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In a title that is too good not to share, National Education Policy Center (NEPC)  slams a recent report by Center for American Progress (CAP) that attempted to say Common Core has been a huge success for low-income students, based on NAEP test results.  NEPC’s review is entitled: Center for American Progress Report Makes Feeble Effort to Claim Success for Standards-Based Reform,  and we have included an excerpt of their review below.  However, before you read the NEPC review, we feel you should know a little about Center for American Progress, and who funds them.

Center for American Progress Funders
Some open government groups, such as the Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center, criticize the Center’s failure to disclose its contributors.

  • In December 2013, the organization released a list of its corporate donors, which include Walmart, CitiGroup, Wells Fargo, defense contractor Northrup Grumman, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Eli Lilly and Company.
  • In 2015, CAP released a partial list of its donors, which included 28 anonymous donors accounting for at least $5 million in contributions. Named donors included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, which each gave between $500,000 and $999,999. CAP’s top donors include Walmart and Citigroup, each of which have given between $100,000 and $499,000.-Wiki

CAP report

Excerpt from CAP Report

“…. some states do a far better job of educating low-income students than others.  The Center for American Progress wanted to better understand the role of standards-based reform in promoting student outcomes, and to that end, we studied the most recent  National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP data. Given previous research, we believed that we might find a strong connection between standards-based reform and student outcomes.” 

  • Results Section: (This is verbatim.  You really should read this.)

“Our analysis of academic achievement over the past decade suggests that standards-based reform efforts have made a positive difference. We found that improvements in state standards-based policies were associated with academic growth for students from low-income families, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Some of this evidence is anecdotal and impressionistic. …Our findings are far from conclusive. For one, some of our work is plainly anecdotal and thus potentially suffers from confirmation bias. Also, we have only shown a relationship between implementing standards-based reform policies and improvement on national assessments, and even there, we only found robust results on two of the four NAEP tests.
Our study also did not capture all of the factors that could explain differences in academic performance in states, such as the quality of professional development or the level of school spending. And finally, our measure of policy implementation is limited and may not account for differences in quality of implementation. That being said, we believe that our findings—taken together—are valid.


Basically, CAP is saying ‘we wanted to find a strong statistical correlation between Common Core standards and positive student outcomes, but we really could not’.


and now…for the promised NEPC review.   Enjoy.

Excerpt from NEPC review of the glowing Center for American Progress report on NAEP, supporting Common Core Standards.

NEPC-BOULDER, CO (February 25, 2016) – A recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) examines the standards-based policies that have dominated the national landscape over the last few decades. The report explores whether states’ adoption of standards-based policies predicts low-income students’ achievement trends in fourth and eighth grade math and reading from 2003 to 2013.

review of the report finds that it employs inappropriate research methods, fails to adequately define its approach, and reports only incomplete findings from its analyses. The report’s claims far outpace its meager evidence.

Sharon L. Nichols, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, reviewed Lessons From State Performance on NAEP: Why Some High-Poverty Students Score Better Than Others for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

The report, according to Professor Nichols’ review, does not adequately describe variables or analytic methods, and the data and methods used do not allow for any causal findings. Yet the report uses causal language such as, “According to our analysis, states typically saw a jump in outcomes due to standards-based reform …” (emphasis added). The data and methods used, even if the associations were much stronger than those shown in this study, could not possibly support such conclusions.

Also, while the report claims to analyze changes across five separate two-year intervals, it only reports findings for 2009-2011, with no explanation of why or any documentation of the representativeness of that single interval.

The positive results the report does find, Professor Nichols points out, are statistically significant only at the generally unacceptable 0.10 level of significance. Further, while the report includes effect sizes, it does not report the percentage of the variance explained in the model.

The report contends that its analysis strongly supports the policy recommendation that states “embrace” the Common Core and its aligned assessments. But the study is far too weak to do this. As Professor Nichols explains, “Even if the omissions and shortcomings of this report were remedied, the analysis only provides a very narrow snapshot of how policy might connect to practice. … The strident call for Common Core at the end of this report is misplaced given [its] mismatched goals, questionable analysis and selected findings.”

Find NEPC Professor Nichols’ review at:

Find NEPC Press Release here:

Find Lessons From State Performance on NAEP: Why Some High-Poverty Students Score Better Than Others, by Ulrich Boser and Catherine Brown, published by the Center for American Progress, at:





Cheri Kiesecker

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