How the USED has managed to get it wrong, again

An interesting dilemma. Common Core’s writers planned for a grade 11 test that would tell us whether or not students were college and career ready. Parents and state legislators don’t know who sets the cut score, what test items are on it, and what exactly a passing score on a college readiness test means, academically. Yet, all those who pass and enroll in a post-secondary educational institution are entitled to credit-bearing coursework in their freshman year.

So, why should most students wanting to go to a public college take a college admissions test, such as the ACT or SAT? No need to waste time and money for another and unnecessary test that is also “aligned to” Common Core, we are told.

But, that means the SAT and ACT companies lose a lot of money. So, what does the USED do to try to make sure they don’t lose money? It tells states that instead of a Common Core-based test in grade 11, they can require the SAT or ACT for all students for “federal accountability.” Almost a dozen states have fallen for this idiotic idea.

It turns out that an increasing number of colleges are no longer requiring SAT or ACT scores. Why? Among other reasons, the tests can no longer tell them much about success at post-secondary institutions where all students are entitled to credit-bearing courses in their freshman year if they pass a grade 11 Common Core-based test —and can’t be given a placement test to determine remediation level. Some public college presidents or administrators in the state have already agreed to that on the state’s application for Race To The Top (RTTT) funds. Since then, more have. God help the freshman course instructor who doesn’t pass students who were declared college-ready to begin with.

Nor can the tests tell the colleges whether or not the students know much about whatever they studied in K-12. Why? The tests were developed to serve as college admissions tests to predict success in college, not as high school achievement tests. According to some math teachers, they contain material (some Algebra II, trigonometry items) that students haven’t been taught in a Common Core-based curriculum and don’t assess everything important that has been taught.

Worse yet, USED seems to want states to eliminate all other tests—the non-Common Core-based tests possibly including teacher-made tests (on the grounds of getting rid of excessive testing)—and to make passing a grade 11 college and career ready test all that is required for a high school diploma (the requirements might include course titles whose content is presumably addressed by Common Core standards, such as English, Algebra I, and Geometry). Almost everyone will have to be passed or there will be an uproar from the parents of low-achieving students. (Their writing is no longer required by the SAT.)

States adopted Common Core because they believed it would be the silver bullet that made all students college and career ready. If they also believe that all students declared college and career ready are thereby qualified to take credit-bearing coursework in post-secondary education, how can they not give a high school diploma to anyone who passes the grade 11 test? Even if they don’t know what’s on it, who set the cut score and determined who should pass, and what passing the test really means academically. The SAT and ACT are private companies and are not obligated to release any information they don’t want to release.

Who cares if all or most kids don’t want to go to college? Who cares what’s on the tests given in grade 11? All that matters is that the state has met what is required for federal accountability and will get ESSA funds and other money to give its K-12 schools, while it taxes those who can still afford to pay taxes for the increasing costs for less and less teaching and learning. Graduate schools may not care since they will be able to find enough tuition-paying qualified students from other countries.

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  1. Pingback: Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. | UARK – DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REFORM

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