Mathematics Achievement in Common Core Standards Hold Promise
WASHINGTON, November 22, 2012─Education researchers William H. Schmidt and Richard T. Houang, of Michigan State University, find that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), if properly implemented, have potential to improve math achievement among U.S. students. This assessment is based on the degree of similarity between the standards of the highest-achieving nations on the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the CCSSM. Schmidt and Houang’s research is published in the November issue of Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

Undertaken in response to questions about the rigor of CCSSM, their study characterizes the focus and coherence of the content defined by the CCSSM and anticipates the standards’ likely impact on student achievement. The 50 state standards in place leading up to the 2008-2009 school year were examined for their alignment with the CCSSM in terms of congruence, focus and, peripherally, rigor. The results are reported in Schmidt and Houang’s article, “Curricular Coherence and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.”

The authors simulate the potential relationship of the CCSSM to achievement, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), by examining differences in the alignment of states with the CCSSM and NAEP performance. The researchers thought that “states with standards that were more similar or closer to the CCSSM should be more likely to have had higher average scores on the 2009 NAEP assessment.” Their research showed that state results broke into two distinct divisions.

In explaining the finding, the authors stated that “what distinguishes the two groups is the degree to which the state standards of each group were actually implemented in the state’s classrooms.” They attributed the achievement gap between groups to the fact that some states, despite the challenging standards, did not succeed in making them a reality in terms of content actually covered in the classroom.

The Common Core State Standards were developed under the leadership of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and were released in 2010. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have officially adopted them as new state standards. The hope is that high-quality, internationally competitive standards will lead to improved achievement for America’s children. The Common Core State Assessments will be available in the 2014–2015 school year; until that time, the researchers emphasize, their analyses must be considered exploratory.

Schmidt and Houang conclude, “what is clear…is  that the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics deserve to be seriously implemented….It is time to stop debating their quality and to move to assuring that they define content coverage at the classroom level—what is actually being taught and to all children.”

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To contact Professor Schmidt, email; to contact Professor Houang, email

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