Harvard Center Releases Report on First Full Year of Common Core Implementation

February 9, 2016

Research Shows Teachers Embraced New Standards and Adjusted Instruction to Meet Higher Bar; Provides New Evidence on Strategies Related to Improved Student Performance.

Cambridge, MA (February 9, 2016) – Today, researchers at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University released findings from a yearlong study of implementation of new, higher standards. In five states, the study team collected data on the experiences and results of educators’ efforts to meet the demands of higher standards. The report, Teaching Higher: Educators’ Perspective on Common Core Implementation, also shares practices associated with improved student performance.

In the study, researchers, led by Professor Thomas J. Kane, asked teachers and principals about the types and amounts of professional development they received, the textbooks they were using, the online resources they found most helpful, and the alignment between the Common Core Standards and teacher evaluations, among other topics. Then, they studied how each of those efforts was related to students’ performance on the new assessments, after controlling for students’ demographic characteristics and prior achievement on state assessments.

“One goal for the study was to amplify the voices of implementers. How did teachers and principals respond to the challenge posed to them by their states’ adoption of higher standards? At least in five states, it appears they rose to that challenge,” said Antoniya Owens, Project Director.

Research findings from the study demonstrate that teachers have made large adjustments to their instruction to meet these new demands. In fact, four out of five mathematics teachers (82%) and three out of four English teachers (72%) reported that they have changed more than half of their instructional materials in response to new standards. English teachers also report an increased use of non-fiction texts and more emphasis on using evidence in writing assignments.

Teachers aren’t the only ones who have embraced the Common Core; more than two thirds of principals believe that the new standards will lead to improved student learning.

"Massachusetts educators helped develop our state curriculum frameworks, which include the Common Core, and they have worked hard to implement locally-chosen curricula aligned with the frameworks," said Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester. "I look forward to learning more about educators' experiences and how we can support them as they continue holding their students to high standards."

The study also looks at how implementation efforts made by educators are associated with student learning gains. In places where there were more professional development days, more classroom observations with explicit feedback, and where standards-aligned student outcomes were included in teacher evaluations, student performance on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced assessments was statistically significantly higher in mathematics.

“Common standards allow us to measure what may work for teachers invested in meeting those new higher standards,” explained the study’s principal investigator, Professor Thomas J. Kane. “We have an obligation to share the promising and not-so promising practices across the country, so that all students can benefit.”

A panel of state superintendents, teachers, and principals will discuss the findings and their experiences implementing newer standards at an Askwith Forum event, produced in conjunction with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, on February 9, 2016.

Read the report at: http://cepr.harvard.edu/teaching-higher

Watch the Askwith Forum via live stream on February 9, 2016 at 5:30 EST:

The rapid accumulation of student achievement data represents an untapped national resource, one that holds the promise of breaking longstanding stalemates in the education policy debate. The Center for Education Policy Research works with university-based researchers and policymakers to bring these new data to bear in evaluating policies and drawing implications for reform.

Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University
50 Church St, 4th Floor Cambridge, MA
http://cepr.harvard.edu | @HarvardCEPR

Contact: Ashley Dixon, Manager of Communications and Outreach 
Tel: (617) 496-9457
Email: ashley_dixon@gse.harvard.edu