Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thoughts on the Common Core

 Because I have decided to run for the PCS BOE, I thought I would answer some questions that community members asked of me. Below are some of the questions on just one topic - the Common Core.

1. What do you think of the Common Core State Standards?
   A. First of all, some (possibly many) people think these more rigorous learning standards are from the federal government. Actually, they were spearheaded by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Interestingly, they were initiated by governors across the country as a pushback against the federal 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Law which the governors saw as federal overreach in education (which is the purview of the states).

   B.  Like many, I think more rigorous standards were overdue. In fact, one in three college students needs at least one remedial class in order to do college level work. In addition, the US was and is scoring low on international tests. Finally, business leaders are complaining that graduates were not prepared for the workforce.
 The problem is not the standards, it is the implementation - which was pushed too quickly before teachers were given adequate time to prepare. In addition, the standards have become conflated with the mandated 3-8 testing, the evaluation of teachers based on student performance on those tests, and the curricula used to meet the new standards. The common core standards are distinct from tests, teacher evals, and curricula.

2. What do you think of the 3-8 testing?
There is too much testing. Students are forced to sit for too many hours taking high-stakes tests. Another problem has to do with the reliability and validity of the tests.* NYS and its test designer (Pearson) do not make validation data available to the public that is paying for the tests. Until this data is given to the public, the quality of the tests remains an open question and, thus,  the use of the tests to evaluate teachers is unacceptable.

3. Why are so many states dropping the CCSS (or postponing implementation)?
According to a Wendell Steinhouer (president of the NJ Education Association) one problem is that teachers unions have complained about the botched implementation of the CCSS and about their belief that testing is crowding out teaching.
 Others believe some politicians are dropping support for the CCSS to try to pander to interest groups in the lead up to the Nov. elections. Jim Douglas, former Republican governor of Vermont, who worked on the CCSS, says even the most conservative governors supported the CCSS. He said the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups will soon engage in efforts to explain their support for the CCSS and the need for these rigorous standards.

      Test reliability refers to the degree to which a test is consistent and stable in measuring what it is intended to measure. Most simply put, a test is reliable if it is consistent within itself and across time. To understand the basics of test reliability, think of a bathroom scale that gave you drastically different readings every time you stepped on it regardless of whether your had gained or lost weight. If such a scale existed, it would be considered not reliable.

      Test validity refers to the degree to which the test actually measures what it claims to measure. Test validity is also the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions made on the basis of test scores are appropriate and meaningful. 
The Relationship of Reliability and Validity
      Test validity is requisite to test reliability. If a test is not valid, then reliability is moot. In other words, if a test is not valid there is no point in discussing reliability because test validity is required before reliability can be considered in any meaningful way. Likewise, if as test is not reliable it is also not valid. Therefore, the two Hoover Studies do not examine reliability.  Source:

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