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Common Core Aligned Tests PARCC & Smarter Balanced - Not Perfect, Not a Federal Mandate

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 - Michael

Lately I've been paying closer attention to discussion about Common Core - particularly the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.

In case you are not aware of them, a very brief overview. In a nutshell, Common Core is an effort that increases the standards of what public school K-12 children need to learn in order to be ready to compete in today's world - often referred to as career and college ready. You can read more about them at the link above on the official Common Core website.

PARCC and Smarter Balanced are assessments/tests that are aligned to the Common Core standards and help states, administrators, teachers, and parents determine how well students are progressing towards meeting the standards.

Common Core and more directly, PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments, have caused a certain amount of controversy. (If you google "Common Core" or "PARCC" you'll see what I mean.)

There's even an opt-out movement where parents choose to have their children not take these tests/assessments. United Opt Out (UOO) is one group's website.

I think parents that are frustrated about how many days there children take and/or prepare for tests have a legitimate point. It varies from state to state, but in some states students take many more standardized tests than just PARCC or Smarter Balanced.

But there's one point that comes up pretty often, and it's just wrong. Common Core standards are not a federal mandate. The Common Core aligned tests are not federal mandates. (The No Child Left Behind law did require that states develop their own standards and their own measures of students progress from third to eigth grade and once in high school, but federal law does not require states to use the Common Core standards or the Common Core standard aligned tests like PARCC or Smarter Balanced.)

On the Common Core website you can see that not all states have implemented Common Core Standards. For example, I live in Virginia, a state that has chosen not to align to Common Core standards and does not use Common Core aligned assessments like PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

I understand and applaud those that take a close look at Common Core standards and the Common Core aligned tests. Particularly those that propose how they can be improved, and don't just have knee jerk reactions and say all tests should be thrown out.

Common Core standards are not perfect, and they are not federally mandated. And neither are the Common Core aligned tests. But don't take my word for it. See this US News & World Report article and the Common Core website.

As New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was famous for saying "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts."

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