As controversy and contention swirl around the Common Core State Standards, the world's largest organization of educational researchers has introduced a new resource to help make sense of the concept of states sharing academic benchmarks for English/Language Arts and math. The Trending Topic Research File provides free online access to Common Core-related articles appearing in the six peer-reviewed journals of the American Educational Research Association. (The "free" part is important because, typically, nonsubscribers pay $30 to download a single article.)
Since going online two weeks ago, the site has received about 200 visits, with 80 percent resulting in article views. However, Tony Pals, the association's communications director, indicated that traffic was expected to increase since the site not yet been extensively publicized. So far, it contains 11 articles dating as far back as 2009. The association has no plans to remove the site and will add additional research as it is published.
The Research File is not intended to present a particular view of the Common Core. Rather, the site includes any Association journal article that substantively addresses the topic. As such, the posted studies draw from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
For instance, one study takes a historical view, examining English/ Language Arts standards authors' claims that students need to read more complex material because their textbooks have steadily grown less complicated over the past half century. The study traced sixth-grade and third-grade text book complexity all the way back to 1905. Researchers found that, far from declining, the complexity of 3rd grade text books had actually steadily increased after dipping during the early decades of the twentieth century, likely as a result of the switch from reading-for-elocution to reading-for-comprehension. Sixth-grade complexity had increased or stayed the same since the 1940s.
By contrast, another article focuses on more recent events by analyzing the mounting opposition to the Common Core and also the interest groups that originally supported the standards. This article concludes that opposition has strengthened to the point that supporters may divert their attention from implementation "to political campaigns similar to their initial promotion" of the standards.
The Common Core is just the first of several subjects that the association plans to address with Trending Topics sites that offer free access to relevant journal articles. The next topic is the effectiveness of early education. The association expects to have that one online by the end of the month. After that, Pals expects that each month will bring a new page "highlighting published research from AERA journals on a major education topic currently in the news." Readers can also suggest additional topics by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
"The resource is one small part of AERA's growing effort to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners, reporters, policymakers, and the public," said Pals.