While many might, and should, argue the political aspects of Common Core development and implementation, I’d venture to say that there are very few who would disagree with the actual standards viewed as a list of things kids should learn in school. I haven’t heard a raging debate about whether or not students should be able to identify verbs, write a paragraph, plot an equation on a graph, and determine the length of a hypotenuse. Any list of learning standards ever devised and that will ever be devised has to include some thing that has to be learned. We should continue to add and subtract things from the list over time, but the list as written, even in the Common Core, is usually agreeable on the whole.
Testing, however, is a whole different ball game. If it is good to have a list of things kids should know and be able to do, it is terrible to take the ability to assess learning out of the hands of both the student and teacher. The PARCC and SBAC tests represent a colossal misstep in the assessment of learning. and pervert it into something that is used as a tool of accountability instead of the growth and development of both the learner and the teacher. If we entrusted assessment to those participating in the learning, and if we documented growth on the acquisition of mastery of the standards using all of the digital tools and community resources we have available, we might find both the learning and accountability we are misguidedly looking for in these standardized tests.
The PARCC and SBAC claim to be valid assessments of standards acquisition. Not only do they fail to represent the learning experience and growth of a student, they are not even equipped to assess several of the more significant Common Core standards in the slightest. While I should know better than to announce a series of blog posts on one topic, I’m interested in finding more examples like the one below.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
This isn’t tested on these tests. There is no such thing as a “shared writing product” on the PARCC or SBAC tests. Students are not afforded the opportunity to link other information or flexibly dynamic information displays via a browser during these tests. The closest they come is that they’ve often got a kid sitting at a keyboard typing in a text box or manipulating a cookie-cutter polygon creator.
This seems like a pretty important standard. I hope my kids are learning how to do all of this, even though it isn’t on the test. And that’s the danger. I fear that things that aren’t on the test aren’t getting the attention they deserve within our school districts. We’ve gone data mad and numbers happy, pushing always for a better local report card score when the big tests get graded, and we’ve done so to the detriment of learning for too long already. If we are going to implement the Common Core, that’s fine by me. But let’s not buy into the idea that these massive tests that are sucking up all of our time and money are in any way capable of measuring all of the learning that could be taking place in our schools.