States continue move away from Common Core tests

States continue move away from Common Core tests

(R.I.) Rhode Island will become the latest in a growing list of states to drop its national consortium designed assessment in favor of using a college-readiness exam to meet federal accountability requirements, education officials announced last week.

Beginning with the next school year, high school students will use the PSAT and SAT for annual assessments, and students in grades three through eight will use a version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System administered by Rhode Island. These will take place of the grade-level Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams.

“This approach will provide continuity in the classroom for teachers and students, maintain high quality assessment information about student progress, build a long-term partnership with a high performing neighboring state, and further decrease testing time,” Ken Wagner, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said in a statement.

The number of states planning to use the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards to measure student progress had been declining. Between 2011 and 2016, 25 states dropped the national assessments, according to an Education Next analysis of state and federal data last year.

Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced were developed to align to the Common Core standards so that students would learn at relatively the same pace no matter where they lived, and states could measure student progress and be able to accurately compare academic achievement to other states.

Under a provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act, states can replace standards-based statewide assessments with college-entrance exams to measure high school achievement. So far, at least eight states have made the switch, including Colorado, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Connecticut. Some states have opted to use a combination of college-readiness exams and their own standards-based assessments.

According to officials from Rhode Island’s education department, the transition to using the PSAT/SAT and Massachusetts-based exams will allow students to use the same online test platform as the PARCC assessments that they have grown accustomed to, but the time it takes to complete the tests decreases significantly.

The Massachusetts-based assessments to be used in grades three through eight take 85 minutes less time to complete than the PARCC exams on average.  And while the Massachusetts assessments were developed specifically for that state, Rhode Island education officials said that there are significant areas of overlap between both states’ current learning standards.

Additionally, in developing their assessments, Massachusetts education leaders incorporated elements of the PARCC exams.

Since grade-level expectations and graduation requirements will remain the same, and because the new state assessment tools still align with Rhode Island’s Common Core standards, teachers will not have to change their approach in the classroom.

The announcement has garnered support from Gov. Gina Raimondo and leaders across the education spectrum, including the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, the Rhode Island Student Advisory Council, the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, and the state’s superintendent’s association.

“Using the SAT and PSAT at the high school level and partnering with Massachusetts in grades 3-8, we are using recognizable, successful assessment instruments that will be understood and supported by parents, teachers and the community,” Timothy Ryan, executive director of the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association, said in a statement.