March 17, 2015

The Real Problem With Common Core Test Scores – It’s Not This Year, It’s In A Few

By Bellwether

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A lot of concern about what will happen with Common Core test scores this year. The new tests are more demanding so proficiency levels will drop as they are implemented. That leads to worrying and thumb-sucking about whether this will lead to panic, politics, attacks on the schools and the like. Except, states that already raised the bar (Common Core states like NY and KY and non-Common Core states like VA in math) have seen scores drop without a lot of fanfare or fuss. That’s because most reasonable people understand the new “lower” scores are the result of the test, not a decline in teaching quality or performance. The schools aren’t getting worse, the bar is being raised.

Yes, it’s entirely possible the broader implementation of Common Core this year will lead to more problems along these lines because of the scale and the political/media hysterics about the new standards. But I don’t see that as the real risk Common Core faces in terms of test scores. Instead, a secondary problem is the much greater risk for Common Core: In a few years scores may not go up much. When you look around the country the support for Common Core implementation is inadequate to the scale of the challenge. A lot of places are “adopting” Common Core but without really doing the instructional shifts or big changes in classroom practice to up the bar for teaching and learning. And the sector is terrified to have an honest conversation about teacher quality and the Common Core and the implications of some hard issues.

So in a few years when more ambitious standards collide with inadequate capacity and classroom practice and scores haven’t, overall, moved upwards a lot is when the political bill could come due. Common Core will be declared another “failed” reform idea and something else will come along.*  In fact, what Common Core will have in common with a lot of prior reform efforts is a diluted implementation, inadequate support, and half-measures.

*My money is on a lot more choice as the next thing. I think a lot of people will throw in the towel and, ironically, what the Common Core critics on the left say they are fighting against is what they’ll end up with in no small part courtesy of their efforts.

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