This is the central question of education policy in Obama's second term. Everyone expects that a switch to new Common Core-based tests will show in the fall of 2015 that more students than ever are failing. That is, as we're rolling up toward the first presidential primaries and caucuses, we'll have a freshly (re-)created crisis, in which seven years of Obama's policies and 15 or so years of intensive national reform efforts will be shown decisively to have failed.
This is a foregone conclusion for at least three reasons:
- the aim of primary and secondary education has been changed to require more academic rigor than ever before;
- scores always go down when you change standards and tests, as it takes several iterations to optimize the system;
- making scores go down is clearly a design goal for Common Core advocates and accountability hawks in general. They have no language or conceptual framework that can possibly explain why scores going up could be anything but a sellout failure. Anyone who tries to set the cutscores at a point where proficiency goes up will be relentlessly attacked.
So the scores are going to go down, the question is, what now?