Separating Testing from the Common Core State Standards is like tearing muscle from bone

by Heide Janshon

There has been a great deal of “I doth protest” from districts and superintendents when the case is made attaching the Common Core State Standards (or any standards for that matter) to the high stakes standardized tests used to evaluate teachers, give schools a grade, and of course, determine standards mastery by students.

Those protesting adamantly argue that the standards and the testing each stand alone and are not dependent on one another. However, those of us who have researched, studied the process, and have lived the process with our children, know better. The only reason the standards exist is so that their success (or failure) can be measured….measured by an end of the year, legislatively mandated, high stakes, monstrous battery of exams spanning from 3rd Grade through 12th Grade.

Over the past seven years, I have heard the statement “the standards aren’t curriculum.” However, the standards definitely drive the curriculum. That statement is the same as saying “the architectural blueprints for a building aren’t the building.” The standards are the infrastructure for any curriculum. Curriculum publishing companies state boldly that their curriculum is closely aligned to the Common Core State Standards. In fact, many of the worksheets and class assignments our children are completing say “CCSS” and name the standard on them. Perhaps the original statement supports the thought that there is a great deal of freedom in a one foot by one foot square?

You have undoubtedly heard the phrase “teach to the test”. Seasoned educators push back against even the appearance of teaching to the high stakes end of year exams, but the micromanagement delivered by districts (which is ultimately coming from the state) is making the resistance futile. In the county where I reside, our superintendent instituted quarterly exams, which he named Quarterly Checks. These checks have been written by district staff with minimal input from educators who were asked to select test questions from a test bank. Along with these quarterlies come a set of standards “blueprints”. Teachers are to follow the blueprints in their lesson planning so that the students can master the standards, and thus, master the quarterlies. Why were these quarterlies put into place you ask? They were put into place to ensure that teachers instruct on the exact standards dictated by the blueprints in a given time period and thus determining student success on the end of the year Florida Standards Assessments…except for the students who couldn’t keep up with the fast pace and were left behind. Teachers have little to no time to reteach.

You see, the standards and the testing are attached like muscle to bone.

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