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States Eye Changes as They Move Toward Common Assessments

Most states have already begun the process of changing their year-end tests to reflect the common core, but nearly all report that they face challenges ahead in making the transition to computer-based tests, according to a new study.

The report, released today, is the fourth in a series by the Center on Education Policy exploring how states are implementing the Common Core State Standards. It is based on a survey of deputy superintendents and drew responses from 40 of the states that have adopted the common standards.

Assessing the common core: The survey found that 27 states will be assessing the common core this year, or already began doing so last year. Typically, they are doing this by putting in new questions or removing old ones that aren't aligned to the standards, the CEP found. One-quarter of the states that responded, however, said they have taken no steps to change their tests to reflect the common standards.

Making use of test results: Half the responding states reported that they are preparing teachers to use the results of the diagnostic assessments being designed by the two federally funded test consortia.

Student support: Nearly half of the states (19) said they are working with schools and districts on plans to provide extra help to students who need it to pass the common-core tests. Nine states reported no such work.

Attaching consequences to test results: Only eight states said they are considering delaying school- or individual-level consequences of the tests. Fifteen states reported considering no such delays. The rest said it's too soon to decide.

Considering other tests:
Interestingly, 14 of the responding states that belong to the assessment consortia are considering using other tests. Six of those states are weighing using tests in addition to or instead of those designed by the consortia. Another six said they'll consider all options, including consortia tests, and choose what's best for them.

Technological challenges: Unsurprisingly, 34 of the states said they face challenges with the computer-based tests, such as sufficient Internet access or bandwidth, having enough computers, and having the expertise to address technology challenges.

Public-relations campaigns planned:
Thirty-three of the states reported that they're planning PR campaigns in response to the next couple of years' test results. States, as you likely already know, are anticipating—or have already experienced, in the cases of Kentucky and New York—significant drops in proficiency levels when common-core-aligned tests are first given.

The effect of new tests:
Thirty-six states responded to questions about the assessment consortia to which they belong, and 30 said they're optimistic that the new test will do a better job of gauging student learning than their current tests. Twenty-seven said they think the new tests will improve instruction.

Check our blogs for more on the CEP's most recent round of reports on common-core implementation, including one that focuses on professional development, and another on curriculum alignment. This fall, the CEP will issue reports focusing on higher education's role in putting the common standards into practice and how states are preparing special populations for the new standards.

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