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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

What’s proficient? It’s every state for itself

Once upon a time, 45 states adopted Common Core standards and exams — either the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or Smarter Balanced — writes Tracy Dell’Angela in Education Post. There was “some shared understanding of what grade-level proficiency really looks like from Nevada to New Jersey.”

Image result for illinois parcc scores 2017

That consensus has shattered.

Illinois plans to replace PARCC with a state-designed exam, reports Stephen Sawchuk in Ed Week. The PARCC consortia peaked at 22 member states and will be down to three — Maryland, New Mexico and New Jersey — plus the District of Columbia after the spring testing cycle. New Jersey may be the next to get rid of the PARCC test.

Colorado, Massachusetts and Louisiana use a mix of state-written and PARCC questions, writes Sawchuk. Illinois may try that too.

Smarter Balanced, which was given in 14 states last year, is losing clients too.

We need “one national test for all students in grades 3-12,” argues Dell’Angela.

Because if parents really want to know if their local school is helping kids learn—instead of empty reassurance that their artificially inflated test scores means they moved to the right school district and their property values will hold—then they need to start demanding one high bar for proficiency across the country. Kids in Mississippi and Missouri should have the same bar as Massachusetts and Minnesota, otherwise you’ll just never know if your kid is really smart or just living in a state where the grade-level standards are politically, pathetically low.

Illinois “has bowed to pressure from superintendents statewide who said the tests were too long, the scores too low, and the results too slow to arrive,” writes Dell’Angela.

It’s an expensive decision by Illinois—$20 million alone for test design—and will further muddy accountability because you can’t measure long-term progress when you keep changing the dang test every few years. Illinois says the new test will be “computer adaptive,” which is a far more nuanced and fairer way to measure student achievement because the online exam gets harder or easier depending on students’ right or wrong answers. Testing will take less time, and the results will be available immediately.

Dell’Angela suspect it will be easier to achieve “proficiency.”

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