The Common Core State Standards: New Approach to Student Assessment

The new Common Core Standards help teachers ensure that their students have the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve college and career readiness. Put into effect in 46 states and territories, the Common Core Standards are intended to make sure that your student, no matter where they live and go to school, is prepared to graduate from high school and enter into the world of higher education or a career. The Common Core Standards are a different approach to learning and teaching, so naturally they come with a different approach to student assessment. By 2015, all students attending school in states that have adopted the Common Core Standards will be taking new forms of standardized assessments. These new assessments will examine many types of student work, not just multiple-choice responses, and assess the level to which each student can read, write, speak, solve problems, and use technology.


Who is developing the Common Core aligned assessments?


There are two consortia currently developing new assessment systems aligned with the Common Core Standards. These new assessment systems, developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), will be ready for implementation in the 2014-2015 school year.
Although the two assessment systems have some differences, under both systems the Common Core aligned assessments will be:

  • Required and offered multiple times each school year
  • Administered via computer
  • Able to provide faster results turn-around
  • Used by teachers to aid in refined instruction and implementing informal, ongoing formative assessments
  • Able to provide students with achievement reports in a timely manner (time frame will be established by specific states)

What will the new Common Core Standards assessments look like?
Comprised of Early Assessment, Mid-Year Assessment and End-of-Year assessment, the assessment systems are designed to generate timely information. This type of assessment system, three times each year instead of just once at the end, will provide teachers with insight about their students on an ongoing basis. It will allow for informed instruction, interventions, and professional development during the school year instead of year end. They will track student progress to help assess college and career readiness on an individual level and allow for cross-state comparisons of Common Core aligned assessment results.
The new Common Core aligned assessment systems will be computer based. All students grades K-12 will participate in some level of assessment, although younger grade levels will most likely have paper-pencil portions until their technology skills have reached an adequate level of development.
Students will encounter a variety of new testing items including the innovative constructed response, extended performance task, and selected response. Each computer-based test item will test multiple standards at once and will be more demanding than multiple choice questions. For example, students will be required to defend their work through constructed essay responses. The transition to this type of assessment will take time, but it will be the first step in the process of forming college and career ready students.
How will scores from the Common Core Standards assessments be used?
The Common Core Standards aligned assessments will help teachers adjust their instruction to achieve the best educational impact. Student achievement reports based on the assessments will also be available to teachers more quickly than current standardized test results. Training educators to interpret and use the score reports generated by the assessments is important to the successful implementation of the Common Core Standards. With these timely results comes the potential to use assessment scores in a variety ways for teacher accountability. Implementing a bonus structure or withholding salary increases based on assessment scores is one possibility. The problems associated with this use of assessment scores include assignment and ability variation between classrooms, subjects, grade levels, and schools. These issues will most likely be sorted out on a State level.
The transition to the new Common Core Standards aligned assessment systems is a great undertaking for our educators. In the end, the benefits of an assessment system shared between states will provide schools with greater funding, reduced assessment costs, and better trained educators. Implementing the Common Core aligned assessments in the 2014-2015 school year is a dynamic moment in the history of large scale K-12 education development.

More About the Common Core State Standards:
The Common Core State Standards: Mathematics»
The Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts»
The Common Core State Standards: An Overview»

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