In the spring of 2012, Brookings scholar Tom Loveless set off a firestorm when he wrote a study of the Common Core State Standards and concluded that they would make little or no difference in student achievement.

He did not pass judgment on the quality of the standards but on the question of how much standards matter.

He wrote:

“The finding is clear: The quality of state standards has not mattered. From 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones.”

Does rigor matter? In fourth grade, he found, that was some evidence that raising cut points “is associated with increased achievement. But the effect is not large, and it is difficult to determine the direction of causality. At 8th grade, states with lenient cut points have made NAEP gains similar to those of states with rigorous ones.”

Most important, Loveless finds that “Test=score differences within states are about four to five times greater than differences in state means…Common state standards might reduce variation between states, but it is difficult to imagine how they will reduce variation within states. After all, districts and schools within the same state have been operating under common standards for several years and, in some states, for decades.”

In this article, which links to his study and to critics of the study, he concludes that the Common Core State Standards are not likely to make much of a difference.

Hmmm. How many tens of billions of dollars will be spent on Common Core-aligned hardware, software, professional development, and consultants to see if he is right? How many districts will increase class size, abandon the arts, and eliminate other necessary program along the way?

Couldn’t we have tried the idea out first in three to five states before imposing it on 45 states?