Skip to main content


Do college- and career-readiness standards improve student learning?

C-SAIL was established in July 2015 to serve as an objective resource on the implementation and effects of the full breadth of college- and career-readiness standards. The Center is funded through a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education.

C-SAIL is directed by Andy Porter, and includes a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, American Institutes for Research, and Vanderbilt University. Learn more.

Why it matters

For as long as the United States has been engaged in standards-based education reform, we have achieved only modest gains and failed to close the achievement gap (Dee & Jacob, 2012; Hanushek & Raymond, 2005). Researchers point to a number of flaws in both design and implementation that have undermined the ideals of standards-based reform. These include poor-quality content standards with unclear language, poor-quality and poorly aligned assessments, flawed school accountability metrics, and inadequate supporting materials, including textbooks and professional development. In short, the vision of standards-based reform as laid out by its earliest advocates has not been realized.

“It is more crucial than ever to understand what is required for effective standards implementation and positive outcomes for all students.”

As states implement new college- and career-readiness standards, including the Common Core State Standards, it is more crucial than ever to understand what is required for effective standards implementation and positive outcomes for all students.

At the start of our work, we hypothesized that new college- and career-readiness standards would not reach their potential, even with state and district supports and encouragement from the Department of Education, unless effective, scalable efforts to support the standards were designed, tested, found effective, and made widely available—taking standards-based reform through the schoolhouse door and into the classroom in powerful ways that directly support teacher implementation.

What we studied

Beginning in 2015, we:

  • Compared and contrasted college- and career-readiness standards implementation in English language arts (ELA) and math across different states.
  • Captured the differences in approaches to implementation between states, districts, schools, and classrooms, and between students within a classroom, and determine their effects.
  • Measured college- and career-readiness standards’ impact on student achievement, through NAEP scores, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment and employment rates.
  • Created and made available new tools for teachers to monitor in real-time how well-aligned the content of their enacted curriculum is to their states’ college- and career-readiness standards in ELA and math.
  • Tested the Feedback on Alignment and Support for Teachers (FAST) Program to support teachers through feedback and coaching.
  • Engaged policymakers, education practitioners, and researchers in national discussions of the Center’s work and its findings.


Dee, T. S. & Jacob, B. A. (2011). Rational ignorance in education: A field experiment in student plagiarism. The Journal of Human Resources, 47(2), 397-434.

Hanushek, E. A. & Raymond, M. (2005). Does school accountability lead to improved student performance? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 24(2), 297- 327.