The ‘Common Core Testing Regime’ and Other Head-Scratching Common Core Rumors

The Washington Post this week highlighted a report by the National Center for Education Policy which claims schools have become “soft targets” for companies to gather data about and market to children because “the Common Core testing regime requires students to take computerized tests.” The report argues: “In addition to threatening their physical well-being, marketing disposes children to a variety of psychological ills,” suggesting the Common Core contributes by requiring students to take electronic assessments.

But there is no such thing as a “Common Core testing regime.” Common Core is not a test. Common Core is a set of academic standards. Every state has academic standards that they use to guide their curriculum development.

Furthermore, testing policy is set by authorities at the state and local level. That includes decisions about whether to use assessments administered electronically or by pencil and paper. But perhaps even more important, is to note that computer-based assessments aren’t Common Core-specific. Many states using assessments other than PARCC or Smarter Balanced are even moving to computer-based exams – and it has nothing to do with data collection or marketing schemes. In the same way that the computer replaced the typewriter for composing documents, schools are moving away from Scantron testing era and into a computer-based system that is more efficient and helpful.

Data privacy is an important issue, but Common Core State Standards has no relevance to what student information states choose to collect or how they collect it – those are decisions made at the state and federal levels. If a state were to repeal the Common Core tomorrow, there would be no change to its schools’ data-privacy requirements.

“What’s more, four federal laws prohibit the creation of a federal database with students’ personally identifiable information,” Washington State attorney general Rob McKenna wrote last year. “[Common Core State Standards] do nothing more than establish rigorous learning goals at each grade level that ensure all public-school children are held to levels that prepare them for higher levels of learning.”