High-stakes tests and Common Core

As the opt-out movement grows around the country, many families are linking their concerns about excessive high-stakes testing with concerns about the Common Core standards.

Many states have in fact instituted the Common Core standards at the same time that they have expanded statewide testing and raised the stakes on statewide tests, especially in terms of teacher evaluation.

We at MecklenburgACTS.org see the problems of excessive testing and problems with the Common Core standards as two separate issues. MecklenburgACTS.org has been fighting for years against excessive high-stakes testing. We do not currently have a position on the Common Core standards.

There are indeed many problems with the Common Core tests, which are currently being developed at appalling taxpayer expense. Of prime concern are the student privacy issues raised by the prospect of a giant, nationwide data bank of student information. But we see the problem of excessive high-stakes testing as a problem that goes far beyond any specific drawbacks of Common Core tests.

As our North Carolina test timeline shows, the barrage of high stakes standardized tests that our children currently face began in the 1990s with a state-initiated testing program.

In 2002, the testing requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation made the tests a federal as well as a state requirement, and also raised the stakes by instituting a new test-based rating system for schools.

In 2010, North Carolina’s Race to the Top grant required the state to develop an evaluation system for teachers in which “data on student growth” played a significant role. In order to collect such “data” for more teachers, the state began to expand the number of required tests.

Qualifying for the grant also required the state to adopt the Common Core standards. But the standards and the requirement to evaluate teachers based in part on test scores were not directly linked. Even were North Carolina to pull out of Common Core, the requirements for teacher evaluation would still compel the state to give the same number of tests.

We welcome families who oppose Common Core to join our fight against the damaging practice of high-stakes standardized testing. But we discourage the conflation of problems with the Common Core standards and problems with excessive high-stakes testing, such as through references to “Common Core testing.” We believe this conflation distracts from the central issues at stake in the effort to promote more rational assessments of students, teachers and schools.