Across the country, states use many different standardized achievement tests to evaluate students. Those who meet all of the benchmarks in one state, though, have little idea if they are competitive elsewhere. Taxpayers and educators can’t compare the effectiveness of their schools’ methods and learn about what might work better.
Until recently, the assessments being prepared to complement Common Core State Standards appeared poised to solve that problem. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia had signed on to use one of two tests, which would have allowed meaningful comparisons across the nation.
That number, 46, has shrunk to 27 today, according to an analysis by Education Week. The great promise of more unified testing is being shredded because of cost, technology, time and political opposition. It’s a huge loss.
The review showed just 17 states, including Oregon, planning to use the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, while nine states plus the District of Columbia still are committed to the tests being developed by PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
University of Illinois-Chicago professor James Pellegrino told Education Week the situation “moves us back closer to where we were under No Child Left Behind” with each state free to set its own definition of proficiency. That leaves the nation with no shared definition of college- and career-readiness.
Early complaints against the Common Core claimed its standards represent a nationwide program being imposed by the federal government. That isn’t true, but the U.S. Department of Education gave credence to the worry by heavily encouraging states to adopt the standards. Later, concerns were raised about the standards and the tests being too difficult, setting students up to fail in large numbers. And the tests ended up being expensive and carrying big technology demands.
We support the new standards, which will help our students prepare for a competitive, global world. The tests are just as important — maybe more so — because they’ll give us a window on what works and what doesn’t.
We live in a global world; we can’t succeed with a village school system.