NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Does the Common Core Testing Assessments Make Sense?

October 2, 2014

Two state consortium groups, funded with federal dollars, are working to perfect testing under the Common Core State Standards. Students taking the assessments will be tested via computers, and many experts are expressing concern that the computer-based testing bears little resemblance to the actual mathematics work that will take place in the classroom.

Liana Heitin of Education Week reports that students taking tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will face complex word problems on computer screens. Many math questions require answers in narrative form. After students are presented with a question, they must use an "equation editor" to input numbers and symbols, followed by a section in which they must "show or explain" how they got their answer.

PARCC and the Smarter Balanced group insist the tests are superior to those done on paper, but others say the tests are nothing like the mathematics exercises that students will be doing during the school year:

  • According to Martin Garzman, director of the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Chicago, "The primary tools kids use to solve problems and justify their answers every day in math class and required by the common core aren't available for kids to use during these tests. We're going to get tests that are just going to frustrate people and are going to really underrepresent what students know."
  • Alsip, Illinois, Assistant Superintendent Jan Mulqueeny witnessed field testing of the PARCC assessment last year. "I saw [4th grade] students writing their answers to the problems through drawings and creating tables and a variety of ways. But when they tried to replicate that in the text box and with the equation editor, they were totally stymied. When you picked up the student scratch paper and saw the work they did, and saw what was on the screen, there was certainly a discrepancy."
  • James Pellegrino, education professor, says that math problems can be solved in a variety of ways, many of which can be difficult to write out in narrative form. "The worry is [the platform] narrows the scope of what students can do, and the evidence they can provide about what they understand."

Twenty-six states intend to use one of these assessments.

Source: Liana Heitin, "Will Common-Core Testing Platforms Impede Math Tasks?" Education Week, September 30, 2014.


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