Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Testing and the Common Core

As the battle regarding Common Core rages on in capital buildings and on the internet, speculation has started about the future of testing and the various entities that control them. 

Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education shined the spotlight on Chester Finn of the Fordham Foundation and Finn's speculation that Smarter Balanced and PARCC may not be around forever.
"I expect that PARCC and Smarter Balanced (the two federally subsidized consortia of states that are developing new assessments meant to be aligned with Common Core standards) will fade away, eclipsed and supplanted by long-established yet fleet-footed testing firms that already possess the infrastructure, relationships, and durability that give them huge advantages in the competition for state and district business."
But Vander Hart cautions not to get too excited, because Finn thinks they may be sidelined by the traditional testing favorites: ACT and SAT, which are already aligning to Common Core.  In fact the ACT admits to being a "partner" in the development of the Common Core.

The Alignment of the Common Core and ACT's" dated June 2010, states the following,

"The Common Core State Standards Initiative is led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, in partnership with ACT, the College Board, and Achieve."

This is something I predicted back in 2006, in a post called the Clash of the Testing Titans
"The Superbowl of education is set to begin. Whoever wins this match up will get more than a trophy, they will be well positioned to run the coveted national exam. Sadly, the loser in this game isn't just the other testing company, it's the American people.
It was obvious to me over 7 years ago, that ACT was working to hard to gain stature and political clout. In 2005, Michigan along with several other states adopted the ACT as its high school exit exam with the accompanying WorkKeys.   Alabama just adopted ACT Aspire and it is on the radar in Michigan for the future as well.   What is ACT Aspire?
"The first digital, longitudinal assessment system to fully connect student performance from elementary grades through high school. ACT Aspire will provide educators and parents with the insights they need to help students get and stay on track by better connecting assessment to teaching and learning."
Testing meets tracking at ACT, Inc.

When Smarter Balanced and PARCC entered the scene I wondered  how ACT would fit into the scheme given they are large component in Michigan's high school exit exam, the MME .  The mystery was solved last year when ACT, Inc. partnered with Pearson to launch Next Generation College and Career Readiness Assessments.   Coincidentally (or perhaps not) the new science standards bear the name, Next Generation Science Standards.   Common Standards require a common test.

Now I'm wondering if Smarter Balanced Consortia and PARCC provided the necessary cover to make it appear that these are state-led assessments but the eventual outcome will be a national exam lead by ACT, Inc. or College Board. 

In the 2006 post, I also spotlighted Fordham's speculation regarding the possible ways to achieve national standards.  It looks like we chose door #3:
 3. Let's All Hold Hands. Under this approach, states are encouraged to join together to develop common standards and tests. Washington would provide incentives for such collaboration.
One "common" link to the testing component is Pearson, who was awarded a lucrative contract with both Smarter Balanced and PARCC.  They also have alliances with both ACT, Inc., and the College Board (SAT, AP, and AccuPlacer)

In January David Coleman, President of the College Board, announced a complete redesign of the SAT test.  In another interesting twist,  earlier this month Cynthia B. Schmeiser came out of retirement after 38 years at ACT, Inc., to take a new position as chief of assessments with College Board.  Schmeiser was a driving force behind Common Core while at ACT.    The new SAT is said to likely look more like the ACT.   But ACT, Inc. does not have a viable competitor to College Boards,  Advanced Placement.
So perhaps it won't be a clash of the testing titans but a merger?   Whether it is ACT, SAT, or SACT, or some other name, it means a common test to go with the common standards.

Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education concludes with a serious concern,
 "I’m also concerned about the impact these organizations aligning to the Common Core will have upon private schools and homeschoolers."
His concern is well-founded.  I've been trying to sound the alarm for years. 

Homeschool and private schools are will be "voluntold" to align or be at a disadvantage in college and career advancement.   Not because we lack the knowledge but we lack the ability to gain the coveted credential a national educational testing and tracking system provides to those that align.

Michigan has plans to offer an e-transcript through Parchment. 
"This service facilitates the electronic exchange of transcripts and other admissions documents for all Michigan public and private high schools and colleges. Transcripts and documents are sent through Parchment in a manner compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
In the words of Parchment e-transcripts are "Putting the Train on the Tracks."   

Only those in the national P-20 educational e-system will get the e-transcript or the "ticket"  they need to jump on the train and move toward their final destination in the global e-conomy.  

1 comment:

Craig Gehring said...

I'm very interested to see how the new SAT looks. Until then it looks like ACT will sweep the testing for Common Core.