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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