Friday, March 7, 2014

The Common Core Standards, Data-Based Systems of Reform and the Correlates of Effective Schools Research

       The American Diploma Project (ADP) developed a series of rigorous standards that identified the skills and knowledge expected of any student receiving a high school diploma.  By 2009, thirty states had aligned their learning standards with those previously explicated by the American Diploma Project (ADP), which formed the basis for educational reform that eventually became the Common Core Standards Initiative.  The rationale for both the ADP and subsequent  Common Core State Standards is American students will be better positioned to compete successfully in the global economy when fully prepared for the future.

If this rationale is logical and sensible, then what causes the educational inertia to perpetuate failure?  High expectations are a good thing.  Ensuring every state promotes high expectations through its learning standards is thereby a good thing because the United States must compete in a global economy.  So, could the problem with acceptance of the Common Core Standards be communication that makes professional development ineffective, which results in poor implementation? 

In a Los Angeles Times editorial (April 22, 2013) the dilemma facing implementation of the Common Core State Standards was well explicated:

Experts are divided over the value of the new curriculum standards, which might or might not lead students to the deeper reading, reasoning and writing skills that were intended.  But on this much they agree: The curriculum will fail if it isn’t carefully implemented with meaningful tests that are aligned with what the students are supposed to learn.  Legislators and education leaders should be putting more emphasis on helping teachers get ready for common core and giving them a significant voice in how it is implemented.  And if the state can’t get the right elements in place to do that by 2014, it would be better off delaying the new curriculum a couple of years and doing it right, rather than allowing common core to become yet another educational flash in the pan that never lives up to its promise.

High expectations explicated as learning standards are part of the variables called leading indicators for success.  Subsequently, test results produce a trailing indicator, which either document student success or failure.  Effective implementation is what comes between the high expectations and the test results. 

The increased expectations for monitoring student progress and adjusting instruction based on real time data would be nearly impossible without a technology-based student information and instructional management system.  Efficient promotion of the mission of learning for all requires districts to either create a vertically aligned, curriculum-based system or modify a purchased system to make it appropriate for the district’s needs.  An effective system would be able to monitor and adjust established “nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction” (Marzano & Waters, 2009, p. 23).

A case study that serves as a model for replication is the Kennewick School District, which provides an actual example of the value of a technology-based student information and instructional management system.  Research by Fielding, Kerr, and Rosier (2007) documented how the achievement gap between economically poor and disadvantaged students and their non-disadvantaged counterparts could be closed by a four-step Targeted Accelerated Growth (TAG) loop process.  The TAG loop process includes the following steps:
(1) discovering through the administration of diagnostic assessment the
sub-skill deficiency,
(2) providing increased direct instructional time,
(3) focused teaching to the deficient sub-skill, and
(4) retesting to assure that learning has actually occurred (Fielding et al, 2007, p. 19).  .

The TAG loop process is a process not a linear model.  As such, it can be utilized as a progress monitoring model  As with any change process, the interpretation of reliable data is crucial for success based on application of correct micro-adjustments.  It would seem diagnostic testing and professional development for the teaching staff optimizes effectiveness in efficiently using data to implement proportional micro-adjustments in instructional time.  Therefore, with an efficient and effective student information and instructional management system, how to utilize data to effectively and efficiently diagnose and implement needed change becomes possible.    

Before implementing the principle of progress monitor and adjust at a school-wide level, leaders must identify the problem and then lead continuous improvement systems and processes.  To lead continuous improvement systems and processes, the effective educational leader evaluates the Five Ts of Continuous Improvement: Theories, Teams, Tools, Time, and Technology.  The effective educational leader then ensures appropriate performance criteria are established.

A case study that serves as a school-wide model for progress monitoring is the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC) system, which frequently monitors student performance and ensures alignment between the “intended curriculum”…,“implemented curriculum”…, and the “attained curriculum” (DeLorenzo et al, 2008, p. 64).  Based on research and best practices, implementation of the correlates for Effective Schools is therefore prudent when seeking school-wide improvement.  Disaggregated data helps “the district, its schools, and its teachers to evaluate their effectiveness” (Davenport & Anderson, 2002, p. 62). 

A school or district’s continuous improvement goals for a given academic year must succinctly indicate implementation steps for each improvement goal.  The current framework utilized for continuous school improvement encourages no more than three goal statements per year.  Given the complexity of the school system, too many goals adversely impact the level of human energy devoted to the initiative.  Displaying a limited number of continuous improvement goals allows followers and stakeholders to monitor growth through well-explicated action plan.  Therefore, anything more than three continuous improvement goals will be visually overwhelming and thereby perceived as unmanageable.  
     The result of frequent monitoring, progress analysis, and adjustment means data guides instructional decisions.  However, effective use of data depends on how well educational leaders are able to guide the process.  The continuous improvement process in education should develop a building-wide culture whereby all systems, processes, strategies, and actions define “how we do things around here” Lezotte & Snyder, 2011, p. 141).  Without interdependent implementation of all the correlates of Effective Schools Research, any progress is adversely impacted.

To cite:
Anderson, C.J. (March 7, 2014) The Common Core Standards, Data-Based Systems of Reform and
      the Correlates of Effective Schools Research .  [Web log post] Retrieved from  


Davenport, P., & Anderson, G. (2002). Closing the achievement gap: No excuses. Houston, TX:


Delorenzo, R. A., Battino, W., Schreiber, R. M., Carrio, B. G. (2008). Delivering on the promise:

               The education revolution. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree. ISBN-13: 9781934009420
Fielding, L., Kerr, N., & Rosier, P. (2007). Annual growth for all students, catch-up growth

             for those who are behind. New York: Foundation Press.
Lezotte, L. W., & Snyder, K. M. (2011). What effective schools do: Re-envisioning the
               correlates. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Marzano, R. & Waters, T.(2009).  District Leadership That Works. Bloomington, In: Solution
               Tree Press