It’s the tests, stupid

Curriculum Matters is tracking the Dueling Manifesti on a national (or common) curriculum.  Go there for lots of links.

Like Jay Mathews, I think it’s the tests that matter rather than the standards alone. The feds are funding two groups that are developing assessments linked to Common Core Standards.  Mathews argues that creative teachers will ignore the new standards and that common tests, which could make a difference, “will never fly on a national scale.”

I’m not at all sure that common tests will crash and burn.

About Joanne


  1. Robert Pondiscio says:

    Common tests won’t crash and burn. But they will merely continue to be utterly deleterious to the goal of improving education–at least in ELA. If the test makers continue, as they inevitably will, to treat reading comprehension as a transferable skill, nothing will change. If the tests linked reading passages to the content taught in each grade (which was an underlying purpose of the original curriculum manifesto from the Shanker Institure), then the tests would have “consequential validity” (i.e. teaching to the test would be good practice).

    All reading tests are de facto tests of content and background knowledge. Given that the tests are being created without regard for or reference to any curriculum, the odds that the tests will have a positive impact on education are somewhere in between the odds of the world coming to an end this month, and the sun rising in the West tomorrow.

  2. Robert –I agree with everything you write, but would add that metacognitive reading strategies themselves seem to have become the content of the CA state ELA test (STAR). Many of the (hideously worded) questions seem to be trying to tease out not whether the kid understood the passage, but whether he’s versed in the approved strategies.

  3. Robert Pondiscio says:

    Still won’t work, Ben. Cognitive processes are “domain specific.” You can’t create all-purpose critical thinkers or problem solvers. As a reader, I’m able to analyze or interpret effectively when I’m grounded in the content. In the absence of that knowledge, I can do it on only the most superficial level.

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    @ Robert — very well said. It is the content (and mastery of same) that matters…