Putting Education Reform To The Test

Why States Are Designing Two Tests For Common Core Standards

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Common Core assessments are being developed by two consortia of states.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are working toward full implementation of Common Core standards.

But there’s a split in the way states will measure what students have learned. Two different testing systems are on the table.

One test will average a series of test results to determine a student’s score. The other is a single, adaptive test which tailors questions based on a student’s past answers.

The tests are being designed now for use by 2014-15.

The reason for two tests is the federal government’s Race to the Top Assessment Program.

The program provides funding for groups of states to develop assessments that “provide accurate information about what students know and can do, and measure student achievement against standards designed to ensure that all students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workplace.”

Two consortia of states were awarded a total of $330-million in grants.

Florida leads the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  22 states plus the District of Columbia make up the PARCC coalition.

The other group is known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SMARTER).

While the two groups will pursue different ways to assess what students have learned, they will develop tests based on the same Common Core standards.

Here’s more from the U.S. Department of Education explaining the differences in the tests:

  1. The PARCC coalition will test students’ ability to read complex texts, complete research projects, excel at classroom speaking and listening assignments, and work with digital media. PARCC will also replace the one end-of-year high stakes accountability test with a series of assessments throughout the year that will be averaged into one score, reducing the weight given to a single test, and providing valuable information to students and teachers throughout the year.
  2. The SMARTER coalition will test students using computer adaptive technology that will ask students tailored questions based on their previous answers. SMARTER will continue to use one test at the end of the year for accountability purposes, but will create a series of interim tests used to inform students, parents, and teachers about whether students are on track.

Since the tests are in the process of being developed and there are no Common Core textbooks yet, teachers are crafting their own lessons to comply with Common Core standards.


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