There has been a lot of speculation about the assessments that are associated with the Common Core State Standards. Here are few things we do know and some things we don’t know about the assessments and just because I can’t help it, some of my thoughts on the matter.
What do we know about the Common Core Assessments?
They will be required for states who have adopted the CCSS starting in the 2014-15 school year.
- The Partnership for Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) are each developing a test to measure student mastery of the CCSS.
- These tests are being developed using a $330 million grant from the Department of Education ($175 to SBAC and $185 to PARCC).
- SBAC will utilize computer adaptive technology.
- They will be given grades 3-12 in the areas of English Language Arts, and Math.
- Two different summative tests will be given twice a year with formative assessments available as an option.
- Students in grades K-2 will not be required to take the assessments. However, there will be voluntary “formative” assessments for grades K-2.
- The tests will take an individual student anywhere from 7-10 hours depending on the grade level.
- Students in each grade will have 5-9 days to take the tests. Schools have a 20 day window to administer the tests to all grades.
- Some test items will reflect Technology Enhanced Constructed Responses such as drag and drop, cut and paste, shaded text and moving items to show relationships.
- Teachers, administrators, parents and others can view sample items here and here.
- Federal funding for the development and implementation of these assessments runs out fall of 2014 (i.e. the creation of new test items and administration of the tests will have to be funded some other way).
What we don’t know about the Common Core Assessments?
- What will the ongoing cost be for schools to administer the test each year in relation to computers (namely band-width), time, scoring, etc.
- What is the rationale behind not requiring students in grades K-2 to be tested? Will the tests ever be required in those grade levels?
- How sustainable it is (e.g. who will update the tests when funding runs out)?
- When will the test be validated as a measure of college readiness?
It seems that the government has spent more money on assessment of the CCSS than providing resources for schools and teachers to implement the CCSS. Are they espousing the “tail wags the dog” theory?
As a reading specialist, I DO NOT support the idea of ‘voluntary’ testing for grades K-2. Because testing is not required, I worry that resources (i.e. funding) will be diverted to other grade levels and the importance of early literacy development will be overlooked. Foundational skills are most effectively taught and acquired in grades K-2. I recognize that the standards were developed from the top-down but I also suspect that the ‘decision makers’ do not recognize how critical the window of opportunity is for students in grades K-2 to build a solid foundation for academic and lifetime success (and an un-solid foundation can bring down the house). How can we show student progress or competency in grades K-2 if these foundational skills are not measured?
Currently anywhere between 20-40% of beginning college students qualify for remedial classes their freshman year in college. With implementation of the CCSS the hope is for that percentage to decrease significantly. The assessments created to measure the CCSS should be reliable indicators of how ready students are for college or a career. Years of data collection will be required to truly validate these assessments.
Here are some links for more information on the Common Core Assessments:
http://www.whiteboardadvisors.com/files/Feb%202013%20-%20Education%20Insider%20%28Digital%20Learning-Common%20Core%29_2.pdf (this is a particularly interesting read)