Muslim Alkurdi, 18, of Albuquerque High School, joins hundreds of classmates, as students staged a walkout to protest a new exams.
In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promised teachers that Common Core-aligned Assessments 2.0 would be the tests they had “longed for.”
Millions of students are taking those new tests this spring, writes Emmanuel Felton on the Hechinger Report. Enthusiasm for the new tests has waned.
The federal government put $360 million into the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which developed Core-aligned tests.
This spring, of the original 26 states that signed up for PARCC, just 11 plus Washington, D.C. are giving the test. Of the original 31 signed up for Smarter Balanced, only 18 are still on board. (In the early years, some states were members of both coalitions.) Several of the states will give the PARCC or Smarter Balanced test for one year only, before switching to their own state-based exams next year. Another Common Core exam, known as Aspire, produced by ACT, has stolen away some states from the federally sponsored groups; this spring students in South Carolina and Alabama will take that test.
On the old state tests, only 2 percent of math questions and 21 percent of English questions assessed “higher-order skills,” such as abstract thinking and the ability to draw inferences, concluded a 2012 RAND study of 17 state tests.
Two-thirds of PARCC and SBAC questions call for higher-order skills, according to a 2013 analysis by the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.
“In the old tests a student would just get a vocabulary word by itself and would be asked to find a synonym,” said Andrew Latham, director of Assessment & Standards Development Services at WestEd, a nonprofit that worked with Smarter Balanced and PARCC on the new tests. “Now you will get that word in a sentence. Students will have to read the sentence and be able to find the right answers through context clues.”
Duncan had promised teachers would get quick feedback from the new tests, but it takes time to grade students’ writing. The only way to get fast feedback is to use robo-graders instead of humans.