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Topic: Common Core Assessments: Cause for Concern?
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 14,468
Registered: 12/3/04
Common Core Assessments: Cause for Concern?
Posted: Jul 5, 2014 3:23 PM
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From Alliance For Excellent Education, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. See
Core of the Matter: Common Core Assessments: Cause for Concern? (#CoreMatters)

By Robert Rothman

Four years after they were released, the Common Core State Standards
have become one of the hottest political issues in the United States,
igniting fierce debates, protest marches, and impassioned (though not
always factual) speeches and articles. Three states, Indiana,
Oklahoma, and South Carolina, have moved to rescind their adoption of
the Common Core and replace them with home-grown standards, and other
states are poised to join them.

These actions are causes for concern among advocates for educational
equity. As Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League,
has pointed out, the Common Core provides an opportunity to "bridge
the achievement gap by leveling the playing field so that all
students, regardless of race, geography, or income, have an equal
shot at gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the
21st century global economy."

Yet while pulling out of the Common Core threatens to deny this
opportunity for leveling the playing field for low-income students
and students of color, there is an even more insidious threat from
states that choose to retain the standards yet do little to implement
them. In those states, students will ostensibly be expected to learn
what the Common Core lays out and graduate from high school prepared
for college and careers, but the states will have done little to
ensure that teachers are prepared to enable all students to develop
those competencies. [Emphasis added by JPB]

One set of clues about states' intentions are the decisions states
are making about the assessments they will use to measure student
progress toward the Common Core State Standards. These decisions are
critical. If an assessment does not measure the full breadth of what
the Standards expect, the information they provide to students,
parents, and teachers about the extent to which students have learned
what they were expected to learn will be misleading. In addition,
research has shown clearly that when standards and tests diverge,
teachers (quite understandably) focus on what is tested, rather than
what the standards say.

The early indications raise some red flags. Only 42 percent of
students live in states that plan to use tests developed by one of
two state consortia (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for
College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment
Consortium) that are creating assessments specifically designed to
measure the Common Core. The other 58 percent live in states that are
using other tests or haven't made up their minds. The situation is
even more disturbing at the high school level. Seven states that are
using consortia tests in grades three through eight will use a
different test in high school.

To be sure, the consortia tests, which were field-tested this spring,
might not be perfect, and other tests might measure the breadth of
the Standards equally well. But the consortia have been fully
transparent in their plans and designs, and those designs suggest
that the assessments will measure students' ability to think
critically and solve problems, not just factual recall. Much less is
known about the other assessments. Moreover, to the extent states are
choosing other assessments to save money, the likelihood is that
their tests will not measure all the competencies students are
expected to demonstrate. In testing, you get what you pay for.
[Emphasis added by JPB]

Advocates for educational equity have been vocal in their continued
support for the Common Core State Standards and have provided an
important voice in states where the Standards are challenged.
Advocates need to be equally vocal in ensuring that states that keep
the Standards fulfill their commitment to all students. Testing is a
crucial component of that commitment.
Robert Rothman is a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent
Education and author of Fewer, Clearer, Higher: How the Common Core
State Standards Can Change Classroom Practice [See
http://hepg.org/hep-home/books/fewer,-clearer,-higher ] Further
information regarding Rothman: He has written extensively on
standards and assessments. He is a senior fellow at the Alliance for
Excellent Education and the author of Something in Common: The Common
Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education (Harvard
Education Press).

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