Myth: Common Core tests will be much better than
current exams, with many items measuring higher-order skills.
Reality: The new tests will largely consist of the
same old multiple-choice questions.
Proponents initially said the new assessments would measure — and help teachers
promote — critical thinking. In fact, the exams will remain predominantly
multiple choice. Heavy reliance on such items continues to promote rote
teaching and learning. Assessments will generally include just one session of
short performance tasks per subject. Some short-answer and “essay” questions
will appear, just as on many current state tests. Common Core math items are
often simple computation tasks buried in complex and sometimes confusing “word problems.” The
Commission of measurement and education experts concluded that Common Core
tests are currently “far from what is ultimately needed for either
accountability or classroom instructional improvement purposes.”
Myth: Adoption of Common Core exams will end No Child Left Behind
Reality: Under Common Core, there will be many more tests
and the same misuses.
The No Child Left Behind law triggered a testing tsunami over the past dozen
years, and the Common Core will flood classrooms with even more tests. Both
consortia keep mandatory annual English/language arts (ELA) and math testing in
grades 3-8, as with NCLB. However, the tests will be longer than current state
exams. PARCC will test reading and math in
three high school grades instead of one; SBAC
moves reading and math tests from 10th grade to 11th. In PARCC states, high
schoolers will also take a speaking and listening test. PARCC also offers
“formative” tests for kindergarten through second grade. Both consortia produce
and encourage additional interim testing two to three times a year. As with
NCLB, Common Core tests will be used improperly to make high-stakes decisions,
including decisions involving high
school graduation, teacher evaluation and school accountability.
Myth: New multi-state assessments will save taxpayers money.
Reality: Test costs will increase for most states. Schools
will spend even more for computer infrastructure upgrades.
Costs have been a big concern, especially for the five states that dropped out
of a testing consortium as of August 2013. PARCC acknowledges that half its
member states will spend more than they do for current tests. Georgia pulled
out when PARCC announced costs of new, computer-delivered summative math and
ELA tests alone totaling $2.5 million more than its existing state assessment
lack resources to upgrade equipment and bandwidth and provide technical
support, at a cost likely to exceed that of the tests themselves. One analysis
indicates that Race to the Top would provide districts with less than 10 cents
on the dollar to defray those expenses plus mandated
Myth: New assessment consortia will actually design
the tests rather than well-known test manufacturers who have made mistakes in
Reality: The same profit-driven companies, including
Pearson, Educational Testing Service and CTB/McGraw-Hill, are producing the
tests. These firms have long histories of mistakes. The multinational Pearson,
for example, has been responsible for poor-quality items, scoring errors,
computer system crashes and missed deadlines. Still, Pearson
shared $23 million in contracts to design the first 18,000 PARCC test
Myth: Common Core assessments are designed to meet the needs of
Reality: Not yet. The new tests could put students with
disabilities and English-language learners at risk.
Advocates for English-language
learners have raised concerns about a lack of appropriate accommodations. A
U.S. Education Department’s technical review assessed the consortia’s efforts
in July 2013 and issued a stern warning, saying that attempts to accommodate
students with disabilities and ELLs need
more attention (Gewertz, 2013).
Myth: Common Core “proficiency” is an objective measure of
college- and career-readiness.
Reality: Proficiency levels on Common Core tests are
subjective, like all performance levels.
Recent disclosures demonstrate that New York state, which last spring gave
students a Common Core-aligned test designed by Pearson even before the consortia-developed
tests have come out, set
passing scores arbitrarily. There is no evidence that these standards or
tests are linked to the skills and knowledge students need for their wide range
of college and career choices.
Myth: States have to implement the Common Core assessments.
Reality: No, they don’t.
High-quality assessment improves teaching and learning and provides useful
information about schools. Examples of better assessments include well-designed
assessments that are part of the curriculum (New York Performance Standards
Consortium), and portfolios or Learning
Records of actual student work. Schools
can be evaluated using multiple sources of evidence that includes limited,
low-stakes testing, school quality reviews, and samples of ongoing student