In New Jersey and Elsewhere, High-Quality Assessments Are Providing Parents and Teachers with Accurate Information

In a letter to the Somerville Courier News alleging PARCC assessments are “raking in billions of dollars off taxpayers,” Antonina Penna claims, “Common Core is nothing more than a profit-driven venture…It’s not about education. It never was. Follow the money.”

Penna conflates education standards with student assessments, even though the two are very different issues. Blending the lines reinforces misinformation and creates greater frustration and confusion for parents. A post by the Collaborative for Student Success this spring explains:

“Common Core is not a test. [It] is a set of academic standards. Every state has academic standards that they use to guide their curriculum development (which happens at the state or district level).”

State testing policy is set by local officials and administrators. New Jersey authorities chose PARCC assessments because they align well with the state’s learning goals and allow educators and parents to compare students’ progress across state and district lines.

It turns out, too, that PARCC assessments do a good job of measuring the skills and knowledge students need to ultimately graduate high school prepared for college and career. A two-year study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concluded that consortia exams (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) had the strongest matches to the criteria of the Common Core State Standards and outperformed the ACT Aspire and MCAS tests.

“Part of the promise of the Common Core initiative was that these new standards would be joined by ‘next generation’ assessments — tests that match the intellectual demands of the Common Core, that are harder to game and that actually deserve to guide classroom instruction rather than be condemned for mindless ‘test prep.’ Now we know that this promise has indeed been kept,” wrote Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute.

An analysis by Achieve this year found most states significantly narrowed their “Honesty Gaps” by implementing high-quality assessments and rigorous academic expectations. Likewise, a Harvard University study found most states tightened their proficiency definitions since implementing challenging student assessments.

“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,” the Harvard study concludes.