Friday, November 20, 2009

Assessments and Common Core Standards

This week’s blog begins a conversation on development of assessments to support the national common core standards.

The conversation about common core standards developed due to states coming together to address the concerns of many parents, legislators and business leaders about the wide variability in the academic standards across the states. The common comparison tool was the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The results of this assessment were used to correlate the level of proficiency on state tests compared to the NAEP level of proficiency. States that had large gaps were said to have lower standards.

In order to remove this debate, the states and National Governors Association (NGA) collaborated on the common core standards movement. If the debate on standards is valid, then it would seem to follow that states develop common core assessments. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has set aside $350 million for this work. The timeline for states to access this funding will probably include a March application deadline and funding availability in June 2010. Kentucky will certainly apply for this funding and be involved in this process. Our position is strong, since we will adopt the common core standards in February, and Senate Bill 1 requires our development of new assessments.

A couple of issues are coming up for discussion. One issue deals with consortia of states who might apply for funding to develop assessments. Why would we have five to ten consortia competing against each other when the final product should be a common core assessment available to each state? Why would we develop a national assessment and then continue to have NAEP administered? Is this not a waste of time and money? I would think that NAEP would need to be revised to match the expectations from the common core standards. Should the new assessment not be benchmarked against international competition? Should the assessments not include levels of formative assessment to help inform instruction?

The answers to these questions will drive the final product. The U.S. Department of Education is currently holding national feedback sessions prior to developing guidance for the application process for assessment dollars. As with any organization, it is what is measured that eventually gains the most attention.

Education is a national defense, moral, civil rights and economic issue. We must make certain that this assessment process has strong support from every stakeholder and that we can ensure the results are valid and reliable predictors of success for individual students, schools, school districts, states and our education system.


  1. I'd hate to lose all the trend information we get from NAEP. Surely there's a transition approach that would allow us to make respectable comparisons from existing NAEP to future common-core results?

  2. Given that one of NAEP's major strengths is its provision of trend data, I would hope that the National Governing Board will determine some method by which those trends could be continued.