ANN ARBOR—The Spencer Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation have awarded a team of researchers from the University of Michigan, Brown University and Stanford University nearly $5 million for the first phase of a five-year analysis of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a controversial initiative to overhaul academic achievement standards for K-12 students nationwide.
The project, “Under Construction: The Rise, Spread, and Consequences of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the U.S. Educational Sector,” will look at how governmental and non-governmental stakeholders are responding to the Common Core and how this is affecting classroom instruction and social disparities in academic achievement in school systems across the country.
Based at U-M’s Institute for Social Research, the project is being led by principal investigator Brian Rowan, research professor at the institute and the Burke A. Hinsdale Collegiate Professor at U-M’s School of Education. Co-principal investigators include David K. Cohen, a public policy professor and the John Dewey Collegiate Professor at the U-M School of Education; Susan L. Moffitt, associate professor of political science and international and public affairs at Brown University; and Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at the Stanford University.
“The Common Core is a watershed in American education—the first time the vast majority of states have committed to common standards for all children,” Rowan said. “Our research will look at a wide range of data to determine whether the effort to organize instruction around common standards is, in fact, improving academic performance for all students.”
Among the data that will be used in the study is a collection of video records of classroom teaching, available at U-M, from roughly 240 teachers in six urban school districts that participated in the Measures of Effective Teaching project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study also will draw on a database archived at Stanford University that allows researchers to track student achievement trends in all 50 states longitudinally.
The Spencer Foundation is contributing the bulk of the funding for the research—nearly $4.4 million—with the remainder coming from the William T. Grant Foundation.
“We are pleased to be funding this set of interwoven research studies to help understand the implementation of this controversial endeavor,” said Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation. “Although the ultimate outcome will not be clear for years to come, we are convinced that these studies of the evolution of this effort, in the context of an extraordinarily complex and decentralized educational system, will prove highly instructive.”
“Educational inequality is one of our nation’s greatest challenges, and some view the adoption of common standards as an important step towards fostering greater equity,” said Adam Gamoran, president of the William T. Grant Foundation. “This study will help us understand how trends in achievement levels and achievement gaps may be related to patterns of adoption and implementation of Common Core. In doing so it will also help us to understand the limits and possibilities of large-scale standards-based reform to achieve greater equity in educational outcomes.”
The foundations have not yet committed to funding the second phase of the study, and will base further funding on the progress that is made in the first phase.