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Will the New Assessments Make a Difference?

Mixed into the optimistic visions of the folks working on new assessments for the common standards are some more-skeptical strains. One recent example I've come across: a prediction from George Wood, the executive director of the Forum for Education and Democracy, that the new tests won't prove, in the end, to be all that different from the tests we've got now. An interesting aspect of Wood's essay is his description of the performance-based testing at his small Ohio high school: Take a look at what students there are doing in order to demonstrate their knowledge. Both of the main assessment consortia envision including performance-based tasks in their their assessment systems. How those will play out, and how they will be used in states' accountability calculations, are worth watching.

Another skeptical strain worth taking a look at comes in an amusing—but telling—form: a blog post capturing a high school teacher's own internal battle about whether to get excited about the new common standards-and-assessment venture or keep a safe, cynical distance borne of life experience.

It's worth keeping in mind, too, that we don't have just two consortia working on tests for the common standards. The federal government has awarded grants to two groups of states to develop tests for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and recently announced a grant competition for the design of tests of English language proficiency aligned to the new standards, as well.

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