The Fallacy of Going Alone

As, this recent KCUR article explains “When lawmakers said that Missouri had to abandon the Common Core State Standards and come up with the new learning blueprint that won approval from the state board last year, new tests had to be drawn up. That process was accelerated when lawmakers also said that the vendor for earlier tests, the Smarter Balanced consortium, had to be abandoned. Until tests based on the new standards can be devised, tests will still be based on Common Core, but from a different vendor. Because of the turnover of standards and tests, Lisa Sireno, the state’s director of curriculum and assessment, said that more changes will be coming.” Officials are already warning, though that test scores “can’t be compared to scores from earlier years” because of exam changes, leaving students, their parents and educators incapable of assessing academic progress, or the strengths and weaknesses of students year to year.

As Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborate for Student Success, wrote in a recent memo, actions like those undertaken by Missouri’s officials “underscores the harm done when a state don’t have the fortitude to stick with standards & assessments. The result is that teachers, students, & parents are constantly in flux & denied the important feedback that assessments are supposed to provide.”

Missouri is finding out what other states have already learning, to their detriment: “going it alone is a poor decision.” The SmarterBalanced assessment that Missouri tossed was designed to more accurately measure how well students learned what they were taught and the depth of their understanding of how to think critically and apply their educational foundation to the real world. SmarterBalanced and PARCC, the other standards-aligned consortia assessment, replaced simplistic fill-in-the-bubble tests that weren’t true measures of student progress. As Cowen wrote, the feedback from SmarterBalanced and PARCC “allows families to hold local authorities responsible and to ensure their kids receive a quality education. It allows teachers to gauge their performance, and, more importantly, to collaborate with their peers across district and state lines to build on best practices. By going it alone, state leaders largely forfeit that capacity. This shortsighted, short-term political solution, ignores the economic reality that students today are not simply competing with those in the desk next to them, but also with students on the opposite coast and across the oceans.”