvard Education Press; offer expires 8/13/2021.]

It was one of the best discussions of Common Core I have heard. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote both Leonie and Tom to commend them. I added a footnote to their conversation. At one point, Leonie asked Tom why the CCSS sets out percentages of literary and informational text that should be taught in elementary school, middle school, and high school. Neither knew the answer.

Here it is: the authors of the CCSS copied the percentages from the NAEP guidelines for test developers. in grade 4, instruction should be divided 50%-50% between literary sources and informational text. In grade 8, the CCSS recommended division is 45%/55%. In grade 12, it should be 30%-70%.

NAEP does not offer these percentages as guidelines for teachers, but as guidance for test developers. There is no evidence that students learn more from fiction or nonfiction. But as Loveless has already demonstrated in an earlier study, the teaching of literature in the nation (based on NAEP surveys) declined after the adoption of Common Core by more than 40 states.

So, Common Core failed to improve achievement as measured by test scores and it failed to reduce achievement gaps among racial and SES groups. Unfortunately its only “success” was reducing the time devoted to teaching literature.

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