The Not-So-Common Common Core

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under scrutiny post imageThe concept seemed surprisingly simple, even remarkable to some educators. The Common Core State Standards would eliminate the evils of individual curricula across state lines, giving every teacher the same set of objectives to teach their students. Even better, the founders of CCSS would create identical tests, so students could be compared across the U.S.

Brilliant right?

Perhaps not. Whether you are a fan of the Common Core, or you think CCSS is, at best, suspect, the “brilliant” notion has to be questioned, because there is something not so common about the Common Core.

Sure, many states are using the Common Core Standards. The testing, however, is a different issue. As recently reported by Education Week, only 27 states plan to use the same shared assessments, which is what CCSS creators had in mind (part of that beautifully simple concept to standardize learning).

“In sharp contrast, Education Week’s analysis shows that state’s current plans for 2014-15 encompass the use of at least 19 different tests.”Catherine Gewertz & Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

As the map above indicates, states are clearly divided on which assessments to use. Creating this division are two testing entities: Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Two testing organizations creating assessments for the same standards, and they have different and, well, common problems.

During its study of the assessment plans of all 50 states, Education Week learned from policy leaders that, in some cases, the CCSS tests were double the cost of state-created tests. A potentially bigger concern, one many educators voiced years ago when the Common Core was rolled out, is lack of technology. The idea is for all tests to be administered online, and some districts are drastically underdeveloped, in terms of hardware and Internet capability.

If common standards are designed to demonstrate common learning, it seems reasonable to use common assessments. With two organizations creating the tests, and state leaders confused about which, if either, to use, one must take a moment of pause when considering the value of this entire Common Core endeavor.

“For those who had hoped that PARCC and Smarter Balanced would design better, more instructionally valuable assessments, it’s worrisome to see states backing away from the enterprise.”Catherine Gewertz & Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

For others, a divided nation, in this case, signals another crack in a very weak Common Core dam.

And the storm is still brewing.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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