Posting my comments to Larry Cuban in response to his post titled “Evidence: The Case of the Common Core Standards.” Larry shines a spotlight on the lack of research behind the widespread adoption of Common Core. I agree with his assessment, and offer additional perspective, in my comments below.
As someone now aboard the Common Core train, I believe the CCSS effort embodies the “bandwagon effect” at a national scale. In many ways, it parallels NCLB as a cause that at the sound bite level sounds right and just, but at the classroom, school, and district level results in distortions of staggering proportion. Sadly, such fallacies hypnotize education policymakers into institutionalizing illogic, which takes decades to reverse.
For what its worth, I find the use of “research-based” in education as more of a code word intended to signal the efficacy of a new policy, process, program, and etcetera irrespective of its applicability, reliability, or validity. Once “research-based” has been uttered, all questions or doubts about the effort must not be spoken; otherwise, whomever does so is not a team player, or worse, is an idiot. Used as such, it tends to silence dialog that could improve implementation or outcomes.
Lastly, as a former engineer, the validity of most education research seems questionable at best. While controlling for factors other than the unit of research is necessary to prove statistical reliability, the dizzying, diverse nature of classrooms defies the direct application of most research. The simplest of pedagogical, environmental, curricular, or other “research-based” adaptations consume colossal amounts of time, effort, and energy with little to no measurable results mostly because it is nigh impossible to carry out the adaptation, much less measure its results, in an effective way without introducing, intentionally or not, confounding variables that nullify the adaptation. This is not to say that education research is a waste of time, for sound methods and improvements may arise. However, their application needs to determined by a professional practitioner, and not a professional politician, political appointee, or administrator, whether experienced in a classroom or not. The circumstances of each classroom are so individualized and situational that any broad brush efforts are doomed to failure.