The Common Core: Another Test Coming to a School Near You

Education and politics are no more intertwined than they are in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Colorado is one of 45 states to have adopted the CCSS, which are being implemented now, in the 2013-14 academic year. The stated goal of these standards is to develop students who are “college or career ready.” Indeed that turn of phrase now permeates Denver Public Schools’ copy and was used by all candidates running for the school board in the fall.
With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Common Core was created by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Achieve, an education reform organization. Subsequently, the federal government bought into the plan and funding for education, known as Race to the Top, was linked to states’ willingness to adopt the Common Core.
In December 2011, Colorado was awarded $17.9 million Race to the Top dollars based on its stated goal to implement the Colorado Academic Standards, which integrate the CCSS and, to develop the state’s educator evaluation system. The funds were used to help implement Senate Bill 10-191, passed by the Colorado legislature in 2010, which legislated teacher evaluation based on student performance.
According to SB 10-191, the new evaluation system will “provide a basis for making decisions in the areas of hiring, compensation, promotion, assignment, professional development, earning and retaining non-probationary status, dismissal, and non-renewal of contracts.” From that point on, your child’s performance on state tests and a teacher’s evaluation were intrinsically linked and legislated by state law.
The Common Core seeks to set standards across the nation for grades kindergarten through 12. Taking part in the Common Core is voluntary and states can decline to join. This past July, citing the cost of implementing Common Core testing as a major issue, Georgia withdrew its participation in CCSS. In addition, Georgia pulled out of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Career). PARCC is a consortium of states, including Colorado, that are “working together to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math anchored in what it takes to be ready for college and careers” (see more at parcconline.org).
CCSS is big business
The Common Core is big business for manufacturers and suppliers of educational software, technology, curriculum, textbooks, and for educational consultants. While contracts over textbooks are being negotiated, some DPS schools do not have the materials they need to support the Common Core standards.
One questions begs to be asked: how much of per-pupil funding is going to Common Core testing?
CCSS in the Classroom
The suggestion that teachers and educators were central to the development of the CCSS is a fallacy. They are, however, the ones who are on the frontline implementing the standards in their classrooms. Most schools refrain from saying that they teach to the test but students’ scores on these tests affect both their teachers’ evaluations and the school’s performance rating.
In addition to interim tests and benchmarks, the Colorado Department of Education states that in 2014 students will take the following tests:
• TCAP (Reading, Writing and Mathematics)
• New Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS): Science and Social Studies
• CMAS are the tests associated with the Common Core that students will be taking in April 2014, after the TCAPs in March. Additional or different tests are given to English language learners and students with significant cognitive disabilities.
• In 2015, the TCAP is no longer in play. Students will be taking the following tests:
• New English Language Arts and Mathematics Assessment (PARCC assessment expected, computer based)
• CMAS: Science and Social Studies
These tests will be administered in all publically funded schools, be they traditional, innovation or charter. Questions have been raised about the technology needed in each school to administer the PARCC.
Parents opt-out option
There has been grassroots opposition to the CCSS, including some from parents saying “no” to big money, big government, and big business.
The Colorado Department of Education, your school district and your school expect all enrolled students to participate in the above tests. Every year, however, some parents choose to opt their children out of testing. Tests can be a good measure of a student’s abilities in specific subjects and the ultimate goal should be assisting teachers and parents to better support students in their learning.
The high-stakes testing, however, makes many parents balk. Some opt-out because they feel the tests are not a good measure of their child’s abilities. Others dislike the test prepping that engulfs the schools as March approaches every year.
According to Peggy Robertson of United Opt Out, “high stakes testing increases the data mining and the corporate opportunity to cash in using our children and our tax dollars. We must reclaim authentic teaching and learning for all children. Common Core standards will create common children using scripted curriculum and increased testing. Parents can opt out of state testing here in Colorado and all over the country.”
For more information look for the Colorado opt out/refusal guide at unitedoptout.com.