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Common Standards, Not Tests, for Charter Schools Network

The situation Achievement First—a nationally-recognized charter schools network—finds itself in today exemplifies one conundrum of the push towards common standards and tests. And that is, the assessments will be a little less common.

As most readers surely know by now, most states have adopted the common-core standards for English/language arts and mathematics. But two separate state consortia are developing assessments to match.

According to my quick count, SMARTER Balanced now has 29 state members; PARCC has 23 plus the District of Columbia. (A handful are hedging their bets.)

And therein lies the rub for Achievement First, which operates charter schools in both New York and Connecticut. Yes, indeed: the Empire State joined one assessment consortia, Connecticut joined the other.

I was chatting this week with Nancy Livingston, the vice president of teaching and learning at Achievement First, for an upcoming story about the new math standards. She's a big fan of the document. ("Yes, a resounding yes," she replied emphatically, when I asked if she liked the math standards.)

But Livingston lamented that her network's 20 schools won't be taking the same state assessments, at least as of now, because of the states' decisions in choosing a new testing route.

"They opted into two different assessment consortia," Livingston told me. "I would like to convince Connecticut to move to PARCC. That is step one. But we're planning right now that it will be two."

She added: "We've had [our schools] operating under two different assessments historically, so it's not that different. But it's a little sad in getting to common standards that we're not getting to common assessments."

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