Setting the Record Straight: Common Core isn’t a test, it’s a set of academic standards.

Time and time again, we’ve seen articles across the country conflate assessments with standards when talking about Common Core. Many outlets last year incorrectly reported parents in New York were “opting out of Common Core,” when in fact, is was the state assessment that they took issue with. Similarly, in this piece, a (hopefully) one-time glitch by a new state assessment provider was tied into state debates over the content of academic standards.

These reporters, and the parents and policymakers being interviewed in these pieces, are conflating frustrations over testing policy with the state’s education standards. This sort of reporting only serves to further misinform parents about New York, and other states’ education policies and creates more frustration and confusion around the term “Common Core” without actually being based on facts.

Let’s clear some things up:

  1. Common Core is not a test. Common Core is a set of academic standards. Every state has academic standards that they used to guide their curriculum development (which happens at the state or district level). The standards were adopted by states, individually, and states have been undergoing reviews to make sure the standards keep high goals for students, but also incorporate components that each state thinks is important to set as achievement goals for their kids.
  1. Every state administers annual assessments. The point of these tests are to have them be aligned to a state’s standards so if the state’s standards call for learning long division in 4th grade, the state assessment will test at the end of the year to see how many kids in 4th grade across the state were proficient at long division. Where does Common Core fit into that? If a state has adopted Common Core standards, their assessment could be considered “Common Core” aligned.

In recent years, New York, for example, has been experiencing some pushback on the state’s testing policies. Over past year, NY leaders have made significant changes to state assessments to address parents’ concerns, including shortening the length of the tests, having 156 teachers review the content, and ensuring the results won’t be used to evaluate teachers or students until the 2019-20 school year. High-quality assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to measure student development.

Yes, parents in New York have the right to opt their children out of New York’s assessments, but doing so is harmful to students and schools. Doing so puts students at a disadvantage. As many national civil rights groups point out, good tests empower parents to make sure all kids, regardless of race or zip code are on track to being prepared for success after high school.

Fortunately, in New York, and most other states across the country, most students and parents are “opting in.” As a several parents write in the Seventy-Four Million, “Initial reports show no measurable increase in opt outs” in New York, and many “poster districts” have seen a significant increase in the number of students taking the tests.