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Writing, Performance Tasks Dumped From Missouri Exams

We hear from Missouri that they are cutting out the writing and performance tasks students have been required to do as part of the state's standardized-test system. Shock of the century: It's all about money.

The longer writing sections are gone, as are the extended tasks or problems students did in science and math. This stuff has to be evaluated by real humans, and it takes time, which equals money. And as we all know, money is in extremely short supply in the states right now.

Maryland dumped its respected but controversial MSPAP exams for similar reasons in 2002, to the disappointment of some educators who saw those tests as more well-rounded gauges of what students had learned. That exam made a fundamental shift away from multiple-choice responses to constructed responses. (Here's an interesting paper about the MSPAP's rise and fall by the state's former assessment director, one of the exam's designers.)

The two state consortia designing tests for the new common standards envision performance tasks and extended essay writing as part of their systems. They have federal money to design the tests and get them off the ground, but not for ongoing administration. Forty-five states are participating in these consortia, though we don't know yet how many will hang in there and agree to use the assessment systems by the time it all shakes out in 2014-15. Still, for the ones that do, how will they sustain types of assessments that some states have found too expensive and time-consuming to sustain?

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