Common Core and Testing
Common Core has been in the focus this week. On Monday, Ben Allen looked at how its complicating textbooks, while on Wednesday he examined how rural school districts face more challenges in implementing the standards. Tuesday, I looked at the technology demands under Common Core. Today: textbooks.
It’s a buzz phrase, but what does Common Core mean?
Well, let’s start with the fact that the common core standards are a measuring tool.
It still leaves room for teachers and school districts to decide what they will teach and how they will teach it.
But it still ends with a test, a test designed to measure the teacher’s effectiveness and the student’s progress.
Even though the standards are the same in 45 states, the test is not, and Oklahoma is still trying to figure out what its test will look like.
Some schools across the Oklahoma are already utilizing parts of the Common Core standards, but it officially goes statewide for the 2014-2015 school year.
After adopting the standards in 2010, Oklahoma picked the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC to cooperatively develop a testing system for the state..
PARCC even named Oklahoma to its governing board.
But, earlier in the summer State Superintendent Janet Barresi announced Oklahoma would join PARCC as planned.
Barresi felt the tests took too long to take and cost too much.
Instead the state now will create its own test based off the common core standards.
A route other states have taken.
“Kentucky is doing their own common core tests. It’s based on our Kentucky common assessment standards,” says Kentucky Associate Commissioner of Education Ken Draut.
One of the first states to implement Common Core back in 2011, Kentucky administered its first test in 2012 and the second round this past May.
Draut admits it wasn’t easy to create.
“It took us about 2 years to develop the test from the ground up when we hired our contractors for grades three through eight. So, it’s not a short process.”
The choice to pull out of PARCC concerns education groups in the state.
Past-president for the Oklahoma PTA Anna King supports moving to Common Core and believes testing goes hand in hand with teaching in the standards.
“Not only will it help the state of Oklahoma to know how well a kid is doing, if the kid moves from Oklahoma and goes to another state then they can get that information and also continue helping the student with their critical thinking skills.”
The group Restore Oklahoma Public Education opposes Common Core.
President Jenni White says standards can’t be implemented without testing.
While PARCC was a consortium of 19 states and the District of Columbia utilizing efforts to create an assessment for everyone, White raises concerns of a national company coming in to take over the process.
“McGraw-Hill is a common core testing company Pierson is a common core testing company. It’s a shell game that has to do with testing contracts and the common core more than what the kids are learnin.”
But, State Superintendent Janet Barresi disagrees.
“All of this was as a result of the work of Oklahoma educators and this is a test that is going to be by Oklahoma educators for Oklahoma kids.”
Over the past couple of months, Barresi tried to reassure everyone that Oklahoma students would have tests ready by the time of full implementation.
She says the assessments will be rigorous and align with Common Core.
Also important to education officials the new test set up by Oklahoma will allow for pencil and paper tests and only sixth grade and older students would be required to take the tests online.
Currently the State Department of Education is sending out requests for proposals to create the testing system.
Of course the idea of testing in and of itself has been a thorny issue going back to the early days of No Child Left Behind.
“High stakes testing has made teaching an endangered species,” says John Thompson who spent 19 years as an educator in inner city schools.
He supports the idea of common core standards, but believes without a testing consortium Oklahoma should slow down the process of full implementation.
He says testing should be used for diagnostics to help with instruction and policy rather than punishment through high stakes testing.
“If we attach stakes to common core we’re playing with fire and if we don’t slow down the process we’re betting the farm on something that could be disastrous.”
Superintendent Barresi says she is taking the best from PARCC and other consortiums as well as other states that have implemented their own assessments like the Blue Grass State.
But, Ken Draut with the Kentucky Department of Education has one final warning for the Sooner State.
“Our scores did significantly drop when we aligned to the common core and that was predicted. It is a more rigorous test it is aligned with college and career readiness all the way from third grade to 12th.”
Barresi says field tests for the new assessments will actually begin this spring.