Teaching & Testing the Common Core

“If we get this right, we’ll put our students on the path to a better future.”  Gene Wilhoit, CCSSO, was talking about implementing Common Core assessments during closing panel of the Technology Enhanced Assessment conference.
But Gene said, “Let’s not be satisfied when we have these new assessments in place.” He said the PARCC and SBAC assessments will be a big step forward but may become the next anchor.  David Conley, EPIC, said there is a risk that these new tests “may become the crowing achievement of the 20th century“ rather than assessments appropriate for the second decade of the 21st century.
I agree with Dave and Gene—the Common Core assessments are a good start.  We need to make sure they re as good as promised, but we need to start planning now for version 2.0 and 3.0.
“The old saying was what gets measured gets valued,” Conley said, “but the new saying needs to be what gets valued gets measured.”   Conley suggested that the K-12 assessment crowd may be able draw important measurement insights from crowsourcing, epidemiological models, data mining, and GIS.
He said higher levels of success are predicated on higher levels of student ownership, “Students have to engage, they have to hold aspirations that exceed their achievement.”  Connelly thinks most schools need to think more about the development of aspirations.
Here’s Conley’s most important point about college ready assessments, “To help all students leave college and career ready, you don’t want false negatives; you don’t need to use cut scores at the student level when there is a lot more forms of evidence.  In other words, be cautious about using a single test score measure to keep a kid out of college.
Core differences. “Cross-walking won’t work,” said Conley, “there are bigger differences between state standards and the Common Core than a simple reshuffling of expectations.”  School and system leaders need to make a point of highlighting differences in expectations.  For example, principals could model Common Core expectations for their school community by writing about a complex text (like War and Peace or the state ed code) they are reading.  It would be a great time to highlight student work that reflects Core expectations.
Conley suggested that the most important next step is to support curriculum designers, teacher, and school leaders to put Common Core-aligned learning experiences into practice locally and at scale.  I’d add that the shift to digital materials makes it a great time to discuss who owns responsibility for curriculum architecture—the vendor, the district curriculum director, or the teacher?
“Assessments are one element in the ecology of schools and school improvement,” Conley said, “The whole system needs to be addressed.”  He’s right, the Common Core, the shift to digital, and the opportunity to personalize learning create the opportunity to rethink everything—time for a full reset.
This is the sixth and final post summarizing sessions at the Tech Enhanced Assessment conference co-sponsored by the K12center at ETS and CCSSO.  Here’s the first five:
Getting Serious about College and Career Readiness
College Completion: Still a Big Deal, So Let’s Make It Easier and Cheaper
An Odd Couple of Measuring 21st Century Skills
What Does Going Digital Mean for the Future of K–12 Assessment?
Time for More Simulations in Class & On Tests

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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