Standardized Student Testing Coming Soon to a School Near You

EducationThumbby Kurt NY
Out of concern for a perceived lack of rigor in public school education across the nation, forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted a set of educational guidelines called Common Core, the idea being that instructional content be more standardized between the states and that learning standards be raised. It would be up to each state how they implement those standards and to design their own curricula in accordance with them.

The question immediately arises how would state conformance with and student mastery of those standards be measured. Well, the main thrust at this point seems to be The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, referred to as PARCC (FAQ website – all info in this article is derived from there). To date, 20 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee) plus the US Virgin Islands have signed up, all of whom have signed adherence to Common Core standards (which is a requirement for any state wishing to join).

What this means is that all of these jurisdictions, educating 25 million children K-12, agree to replace their individual state assessments in ELA and Math with a series of standardized tests being presently developed under the auspices of PARCC, partially utilizing federal money under the Race to the Top Program (16 of the 19 RTP state winners are participants in PARCC). Tests will be given for students in all Grades 3-11, mostly at the end of school years, with certain exceptions being made for specific subjects in Math, the tests for which will be taken after completion of the specific course.

Tests shall be taken concurrently on-line. Which means that every single student being tested for, say ELA in 10th Grade, shall take the exact same test at the exact same time, using individual computers or other electronic devices. The focus shall not just be getting the right answer using the now customary multiple guess/scantrons we’re all familiar with, but with methodology as to how they got the answer. And grading is intended to be done both by computer and by human assessment, with the intent that results shall be returned to schools and children by end of school year.

My school district currently uses standardized testing in a data warehousing feedback loop, wherein it examines which students missed which question, thereby determining what points of instruction have not been adequately imparted, either as a whole or by individual teacher, so that curriculum can be adjusted and/or specific teachers can be better focused on their particular weaknesses and monitored. PARCC will seek to do something similar in which it will present both school and student with an assessment not only on overall performance, but also the areas of weakness which need improvement. Which is why timely reporting of results is critical.

However, PARCC also aims to produce a final, single metric at the end of Grade 11 as to whether the student is College Ready or not. It is believed that this metric will eventually be used by colleges and universities as part of their acceptance process, although such process is as yet only speculative.

All states must commit to be using these exams for the 2014-2015 school year.

What does this mean for the parent in signatory states? Well, for starters:

Tests will be conducted by computer. Students unfamiliar with working with the specific hardware on which the test will be given or unfamiliar with the testing format or using hardware not sufficiently integrated will be at a serious disadvantage.

Not every product works well with this system. My district found that IPads (as of a year ago) did not work well with PARCC, and so, chose Chromebooks as the platform. Other districts may have made different assessments, some of which (possibly that of my district) will turn out to be sub-optimal, with all that implies for the kids being tested.

Given that, participating districts would be well advised to purchase sufficient tablets or other electronic devices and to make sure kids Grades 3-11 are sufficiently comfortable with them so as not to create a problem during the actual tests. My district has elected to provide each kid with his own unit to use as he will during the course of the year and on which he will be assigned classwork. Units are distributed in the beginning of the year and parents must be present for the training and statement of conditions.

Due to the necessity for the unit each kid uses to work well with the test, it is likely that school districts will either strongly recommend or require that only certain products be used. Either schools will provide the units or parents would be required to otherwise procure suitable units. Given that students’ familiarity with the units might be key and in order to prevent cheating of various sorts, it is likely units will be provided, but it will add up to additional costs for the parents and/or taxpayers.

Sample tests shall be available so as to familiarize kids with the formats. While such is absolutely desirable, it is not difficult to see how some districts will use this to simply teach to the test, drilling students on techniques to raise their grades (just like many SAT prep classes do now) rather than impart true instruction.

Since the purpose is to provide a common metric for all states in conformance with Common Core standards, true comparisons between states and individual districts should be more accurate and understandable for all, and less susceptible to be gamed by educators seeking to avoid accountability.

Optimal practice for schools would be to integrate test results for each child into some kind of individualized learning plan to address weaknesses and build on strengths (a very positive development), plus to use school-wide and individual teacher results to drive curriculum and staff training. Schools whose management allows them to more effectively do so should see much improved results versus schools which cannot. So we should get a better idea how our own individual situations compare with others across much of the country.

Again, the end result is to produce a College Ready or Not Ready for College assessment for the child in 11th Grade. Children not getting a favorable assessment will probably have a harder time getting into college, if they can at all, especially if colleges begin to use this assessment, either in tandem with or in replacement of the now standard SATs, etc.

Such assessment will be based on mastery of the standards according to Common Core. Which makes the content of what upon which Common Core insists to be key to whether your child gets into college or not.

Common Core is being developed with federal money, which may or may not give the federal Department of Education vastly increased say in what gets taught and when it gets taught than presently. Especially if such funding is necessary every year to keep the system running and current, it has to be assumed that, at some point, federal input will come to dominate, with all that might imply for state and local school autonomy.

I think we all can see solid advantages and some potentially horrendous downsides to all of this. But regardless, if you are a resident in any of the signatory states, expect to see multi-state, standardized yearly testing coming to your school a year from now. And if you are not in one of the affected jurisdictions, including those states not currently accepting Common Core standards, expect to be forced into either this or a similar system soon. • (1407 views)

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16 Responses to Standardized Student Testing Coming Soon to a School Near You

  1. ladykrystyna says:

    As someone who does not do well on standardized tests, and whose career path has been partially negatively affected as a result, I’m not a big fan of this.

    I was always in the top reading group in elementary school and did well in almost everything except math. But my standardized test scores did not reflect that at all.

    I was inducted into the National Honor Society in High School; I graduated from HS cum laude. But my SAT score was nothing to write home to your beer drinking mother about. I couldn’t even get into my state university (except later when I transferred in). I did get into Boston University, however (and couple of others).

    I was on the Dean’s List in college at least twice (I majored in political science and English Lit) and I graduated from college cum laude. But my LSAT score was also nothing to write home to your beer drinking mother about.

    If I remember correctly, I was still in the top 30% of my graduating class in law school, but the law school is not top tier and lawyers are very snobbish.

    Also I don’t like the idea of Common Core because of the idea of “methodology”, especially in math. There is a video floating around the internet of a discussion regarding that (3×4=11 is wrong, but if the kid can explain to you how he got there, then he may be able to get partial credit).

    I just think this is not of any help at all to the problems we face.

    What happened to just teaching the basics using the time honored means of instruction that has worked for generations?

    I used to wish that things were more uniform so that an A average in Alabama would mean the same in Connecticut so that we wouldn’t need standardized tests (which to me just test your ability to take a test).

    But this Common Core thing doesn’t seem to be the right thing if they are going to change HOW they are teaching things, especially math.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    “Standardized” is all the rage. But why shouldn’t we stick with Federalism? One state may have a better solution than another. And certainly keeping the decisions for these things as close to the people as possible is preferred. There really shouldn’t even be state standardization. Let local school boards handle that.

    To me, this is the nitwit-i-zation of education. Buzzwords such as “standardized” go flowing by but what does that mean? What is so magical about having several states do the same damn thing? Do we have even the remotest reason to believe that these bureaucratic nincompoops* know what they are doing? Has their “standardization” ever actually improved anything?

    *That’s right, I said it!

    • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

      Seems we were writing at the same time, looks like great minds think alike!

      Agree, standardization is offered as a way to bring those poor kids in rural Alabama up to the genius East Coast elite level. But what has happened (as can be expected with cumbersome, bloated big liberally corrupted government) is we have brought the other schools down to the lowest common denominator… and spent a fortune doing it.

      But the Left has gotten what they want. Absolute control over our children’s education, and likely they want us all dumb anyway, much easier to manipulate the stupid masses then a smart, engaged, and staunchly individualistic one.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yes indeed, great minds think alike. 🙂 There’s certainly an element of this that is friendly to the statists and Leftists. It feeds into the superstitious belief the bureaucrats are smarter than the rest of us.

        But they’re not. It’s just an ill wind that all democracies (using that word in the general sense) face. Who will leave well enough alone? There is always the craving to “do something,” for some dimwit to want to put his or her personal stamp on things.

        Humility is what we need more of. Leave things alone. Don’t touch something until you understand it. Don’t assume that the world is thankful and on its knees because YOU, dear bureaucrat, have now graced us with your presence.

  3. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    I smell redistribution scam.

    Then schools will once again teeach to the test and cheat to the test to get more government money. The Unions will ensure the teachers don’t have to do any work (and actually I don’t blame them for a change because these new curricula are so asinine its wasting the teachers time, just let them teach).

    Meanwhile the states that do poorly will claim so because they have a ‘diversity’ first program and they shouldn’t be penalized for grade disparity. They will get more money to help them offset the lifetime of racism their students have faced.

    Also they will then receive undocumented vouchers to ensure all students receive a fair education.

    (I was at a series of presentations today and all the professionals used ‘undocumented’ and how to help this disparate population and tap into the revenue streams being utilized to serve this under served demographic. (I had to triple up on my blood pressure medicine).

    Any way the reason kids do bad is we don’t focus on teaching anymore; schools just push just liberal clap trap curricula, welfare and ‘socialization’.

    I’m with Lady K. Stick to the basics the taught kids reading writing, arithmetic, civics and real history. Seemed the formula worked well enough to make us the greatest nation on earth. Those who want more can go to college.

    In the nearly 40 year since the Department of Education was founded we’ve spent gazillions more and the quality has gone down. States used to do a good job, give it back to them and get the fed the ‘f’ out.

    • ladykrystyna says:

      “Any way the reason kids do bad is we don’t focus on teaching anymore; schools just push just liberal clap trap curricula, welfare and ‘socialization’.”

      It’s about the teaching, but also about the family – broken families everywhere, but especially among blacks – if the family doesn’t care about education, then no matter what the teacher’s are doing, it won’t necessarily help unless that kid is blessed with a lot of the “self-starter” character.

      It’s a mutli-faceted problem, but I think the solution is better found at the local level.

      It reminds me of an episode of Little House on the Prairie, where the snobbish Mrs. Olsen takes over the school and I think with the help from the school district decides to teach the children French and art appreciation, etc. The parents are upset (especially about the nude statues! LOL!) and basically the ultimate point is that in that school, the boys and girls are children of farmers and the boys will likely be farmers and perhaps the girls school teachers and mothers.

      Now I don’t think they meant to say that they could never do anything else, but certainly French and art appreciation wasn’t going to help them much in the real world, even if they decided to go on to university. But the parents wanted a say – very likely, back then, the boys would become farmers, and so it was better for them to learn skills that would help them in that endeavor. And girls would be similar – they would be teachers’ and farmers’ wives.

      But then the problem ultimately comes down to having thousands of different local school districts doing different things and then the colleges want a standardized way of deciding whether the person is qualified for college. I don’t know how we get rid of that because I’d like to (unless someone can explain to me the wonders of the SAT).

      • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

        Agree with the multifaceted, yes family breakdown is a key contributed and you are right the schools cannot fix that so at least the can focus on the things we know schools can teach.

        Disagree with the need to ‘standardize’ (leftist statist federalism) so the university can have an easier time. The university already has an easier time cause we are paying them oodles to teach all comers (cause really do colleges turn anyone down?) leftism. In the good old days colleges seemed perfectly able to determine who was smart enough to matriculate at college. Why do we need to create more bureaucracy?

  4. Kung Fu Zu says:

    Who is writing the Common Core, Bill Ayers? This is very important. If you read through some of the text books out there you will probably be surprised.

    It will certainly be good business for the computer companies, software developers, test book companies, etc. Revamping the American education system should cost tens of billions.

    Interesting how the same tests will be given at the same time by everyone in a particular subject. That used to be the French system which was develop around the time of Napoleon. Everything was completely standardize. Don’t know if it is still that way.

    In some local school districts they are discontinuing the teaching of writing cursive. I wonder how this will effect learning. The computer tests I have seen are all fill in the blank. How will Common Core handle essays for example?

    • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

      Great point- you expose how brilliantly the Modern left is both socialist and fascist at the same time. By allying with big business who profit from the indoctrination schemes, corporate America becomes complicit and in fact sponsors the push to a socialist state. The process is further aided by the old guard loyalist leftwingers… the media (and they make profit to boot).

      The rich get richer, the poor remain poor but well funded on the dole and the middle class disappears and doesn’t even know it because the indoctrination and propaganda campaigns have been so successful.

      • pst4usa says:

        You cannot be socialist without being fascist as well. Socialism is so good, that it must be forced onto its subjects.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        Most elites have always despised the middle class.

        I believe a couple of reasons for this are, 1) “middle class” morals, which are simply too constricting for them, and 2) the “middle class” are less economically dependent on both the government and the bosses. Therefore the elites have more difficulty calling the shots.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Mr. Kung, your above post reminds me of Jamie Glazov’s book, “United in Hate.” I’ll do a review of that when I get a chance, although I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard of it or even read it.

          There is indeed a contempt for middle class morals by the “elites.” I but smarmy quotes around that word because the only thing these elites excel in is being dumb-asses and ruining lives. There may be no finer book that reaches in and dissects this batty and dangerous bunch of deluded people like Thomas Sowell’s “Intellectuals and Society” which I enter in my person curriculum of “must read” books in terms of understanding where we are today.

          The reason to suppose why God is so quiet and not showy is because we see the harm done when people try to play God. When people have no humility and simply desire to run other people’s lives (when they very often can’t even manage their own very well), you’re really talking about people who project their psychosis onto the rest of us.

          That, to a great extent, explains the Left and the people aligned with the Left. They have tied themselves into emotional knots. Rush was talking about this today, how those on the Left are just generally unhappy. And I think that’s true. They are a cult of grievance and victimhood. They do not have the trait of humility nor do they practice the trait of gratitude. They’re just always upset, paranoid, aggrieved.

          I like bashing these fools, but at any given time I try to keep of good cheer. But I’m more and more convinced that we are going to have to unplug from this statist, top-down culture in any way that we can. If the beast can’t be starved, then it must be set aside and made irrelevant if at all possible.

          That’s what most home-schoolers are doing. They’re making the pathology of government schools irrelevant to them. I don’t think there is fixing this stuff because all of the basic premises are wrong. All of this stuff is organized on the principle of standardization and top-down direction by elites who don’t know their ass from their elbow.

          • CCWriter CCWriter says:

            I am increasingly of the mind that there’s a lot more that can be done in the way of unplugging than it may seem at first glance. Not just homeschooling but a lot of other things.

            Every success in creating a grassroots alternative to the Government Way is proof to people that the elites’ products are defective. Instead of wasting time wishing we could take over their system, we need to get our heads out of the top-down mentality altogether and really buy into the fact that anyone can just create something else and spread the word about it.

            Sure, there are legal-monopolistic barriers but they’re not insurmountable. Mostly what makes them work is our assumption, influenced by 100 years of Progressivism in the air and water, that there can’t be any other way short of taking over the central power ourselves. What an un-conservative notion!

            (Yes, I’m working on that book review. Some of the above expressions may be recycled for it.)

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Mostly what makes them work is our assumption, influenced by 100 years of Progressivism in the air and water, that there can’t be any other way short of taking over the central power ourselves.

              I do very much think there are assumptions that are tough for people to shake. Let’s face it, we all are products of our culture to some extent. No man is an island, etc. But we really are at this point where the culture, in general, is either insane or poisonous — sometimes both. And we need to unplug.

              StubbornThings, in part, is about plugging into something else. No man (or woman) is an island. We must all exist as a part of a group. We must all have some identity.

              What makes this uniquely interesting and challenging is that as is often said of conservatives, it’s like herding cats. We are not all of the same mind. We are not, by and large, given over to group think. We do not easily believe that “two plus two equals five” just because ten other people say so.

              But there can be general areas of agreement, such as that we seek truth, we seek honorable and noble pursuits, and we don’t drink kool-aid — or, at least, we’re okay with discussing our most deeply-held beliefs without freaking out.

              There are probably many other areas of agreement. And this is no different from any other community that gets together for self-protection and to try to be some kind of Shining City on the Hill in the face of a world of yucky stuff.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            I had not heard of “United We Hate”. I will look it up.

            My comments are just based on my study of history and watching people today.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I might post my review of that. It’s a remarkably good book. And Glazov does a wonderful job giving explanations for the Left’s affinity for brutal dictators and such. But I have to admit, at the end of that book I still couldn’t figure out this affinity. Maybe I just couldn’t come to grips with some of the simple, if brutal, truths that Glazov outlined. I suspect this is so.

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