States must be brave regarding Common Core test results

The use of the Common Core Standards has unfortunately been awash in political controversy for no reason whatsoever.  The standards, created out of an effort by the National Governors Association when Janet Napolitano was its chair, were developed to improve American students’ performance on the international PISA examination in which they traditionally scored poorly.  In addition, the standards are seen as a way to eliminate a major problem with the No Child Left Behind law in which proficiency in math and reading are defined at contrasting academic levels in different states.

The Common Core became a sore subject once Arne Duncan’s Education Department made their voluntary adoption a carrot toward winning money in the billion dollar Race to the Top Competition and in being awarded waivers to NCLB.

The result is that several states that accepted the Common Core have now rejected them, and Republican candidates for President have made it a badge of honor to see how derogatory they can be about the standards.  This is a horrible turn of events.

In addition, we hear today from the Washington Post’s Emma Brown that at least two states, Ohio and  Arkansas, have diluted the definition of proficiency on the PARCC, one of two examinations that measure student performance utilizing the Common Core.  For example, in Arkansas, Ms. Brown explains, the state made proficiency in Algebra 1 a score of a three, while the representatives of PARCC assert that success is college is likely if pupils rate a four.  The difference means that Arkansas classifies 60 percent of its kids as proficient in Algebra 1, when only 28 percent of its students would have been seen as proficient under the PARCC’s guidelines.

The same problem exists with ninth grade English proficiency.  The state reports that 64 percent of students have reached this level; PARCC believes the real number is 36 percent.

The matter is critically important as more scores are released across the nation.  It will become significant here in the nation’s capital as we learn the results of our own testing, findings that will drive charter school tiering on the DC Public Charter Board’s Performance Management Framework.

But the issue goes way beyond our own backyard.  The Common Core is the one opportunity, perhaps the last opportunity, for us to raise the bar regarding the expectations for the academic performance of all public school students.  We cannot let this chance disappear in the wind.

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