EdWeek reported that the PR spin machine is in full throttle mode trying to get ahead of the expected public backlash to the scores from this spring’s standardized testing.

“From old-fashioned fliers designed to reach parents via students’ backpacks to webinars intended for administrators and teachers, states including Illinois and New Jersey are using a diverse set of resources and partnering with various groups to prepare school communities and the general public for what’s coming.”

For many who have been following Common Core and the assessments from hell from the beginning, this is incredibly old news. There are folks out there, however, who still haven’t heard of Common Core let alone the pilot debacles from last year or the plummeting test scores from early adopter states like KY and NY. Those are the people the departments of education will be trying to snow this May. What does Johnny’s low score really mean?

The message everyone will be spinning is that “the new tests are a much more accurate and complete reflection of what students know and can do than past exams, and will in turn better inform classroom instruction,” according to EdWeek.

Hah. Previous posts here here and here which looked at just the practice items, showed that the tests are far from an accurate assessment of anything. We know the time frame that SBAC and PARCC had to work with to develop the tests was incredibly compressed by the sunset date of the federal funds in September last year. Therefore they had to take a smaller subset of the standards and focus on questions for those standards, planning to get to the other standards in future years.  I’m not quite sure how that translates to a “complete reflection of what students know.”

The claim is that the new tests set a new high bar for proficiency, the implication being that before these tests states let just about anyone score proficient. Ok, not quite, but it has been a common belief that some states were just too easy on their students. Not so our own state of Missouri.

This chart compares proficiency strength for all fifty states (and DC) and shows that Missouri scored mostly A’s overall for proficiency strength since 2003. The only other state with such stellar results was Massachusetts.

prof stds
Source: http://educationnext.org/states-raise-proficiency-standards-math-reading/

It’s going to be hard to spin the “more rigorous” excuse in Missouri.

Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute told EdWeek, when it comes to deciding whether the tests are good or bad, “There is no way to settle the issue. It’s just, who do you trust more?”

That is what parents will have to decide next month when the flyers start coming home in their child’s backpack or the broadcast alerts arrive in their email inbox telling them not to panic about their child’s scores on the standardized test.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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