We reported that the State Chief Education Officers were concerned about continued funding for Common Core Assessments at their recent meeting in St. Louis. We just learned from Ed Week, in a portion of the conference not open to the public, that the consortia was discussing the possibility of having two versions of the Common Core Tests: the planned long version and now a short (and less expensive) version.
The pivot came in response to some states’ resistance to spending more time and money on testing for the common standards.
The big picture on testing time is this,
The plan under discussion here last week among state education chiefs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium represents the collision of hope and reality, as states confront what is politically and fiscally palatable and figure out how that squares with the more in-depth—and potentially more valuable—approach to testing promised by the consortium.
The evolving two-pronged approach would give states the option of using a [shorter] version of the Smarter Balanced test whose multiple sessions and classroom activities span nearly 6½ hours in grades 3-5, close to seven hours in grades 6-8, and eight hours in high school, or the group’s original version, which lasts about four hours longer in grades 3-8 and about five hours longer in high school.For comparison, the MAP test for language arts and mathematics takes approximately three hours.
Idaho has already brought up the time requirement for the long version of Common Core to its district superintendents. Their response was an audible gasp. Missouri's Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro stated that there is also concern here about the length of the test and the cost. These sentiments are driving the idea of a shorter test, which of course may mean less reliable data.
Experts cautioned that it can be daunting to build shorter and longer versions of a test without sacrificing the ability to compare results from one to those of the other. It’s also difficult to create a shorter version that measures a set of standards as meaningfully and consistently as a longer version, they said. Doing so requires careful attention to a host of psychometric and statistical concerns.The USDoE, who remember isn't creating a national curriculum, is also concerned about using a shorter test.
The U.S. Department of Education, which must review and approve changes in either consortium’s assessment plan, is working with Smarter Balanced officials to refine the design of its two versions so the consortium can present them to its governing board for approval in late November, consortium officials said.
Ann Whalen, a top aide to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, said the designs must meet key aims the department had in funding the project.
“While there are different ideas and approaches under discussion, at the end of the day, these assessments must measure critical thinking, paint a very clear picture of which students are doing well, and which need more help, indicate whether students are college- or career-ready, and give students and teachers the information they need to improve,” she wrote in an email. “This is an absolute priority for us and will help us better serve the needs of children.”At the end of the day, the tests must be economically feasible and sustainable. With districts and states already facing budget crunches this becomes less and less likely. If states have to drop out for fiscal reasons, which Missouri quite possibly could because of our Hancock Amendment, the entire consortia could collapse. Federal rules require each consortium to contain at least 15 members to qualify for federal funding. Just losing 11 states could destroy the consortia's funding. This is why a combination of SBAC and PARCC is very likely.
It seems hard to believe that, this close to the implementation of CCSS, the consortia are just now beginning to consider and time and money necessary to put these assessments in their states. Reality hits everyone eventually and the shorter, less reliable and meaningful version, may be the only thing most states can afford. Even those states who could afford the longer version may decide not to incur the expense if most of the other states they are working with are getting by on the cheaper version. A Lexus is nice, but a Kia gets you there just as well.
Read the full EdWeek article here.