Common Core Assessments are the Opposite of ‘Glorified Multiple-Choice Tests’

A Hechinger Report article suggests assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards will lead to less diversity in International Baccalaureate (IB) classes by disqualifying students who traditionally do not perform well on standardized tests. Some educators say exams aligned to the Common Core “are just glorified multiple-choice tests,” the article states. “The tests are so flawed that it’s impossible to base instruction on them,” says one New York principal.

Recent studies point out the opposite: that Common Core-aligned assessments do a better job of measuring the skills students need than most states’ old exams and that they match up well with classroom instruction. And these aren’t exams that ask students to fill in the bubble – they ask students to explain their reasoning and think critically.

Research conducted by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) found assessments aligned to Common Core Standards outperformed states’ previous tests. The study, conducted by 23 State Teacher of the Year Award recipients and finalists, concludes tests like PARCC and Smarter Balanced “better reflect the range of reading and math knowledge and skills that all students should master,” “better align with the kinds of strong instructional practices these expert teachers believe should be used in the classroom,” and “are grade-level appropriate.”

A two-year study by experts at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute reached a similar conclusion. Examining four tests—ACT Aspire, Massachusetts’ MCAS, PARCC and Smarter Balanced—found all four tests did a good job of measuring the content of Common Core State Standards. But the consortia tests, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, did a better job of capturing “core content” of college- and career-ready standards.

Earlier this year, Mike Petrilli and Chester Finn of the Fordham Institute wrote: “What we do know is that even these go-it-alone states have made it more challenging to pass their tests by setting their ‘cut scores’ – passing scores – at dramatically higher levels than before. This provides a more honest report to parents about whether their kids are on track for success and a more accurate rendering to teachers.”

A Harvard University study reaffirms those findings. Paul Peterson, a coauthor of the study, writes, “In short, the Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.”

Contrary to pushing students out of high-achievement programs, as the Hechinger Report article suggests, assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards ensure students are mastering the skills and knowledge they need to succeed after high school—and that they get the support they need if they fall short.