Many years ago I learned that sometimes paperback book publishers take the covers off paperback books that have not sold well and put on new covers. The book inside has not changed, just the cover. This process came to mind the other day when I read that the organization of local boards of education had voted to delay the high stakes status of the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) for two years. It seems the boards think that the current 9th and 10th graders will not be adequately prepared for the new tests based on the Common Core curriculum. The whole thing is further complicated by the requirement of Race to the Top funding that teachers be partially evaluated on their students' scores on these tests.
And there are further complications. The new tests are primarily taken on computers. That opens the door to lots of software bugs and the shortage of hardware in schools to take the tests.
The PARCC consortium is only made up of 9 states. Another consortium, Smarter Balance, is doing the western states and a couple in New England- 17 states in all. Twenty-four states are among the undecided or are taking an altogether different path. To say confusion reigns is an understatement. And remember one of the original goals of Common Core was a common curriculum among the states.
The State Board of Education very quickly backtracked on its commitment to use the tests this year as a high stakes test. Clearly it was a case of adding insult to injury. The local teachers' union was against implementation for its own self-serving reasons. The local ACLU came out as defending the civil rights of the kids to be tested on what they were taught. Imagine that silly notion!
Now with the change in plan by the State Board of Education, where does that leave us in Maryland? Maryland has required students to take a high stakes test in English, math (algebra) and science (biology) as part of the requirements for No Child Left Behind. While teachers and local boards of education have for the most part supported Common Core, the testing is giving lots of heartburn.
All this brings us back to those new covers on the paperback books. Everything old is new again. How the PARCC tests will emerge from the piloting programs over the next two years and how the politics of what equals a passing score fall out will be very interesting. Maryland loves to tout itself as number 1 in education across the country. Each state gets to set its own passing score for the PARCC tests depending on the pilot results. In order to keep its claim to #1, Maryland will need to set a passing score that is low enough to show great results. I'll bet right now someone is getting ready to rip off those old covers and add the new ones with a better passing rate as the passing score falls.