Monday, April 22, 2013

How the Common Core Ends With a Whimper

Checker Finn:

I expect that PARCC and Smarter Balanced (the two federally subsidized consortia of states that are developing new assessments meant to be aligned with Common Core standards) will fade away, eclipsed and supplanted by long-established yet fleet-footed testing firms that already possess the infrastructure, relationships, and durability that give them huge advantages in the competition for state and district business.

In particular, I predict (as does Andy Smarick) that the new ACT-Aspire assessment system, which is supposed to be ready for use in 2014 (a full year earlier than either of the consortium products) and which some states are considering as their new assessment vehicle, will be joined by kindred products to be developed and marketed by the College Board. And the two of them will dominate the market for new Common Core assessments.

One straw in the wind: Alabama’s announcement last week that it is foreswearing both consortia and will use the ACT assessment system. And, of course, both Kentucky and New York have already concocted and deployed their own versions of Common Core assessments—possibly but not necessarily interim models.

Although the College Board and ACT have traditionally focused on the high-school-to-college transition, both also have experience earlier in the K–12 sequence. ACT Explore is aimed at eighth and ninth graders, ACT Engage goes down to sixth grade, and ACT “WorkKeys” is a significant player in determining career-readiness. The College Board’s Pre-SAT test is typically taken in tenth grade. Its “Readiness Pathway” assessment program reaches down to eighth grade, and its “Springboard” program to sixth—with “alignment” guides already prepared for Common Core standards in both English language arts and math for grades six through twelve.

This strikes me as extremely likely, and once you have three, four, five, six competing tests -- and curricula optimized for specific tests -- won't the consensus be that the Common Core has failed?

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