‘Common Core’ test market gets crowded

The Common Core testing market is getting crowded, reports Education Week.  College Board is aligning four testing programs to the new standards, adding “yet another player to the list of companies seeking to take on new roles in a shifting nationwide assessment landscape.”

In addition to the SAT, College Board will redesign ReadiStep, aimed at 8th and 9th graders, the PSAT, typically taken by 10th and 11th graders, and Accuplacer, used to determine whether incoming college students take remedial or college-level courses.

David Coleman, who took over as the College Board’s president last October , was a chief writer of the common standards in English/language arts.

States could use College Board’s tests to track students’ progress toward college readiness by 2014-15,  Coleman said.

He wants the tests to play other roles, too: as an early-warning system, facilitating interventions for students who are behind; and as door-openers, identifying promising but under-recognized students and connecting them with more-challenging coursework and with supports that will aid them in applying for college.

College Board will be competing with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which are using federal funds to design standards-aligned tests.

ACT also is developing ”common-core tests that will span elementary through high school, include not only math and literacy but science, and be ready to use a year earlier than the consortium tests, which are slated for debut in 2015,” notes Ed Week.

Common standards were supposed to allow states to see how their students were doing compared to other states, but if core adopters are split between PARCC, SBAC, ACT, College Board and state exams, comparability will remain elusive.

Algebra 2 exam will test ‘college readiness’

Passing an Algebra 2 exam (or Math 3 for integrated math) will show college math readiness in 23 states that belong to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, or PARCC.

In PARCC states, students will be forced to take Algebra 2 or Math 3 if they want to avoid remedial classes in college.  That’s controversial, reports Ed Week.

Richard Freeland, Massachusetts’ commissioner of higher education, said he was reluctant to base a college-readiness determination on Algebra 2 or Math 3, noting that many students who don’t plan to major in science, technology, engineering, or math may not take such classes in high school.

But James Wright, the director of assessment for the Ohio education department, cautioned against going down that road. It’s a “dangerous slope to differentiate” among different types or levels of college readiness in math, he said, when the aim is to assess students against all the common-core standards in math. He noted, however, that the group’s math tests will not gauge mastery of the so-called “plus standards,” which are designed for students aiming to take more-advanced math courses in college.

All but five states have adopted Common Core State Standards in math; all but four have signed on to the English Language Arts standards.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which has 25 members, plans an 11th-grade “summative” math test.

Two visions of ‘core’ testing specs

The public can check out two visions of what common tests to match core standards might look like, reports Ed Week.

The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has released its “content maps and specifications” (pdf) in English language arts.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) unveiled its “content frameworks” in both subjects.

Both documents serve to explicate the standards, highlighting key concepts or progressions of learning. PARCC’ s focuses on identifying the ideas that should be emphasized and how they could be grouped together, and SBAC’s describes the ways students should be able to prove that they have mastered the standards.

PARCC’s frameworks are open for public feedback until Aug. 17. The SMARTER specs are open for a first round of comments until Aug. 29; a revised draft will be issued in September with a second chance to comment. The math content specifications will be out soon, also with two rounds of comments.