Education Week Explores Four Years Of Common Core

Education Week (4/22) runs a package of articles titled “Vision Meets Reality: Common Core in Action,” with the articles exploring how the Common Core Standards have impacted education policy and practice in the US over the past four years. The focus of the package is how the standards’ original conception has “bumped up against reality” as educators work to implement them.

        In the package’s lead article, Education Week (4/23, Gewertz) reports on how the standards have been “reshaping the American education landscape for four years, leaving their mark on curriculum and instruction, professional development, teacher evaluation, the business of publishing, and the way tests are designed.” The piece notes that states are gearing up to switch their state assessments to ones aligned with the standards, with over three dozen using the PARCC or SBAC tests. The article explains that the package will explore how the “initial vision for the standards--and for aligned assessments--is now bumping up against reality on the ground.”

        Common Core-Aligned Tests Face Scrutiny. Education Week (4/23, Sawchuk) reports that as states begin field-testing the Common Core-aligned assessments being created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, there have been questions about the technical infrastructure requirements that schools will have to meet due to the online nature of the assessments. The article also notes questions about how the exams “stack up to what they promised in their $360 million bids for federal funding.” The article says that while the tests’ “technological advances and embrace of performance-based assessment” have been well received, “a confluence of political, technical, and financial constraints have led to some scaling back of the ambitious plans the consortia first laid out.”

        Common Core Teacher Preparation Uneven. Education Week (4/23, Sawchuk) reports that teacher preparation tied to the Common Core Standards has been “inconsistent,” noting that some teachers “resist the call to orient preparation around them,” while others are “committed to revising courses and syllabuses to reflect the Common Core State Standards.” The article explores the concept of aligning teacher preparation programs to the Common Core and how the standards are changing pedagogical techniques.

        States, Districts Adjust Spending Plans To Common Core Needs. Education Week (4/23, Cavanagh) on how states and districts are having to adjust to new spending patterns under the Common Core Standards, focusing on curriculum materials, professional development, assessments, and the technological upgrades that many districts will have to implement “to meet the demands of the new academic guidelines and the forthcoming tests aligned to them.”

        Orlando, Long Beach Districts Take Different Approaches To Developing Curriculum. Education Week (4/23, Gewertz) profiles the districts in Orlando, Florida, and Long Beach, California, noting that while Orlando district officials “scoured the market and chose a suite of materials from a major publisher,” officials in Long Beach, “dissatisfied with that same marketplace’s offerings—and limited by their thin pocketbook—wrote their own curriculum.” The article presents the two districts’ varied takes on setting up a curriculum as emblematic of districts’ drive to “find or craft good curricula that truly reflect the new standards when they have limited time and funds and when the market is overflowing with materials claiming they’re ‘fully aligned’ with the new standards.”

        PARCC, SBAC Differ On Accommodations For Special-Needs Students. Education Week (4/23) reports that while both the assessment being developed by PARCC and the one being developed by SBAC “offer the promise of more inclusion and self-sufficiency for students with special needs and for English-language learners,” the two consortia have made “some acutely different decisions...on test administration and accessibility features.” The piece notes that “most notably,” the two groups differ on “the often-controversial topic of read-aloud accommodations.”

        Smaller Assessment Groups Crafting Radically Different Tests For Severely Disabled Students. Education Week (4/23, Heitin) reports that while much attention has been paid to SBAC and PARCC, “two lesser-known organizations—also federally funded—are working on alternate assessments for students with severe cognitive disabilities.” Education Week reports that the two groups, Dynamic Learning Maps and the National Center and State Collaborative, are “not just administering tests differently—they’re working under completely different theories of learning.”

        Common Core Inspires Bipartisan Opposition. Education Week (4/23, Ujifusa) reports that Indiana’s recent withdrawal from the Common Core in favor of a home-grown set of standards and anti-common core legislation in New York “represent two dominant poles of the growing—and evolving—resistance to the standards.” The piece notes that the standards have “drawn criticism from both the political left and right, though much of it seems aimed not so much at what the standards say, but rather who drove their adoption or the tests and accountability policies connected with them.”