Core testing: Hold or go?

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Pause standardized testing for three years to let schools adjust to Common Core State Standards, argues Joshua Starr, superintendent of schools in high-performing Montgomery County, Maryland.

Testing provides critical information for teachers, administrators and parents, counters Margaret Spellings, former U.S. Secretary of Education and now president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Examining High-Stakes Testing in Education Next has the debate.

“We must build systems of accountability and support that use the right assessments to measure the right things,” writes Starr. “Once the CCSS is fully implemented and the new assessments aligned to these standards have been completed, we can begin to construct a meaningful accountability system that truly supports teaching and learning.”

Spelling responds: “Common Core is pie in the sky unless students meet basic grade-level expectations in reading and math, a goal we have fallen woefully short of meeting to date.”

 But no one has ever demonstrated that mastering grade-level reading and math skills hurts students’ ability to acquire higher-order thinking skills. Nor has anyone shown that state standards in reading and math endanger students’ social and emotional well-being. While the narrowing curriculum rallying cry is popular in opinion surveys, assessments such as NAEP reveal no signs of declining achievement in science or history or any other supposedly “squeezed out” subject.

Spellings suspects “we aren’t serious” about educating all children. While everyone debates “college and career readiness for all,” the “real battle on the ground is whether educators believe schools are capable of or should be expected to help students meet even basic academic standards.” She fears a testing moratorium would become permanent.

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  1. Florida resident says:

    Flynn effect (growth of results of IQ test):
    and original article:
    To oversimplify its contents, IQ test results grow (Flynn effect)
    due to increased “cultural exposure to abstract thinking”,
    while underlying “g-factor” does not grow.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Spellings is full of crap. She knows darn well that standardized test results arrive too late in the school year to adjust teaching, or help students with specific objectives.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      To give Spellings the benefit of the doubt, they can help in the long run. If students in your school are consistently doing well on one portion of the test, it indicates that something is right. If students are consistently doing poorly on another part, it indicates an area where change might be useful. If scores on that part then go up, it suggests that the change was a good one.

      (But, yeah, it would help if scores came back a lot quicker.)

  3. From what I’ve read recently, MD exempts FAR more kids from testing than most – something like twice as many as the next jurisdiction in line – so “high-performing” may be a fiction. The truly high-performing had plenty of help at home when my kids were in Montgomery County schools, and that was long before good curricula were replaced with weak ones. The usual groups are still doing well and the usual ones are still doing poorly and there are now far more of the latter.

  4. State testing absorbs much more time than six hours. As some children are allowed extra time to complete exams, schools tend not to schedule much immediately after the exams. They also don’t send homework home before an exam, so the children can get enough sleep. They don’t send homework home on the day of the exam, if class didn’t take place. Six hours of testing spread out over six days could mean twelve less days of homework. Schools haven’t lengthened the school year, so that’s time lost.

    Let’s not go into detail on the amount of homework which is assigned to practice “test skills.” Before our children left the public system, we watched homework and classwork drift ever more into the category of Test Preparation.

    As the Common Core will be very different, wouldn’t it be merciful to give teachers and schools time to institute an entirely new curriculum before testing on it? If you test the first year its implemented, your results will reflect neither the students’ nor the teachers’ true efforts.

  5. Crimson Wife says:

    It only makes sense to give schools time to adjust to Common Core before requiring students take CC-aligned assessments. It’d be like having a group of runners completing a 5k training program all of a sudden being asked to run a half-marathon. Most would likely fail. Whereas if you give them additional time to train on the longer distance, a lot more of them would likely finish.