Common Core tests may not pass

The two Common Core testing groups — Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — made big promises when they bid for $350 million in federal funding, notes Education Week. The vision has “collided with reality.” Due to “political, technical, and financial constraints,” some ambitious plans have been scaled back.

. . . most students will take the exams on computers, rather than use bubble sheets, for instance. The Smarter Balanced assessment will adapt in difficulty to each student’s skill level, potentially providing better information about strengths and weaknesses.

In addition, students taking the PARCC test will write essays drawing on multiple reading sources. And to a level not seen since the 1990s, students taking both exams will be engaged in “performance” items that ask them to analyze and apply knowledge, explain their mathematical reasoning, or conduct research.

Performance-based assessment requires “longer, more expensive exams,” reports Ed Week. That’s a tough sell. Both exams have reduced the length or complexity of some test elements.

Both groups will continue to use some multiple-choice or machine-scored questions, but many of those items have been enhanced — allowing students to select multiple answers, for instance, or to drag and drop text from reading passages to cite evidence.

Both exams will hire teachers to score written answers after deciding that robot scorers aren’t yet up to the job.

Both consortia promised to develop tools and supports for teachers, but help for teachers has “lagged,” reports Ed Week.

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