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How educators view CCSS-aligned assessments
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2013 08:18 AM

No one understands the changes K-12 instruction has been through in recent years and will continue to go through better than the nation's teachers. This is especially true of educators working in states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards.

In addition to guiding their students through deeper, more rigorous lessons, these professionals have to make sure pupils are prepared for tests that are aligned with the CCSS. Some states will require students to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium's exam, while others will mandate the test provided by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Whether students take either of these exams, or one that has been created by their state, educators have an opinion about the new assessments.

Additional pressure
The new tests are computer-based, and as a result, many school districts have been forced to update their technology faster than they had hoped. As far as exams go, the Smarter Balanced Assessments are rather advanced. Through adaptive features, the Assessments are able to provide harder or easier questions, depending on students' performance as they move through the test.

Without capable computers, however, the Smarter Balanced Assessments may not function well. The fact that so many schools do not have the funds necessary to purchase the latest technology concerns some educators. For example, Superintendent Dick Sheehan of the Glendale Unified School District in Calif., has concerns regarding so many school systems attempting to update their technology at the same time, the Glendale News-Press reported.

"We are comfortable, should we receive the technology from the companies," said Sheehan, as quoted by the news source. "We are one of 1,000 districts, and if we're all ordering Chromebooks, there's going to be a shortage of Chromebooks. That would be the one thing that hinders this."

A controversial move
Teachers are not the only people with opinions regarding the CCSS-aligned assessments, as state officials also have their own views. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott's views are shaping the face of testing in the Sunshine State, and not those of everyday educators.

Although Florida was going to administer the PARCC Assessment, Scott withdrew Florida from the PARCC consortium, fearing federal overreach, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Despite the fact that the government did not create the tests, Scott and those who oppose all things Common Core, got their way. While Scott believes that Florida should have its own CCSS-aligned exam, many state educators do not agree.

"If we develop our own system, isolated here in the state of Florida, we're going to be in a situation where we probably won't have an assessment that's credible, that's benchmarked nationally and internationally," Robert Runcie, superintendent of the Broward County Public Schools, told the news outlet.

Potential challenges
New research from a study funded by the National Science Foundation reveals that many middle school math teachers believe that the new assessments will have a major impact on how they teach, as well as how they are evaluated.

Overall, 90 percent of the 366 middle school math teachers surveyed said the new exams would affect their instructional and assessment practices. At the same time, many respondents believe that the tests have the potential to diminish the benefits of the CCSS. The researchers feel that educators may only teach certain math concepts if they are reflected on the CCSS-aligned assessments.

"In order to better support and ease the transition for teachers - and their students - as schools continue to adopt and implement the new standards, it's important that we understand the emerging issues and concerns related to the new Standards," said Jeffrey Choppin, an associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education.




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