Reading & Reacting: Seven facts you should know about new Common Core tests

By Valerie Strauss @ The Washington Post’s – The Answer Sheet

In a short examination of myths versus realities regarding the Common Core, a number of strong items are the focus. There is particularly good information regarding the PARCC developments.

Most interesting to me are these two:

Myth: Adoption of Common Core exams will end No Child Left Behind testing overkill.

Reality: Under Common Core, there will be many more tests and the same misuses. The No Child Left Behind law triggered a testing tsunami over the past dozen years, and the Common Core will flood classrooms with even more tests. Both consortia keep mandatory annual English/language arts (ELA) and math testing in grades 3-8, as with NCLB. However, the tests will be longer than current state exams. PARCC will test reading and math in three high school grades instead of one; SBAC moves reading and math tests from 10th grade to 11th. In PARCC states, high schoolers will also take a speaking and listening test. PARCC also offers “formative” tests for kindergarten through second grade. Both consortia produce and encourage additional interim testing two to three times a year. As with NCLB, Common Core tests will be used improperly to make high-stakes decisions, including decisions involving high school graduation, teacher evaluation and school accountability.

Myth: States have to implement the Common Core assessments.

Reality: No, they don’t. High-quality assessment improves teaching and learning and provides useful information about schools. Examples of better assessments include well-designed formative assessments, performance assessments that are part of the curriculum (New York Performance Standards Consortium), and portfolios or Learning Records of actual student work. Schools can be evaluated using multiple sources of evidence that includes limited, low-stakes testing, school quality reviews, and samples of ongoing student work.

These two items are precisely the kind of information that I wish more people understood. Simply put, there will be more tests and those tests will cost more, in terms of money and class time. They are never going to get cheaper and, at present, the exams are not remarkably better than the current exams in place. So it is difficult to see how any of it will get better for anyone involved, apart from the consortium and companies that are in line to profit from making the tests.

Of course, a number of states are starting to bail on the testing, in part because of the costs involved. However, I suspect most states and officials will capitulate to the testing regime because it will be viewed as the path of least resistance. Add to that the conflation of teacher evaluations being linked to the testing, where states are making the system up as they go along, it will almost assuredly appear to be easier to pay and administer the tests.

Image: iPad

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