Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Where oh where have all the tests gone?

Where oh Where have all the tests gone?

Lots of people have lots of issues with the Common Core State Standards curriculum.  Turns out so does the President.  But not to worry about that.  The President’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, has repeatedly asserted that Trump will keep his campaign promise to do away with Common Core.
Of course, there are a couple of glitches in that effort.  First of all, Common Core is not a federal program.  Common Core was created by representatives of the individual states which then individually choose to adopt the curriculum or not.  No one at the federal level wrote or participated in the creation of the Common Core so there is nothing to be repealed at the federal level. 
The Common Core is a curriculum.   Therein, creates another problem.  The federal Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) explicity forbids the federal government from imposing curricula on the states.  So while the President may fume and bluster, he does not have the authority by himself to change anything about it.
However, Common Core may be falling under its own weight.  One of the aspects of Common Core is the creation of a test to measure how well students have mastered the curriculum.  Initially almost all of the states had signed on to either Smarter Balanced (I always thought that sounded like a substitute for butter) or PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.)   Today there are only 19 states plus the District of Columbia that are still using these assessments.  By contrast, 28 states are using tests they have either designed or purchased for their use.  Three states are using a blend of PARCC or Smarter Balanced. 
ESSA does require the states to use some measure of accountability.  Using the SAT or the ACT is an option under the law and is definitely gaining in acceptance.  First of all, many students need these tests for college admission so it is not an additional test at a time when parents are complaining about the amount of time in school spent on testing rather than instruction.  Secondly, using the ACT and/or the SAT is more relevant to the student’s future.  Currently, 25 states are requiring all students to take these tests.   Twelve of those states are using these tests to meet the ESSA requirements.
Another change is the number of states that are requiring students to pass a high stakes test to receive a high school diploma.  Only twelve states insist on the passing of a high stakes test in order for a student to get a diploma.   The remaining states have menu options to work around a failing grade on the so-called high stakes assessment.
Maybe, just maybe, the standardized testing miracle cure has reached its zenith and is beginning to decline.   Trump may not be able to do anything about Common Core, but perhaps that famous oxymoron common sense will begin to prevail.

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