Benefits of Common Core Standards and Standardized Testing

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If you are wondering why common-core standards are here, and why do your students have to take the standardized tests; this article is for you.

This spring millions of students will take tests based on the Common Core Standards (CCSS). Several Students will take assessments administered by PARCC and SBAC. While others will take state-assessments based on the common core.

Students will sit for nearly an hour facing a computer screen. They will have to answer questions and solve problems based on these new standards.

Why should they do it?

What is the benefit of taking standards-based, digitized tests?

These new-age assessments require students to show their understanding of concepts, fluency, and solution-modeling skills.

Moreover, they would need to prove themselves as critical-thinkers and problem-solvers. On top of that, these students should be comfortable with digital environment of testing. 

The new-age assessments

What do the new assessments demand from the teachers?

These assessments push for major changes in our current style of instruction and intervention:

  1. Teachers need to adjust their curriculum to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards(CCSS).
  2. Schools and teachers will have to modify their models of instruction and develop new teaching-aids.
  3. Schools need to introduce digital environment of testing for the students.

Career and College Readiness Standards (CCR)

The Common Core Standards are built on the foundation of CCR or (Career and College Readiness Standards).

The aim of CCR(and CCSS) is to prepare students to finish high-school and be ready to take the next giant leap of their lives. Enter college fit for higher-education, or start their career, prepared for success.

Why Common Core?

Twenty-first century is unlike the last. The twentieth century was about industrialization, about people ready-to-join the mega-structure of factory production.

Education in the last century aimed at training students as the cogs essential for the success of the colossal machine of production and demand.

Twenty-first century is different.

Skills like- following shift-schedules, pre-defined job responsibilities, limited work-knowledge have been outdated. Success in this century calls for higher-order skills.

 

Students need to develop higher-order skills

  1. Readiness to solve complex problems;
  2. Handle multi-dimensional work responsibility;
  3. Execute individual project executions; and so on.

With this end in picture, teachers from across the states joined hands and created a new set of standards that back-tracked the skills necessary for success in the 21st century to skills which a student can master by the end of a particular grade level. That’s Common Core.

Here is an article listing the advantages of Common Core Standards over the conventional standards of education. Students need Common Core to develop the cognitive understandings and new-age skills to match with the 21st century global-environment.

 

Is defining standards for student achievement enough?

“Students need to be tested thoroughly to ensure what they have learned in classroom, matches with what they should know to be ready for success at college and in career.”

Standardized testing or Standards-based tests

PARCC, SBAC and other standardized tests

Common Core standards may have gone to the extreme depth to define what skills a student should master to ensure their career and college readiness. However, only defining standards is not enough. 

 

Is testing imperative?

Since the advent of NCLB in 2001, testing has become compulsory for every student. These tests hold schools and educators accountable for student success and failure. 

In today’s environment, assessments are important, necessary and compulsory.

Wait! Do I mean testing or assessment? Aren’t they the same?

– they aren’t.

 

Difference between testing and assessment

A test measures a particular behavior or set of objective, while an assessment is the process of gathering data to evaluate an examinee.

The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (1999), define a test as “an evaluative device or procedure in which a sample of an examinee’s behavior in a specified domain is obtained and subsequently evaluated and scored using a standardized process,” and an assessment as “any systematic method of obtaining information from tests and other sources, used to draw inferences about characteristics of people, objects, or programs.” 

A test gives student scores, while an assessment provides a diagnosis.

Standardized-tests or standard-based assessment tools are just that, they are not scoring mechanisms that measure classroom learning; they are an assessment of learning. They measure and quantify the outcome of the learning process.

Common Core Assessments

PARCC, SBAC and other Standards-based assessments 

The confusion needs to end here. PARCC and SBAC are not tests. They are assessment instruments.

Unlike other contemporary tests, PARCC and SBAC use a combination of selected response, short constructed response, extended constructed response, technology enhanced, and performance tasks.

They are traditional test-items coupled with technology-enhanced question-items, designed to measure student performance, and quantify student strengths and weaknesses.

PARCC and SBAC don’t test students but assess student performance, and diagnose student strengths and weaknesses.

Goals of PARCC and SBAC:

  • Diagnose students’ strengths and weaknesses, and inform whether the student in on track to CCR in alignment with common core state standards.

  • Quantify student growth and achievement to assist the compulsory learning evaluation programs under the state accountability systems.

  • Provide valid and reliable measures of student progress.

Components of PARCC Assessments

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers 

PARCC is offered for Grades 3-11. Four components of PARCC:

  1. Optional, diagnostic assessment administered at beginning of a school year. They are consist of a combination of descriptive questions and multi-select items;

  2. Mid-year assessment predictive of student performance by end-of-year. They consist primarily of descriptive questions;

  3. Performance-based assessment in the last quarter of the school year. They too consist mostly of descriptive questions;

  4. Compulsory, summative end-of-year assessment. They don’t have any descriptive answer requirement. The questions are computer-based, easy to score test-items.

 parc-assessment-design

Components of SBAC Assessments

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

SBAC is offered for Grade 3-8, and again for Grade-11. Two components of SBAC:

  1. Compulsory, summative end-of-year assessment. It consists of a computer-adaptive test and computer-based performance tasks;

  2. Optional, interim assessments. They can be administrated at locally-determined intervals. These tests predict student performance on end-of-year assessments, and provide feedback on student progress.

 sbac flow diagram

Are SBAC and PARCC the same?

The differences

  • PARCC assessments use a fixed-form delivery model;

  • SBAC assessments will use a computer-adapted testing environment. Question difficulty is adjusted based on student’s previous response.

  • PARCC administers two compulsory assessments and provides one optional diagnostic(beginning of the year) and one optional mid-year assessment.

  • SBAC administers one compulsory end-of-year assessment and offers interim assessment, that can be conducted at locally determined intervals.

 

In short, PARCC, SBAC and other standard-based assessments are designed to reward quality instruction aligned with common-core state standards and provide timely feedback throughout the school year. This gives teachers opportunity to adjust instruction and improve learning outcomes.

These assessments go beyond the limits of traditional assessments, and measure skills like conceptual understanding, fluency and application skills.

Moreover, students get an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills; ensuring that students leave school prepared for success in college or career with skills necessary for success in today’s digitized, high-paced, global environment.

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