States that bowed to federal pressure to adopt the “Common Core” public school standards, including West Virginia, are not taking a common approach to testing students. That means one of Common Core’s top goals, being able to compare student achievement state-by-state, will go unfulfilled.
Some results of the Smarter Balanced standardized test taken by West Virginia students last spring have been released. They are disappointing – to say the least – even when local and state-level average scores for English and mathematics are considered.
As we have pointed out, enormous percentages of Mountain State students did not achieve “proficient” scores. Here in Ohio County, countywide results for English and math at various grade levels ranged from a low of 24 percent proficiency to a high of 64 percent. And those numbers were better than state averages.
Just seven states are part of the consortium using the Smarter Balanced tests. In addition to West Virginia, they are Connecticut, Idaho, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. At best, then, the Common Core system will mean Mountain State student achievement can be compared only to those other states.
Some states have developed substantially different standardized tests, but in compliance with Common Core rules. Others, including Ohio, have dropped out of that facet of Common Core altogether.
And, as The Associated Press points out, even states complying with Common Core testing rules may not be comparable – because of the jargon used by the education establishment. “What is ‘below basic’ in one state might be ‘slightly unprepared’ in another,” the AP reported recently. Even the definition of “proficient” may differ from state to state.
Common Core was touted, in effect, as the answer to many public school reform needs. But West Virginians who have watched several decades of different approaches to the problem – everything from “open classroom” to the No Child Left Behind law – may well be concluding that Common Core is nothing but another in a long series of highly touted but mostly ineffective fads.