Ineffective assessments, part III: Why Common Core fails
Setting uniform standards for students from South Dakota to New York City sounds like a smart plan in theory. In order to compete in the future world economy, American students need to master certain subject areas and be on the same page with them. The standardization of learning also helps feed the college system more readily, ensuring that students are learning at a heightened level and not being taught remedial skills that should have been mastered before high school graduation. As you may have guessed, the way that these blanket, Common Core standards are measured for effectiveness is through assessments. Once again, each state has its own brand of assessments but those that have adopted Common Core standards must adhere to a heightened level of questioning.
The problems with Common Core standards and their accompanying assessments lie below the surface, however, and reflect the larger problem with K-12 testing in America. No two students are the same, and will not learn effectively in the same way as the person sitting right next to them. When you factor in things like environmental and socioeconomic differences, as well as regional environments, there really is no way that any one curriculum standard or set of tests can cover an entire nation of K-12 learners (or even a majority of them, based on the states that have adopted the standards).
Assessments turn living, breathing students into machines, of sorts, who must be programmed to spit out the right answers at the right time in order to further the value of an American education.
Common Core standards single-handedly thrust the issue of what should be learned, and how that material should be tested, into the national spotlight again. While educators had never abandoned this discussion, and likely never will, the general public seemed to awaken abruptly and passionately regarding what K-12 students should be learning. This has set the stage for a thorough reimagining of assessments in U.S. classrooms and has presented an opportunity for public support of change.
So where do we start?