For four years, schools in nearly every state have been working to put the Common Core State Standards into practice in classrooms, but few have put them to the test—literally. This year, that changes.

The 2014-15 academic year is when nearly every state must have assessments in place to reflect the common core, or other “college- and career-ready” standards they have adopted. And unlike last year, when many states were allowed to cut back on their regular tests because they were field-testing new assessments, this year’s achievement results will be a cornerstone of states’ public accountability reporting.

The specter of college- and career-ready assessments has loomed large in education leaders’ minds for several years, since it comes with a volatile mix of novelty and risk.

Schools will be held responsible for how well they’ve imparted the new standards, even as skills such as reading complex text and demonstrating mathematical reasoning are new to many students, and as teachers are still figuring out how best to teach them. States face big drops in proficiency rates if the new tests are, as expected, tougher than the previous ones.

Even as educators steel themselves for those results, questions swirl about how well the tests will measure the standards they’re based on, and the skills educators value most.

Two dynamics further complicate the question of assessment.

Some states have moved to choose new tests after backing out of shared assessments or reversing their common-core adoptions.

And national uneasiness about the time and money spent on standardized testing, and about the decisions based on it, is increasing.

“We’re hoping that districts in Illinois, and everywhere, wake up to the problem with all the state testing, because this year it’s coming home to them as it never has before. It’s craziness,” said Cassie Creswell, who is helping organize opposition to testing in Chicago, where her 3rd grader attends public school.

Alignment Concerns

With next spring’s testing season already on the horizon, measurement experts worry that many states risk giving assessments that don’t fully reflect their academic standards. Allowing only months for a new or tweaked test­—or using an existing test for new standards—erodes the likelihood of good alignment, they warn.

“When you’ve developed a test with one goal in mind, and that target is changed, you’ll have a misalignment between assessment and instruction, and that’s not good for anybody,” said Stephen G. Sireci, the director of the Center for Educational Assessment at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

State education leaders are all too aware of that uncomfortable truth as they transition to new tests. Iowa adopted the common standards—which cover English/language arts and mathematics—but chose to keep using its own state test this year.

Please click on link to read the full article – Big Year Looms for Common-Core Testing, Catherine Gewertz, Education Week, September 3, 2014

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