Category Archives: PARCC Testing

Maryland’s Common Core Scores are set to Rise in Future Years

Back on July 22, 2010, Maryland joined on as one of the first states to allow for the eventual implementation of the Common Core. While it has met with resistance similar to that seen all over the country, it has nevertheless remained firm in its stance of adoption, strategically silencing any opponents that arise. That being said, the recently released PARCC scores (a statewide test that aligns its questions to Common Core standards) are ushering in a new wave of fear.

Protest

Most states agreed to adopt the Core back in 2010. During this time, states held open houses, inviting all parents, teachers and other education community members to weigh in on the whys and hows of implementation. Three years later, those that didn’t heed the call began rallying against the new curriculum with many fearing it to be some sort of twisted Federal plot to influence the children. Though scary, these opponents failed to realize that the Core was and remains fully adaptable to the needs of each and every school. It doesn’t tell teachers what to teach and how to teach it. It gives them a set of standards students should reach by the time they graduate each grade level. This alone has allowed Maryland to maintain its firm, supportive stance of the Core.

Scores

Just because the state supports the Core doesn’t mean it hasn’t made concessions to protect its teachers and students from unjust penalties. In 2013, for instance, Maryland voted to delay teacher evaluations based off of Common Core tests until 2016-2017. The sole reason for this was because of the simple fact that the teachers needed more time to learn how to teach these new assessments, a move that is allowing each educator time to feel out the best way to approach teaching the standards.

In the end, this proved to be a smart move. In October of this year, the first PARCC test scores were released, revealing that less than half of the state’s students passed 10th grade Algebra I, Algebra II and English. However, instead of a tumultuous uproar from the community decrying the test and the Core as terrible things, most have found the facts sobering. While all understand it takes a few years for test score on new exams to improve, the more challenging curriculum has laid bare the fact that students aren’t ready for higher education. But instead of tossing out PARCC in favor on an easier test to bloat scores like Ohio has done, Maryland is taking this setback as a challenge. Once the nation’s leader in terms of education, they see now that there are major flaws that must be fixed if the children are to succeed in an ever increasingly competitive and globally connected world.

Puerto Rico has its own Common Core Opinion

Though Common Core has been a highly controversial topic within the states, most news agencies forget that it hasn’t just been affecting them. In fact, all US territories have been offered the chance to adopt these new educational standards, including Guam, the American Samoan Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Of these territories, it’s Puerto Rico that has resisted adoption entirely, joining the ranks of Texas, Alaska and Oklahoma.

A Failing System

The story of not adopting the standards is inextricably tied to Puerto Rico’s current failing economy. With no power to vote, the country has been nothing but a slave to American interests based on economic needs and wants. Having been abused for so long now, the country has amassed a stunning $72 million in debt worsened by the decreasing population as those that can move somewhere else, do. To put this into perspective, Puerto Rico is twice as poor as Mississippi, the poorest state, but has double the cost of living.

What does this have to do with education?

Everything.

Much like rural school systems in the states are often years behind their more affluent city counterparts, Puerto Rico is doing everything it can to stay financially afloat including slashing an already depressingly low school budget. In the face of such a budget, the last thing the country needed was to add a curriculum that would cost money the country doesn’t have to implement in accordance with US design.

Pulling Back from Education

A recent report from former IMF consultants found that if Puerto Rico where to lay off teachers, drastically cut education spending and a variety of other steps, they could begin to get the financial situation under control. However, it’s also widely recognized that a stronger economy requires a good education system in order to keep the work force strong. It’s become a catch-22 that both students and teachers are ready to protest.

Is there a solution? At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer. After all, the problems are highly varied and not entirely clear themselves. The one thing they all agreed on, however, was that Common Core was not needed. To a country in their position, Common Core is a hope for a future where the educational system isn’t continually threatened by the economy.

In the end, Puerto Rico isn’t against Common Core so much as it is unable to hold debates about it. There are far more pressing matters looming on the horizon, making these standards seem trivial in light of trying to keep money in the school system. Provided financial hope can be cultivated, there may be adoption plans for the future. For now, however, the Core isn’t even important enough to spark the widespread debate seen in the states.

North Dakota’s stance with Common Core

When North Dakota adopted the Common Core on June 20, 2011, it signed up as one of the last states to join. However, instead of finding itself suffering from whiplash brought on by opponents, it’s managed to perform one of the few, smooth implementations of the standards. Even so, this year did see a rather strong push to have the Core taken out of the state.

Defeating the Bill

As far as Core controversy goes, North Carolina has managed to stay out of the spotlight for many years. They brought in the new standards, put them to use in the classrooms and that seemed to be the end of it. Then, in 2015, House Bill 1461 came to light, demanding the state withdraw from Common Core altogether. Interestingly enough, the Bill was actually divided into two parts.

The first, Division A, required North Dakota to withdraw from the Core’s standardized test, Smarter Balance. This section was surprisingly torn, with a final vote of 43-46, falling to defeat by only three votes. Standardized tests are never positive subjects, so it came as no big surprise to find such dissent, especially with the bad stories about Smarter Balance emerging from other states.

The second, Division B, called for the total cancellation of the standards and was defeated 89-0, proving that the state stands firmly behind the standards. In fact, legislators at the hearing cited that the majority of educators across the state stood behind a Core that was developed for the state by the input of over 130 educators from North Dakota. To the parents that would argue the standards are too hard, representatives ask them why raising the bar is such a bad thing.

Parent Opposition

In light of the defeat, upset parents have been voicing their concerns that the state just isn’t listening, citing the 1,400 petitions around the state calling for the Core’s removal. Many talk about being worried about how such changes are affecting the children. In response, lawmakers point out the absurdity of getting upset over a test that hasn’t even been given yet. In the end, though, the parents opposing it aren’t loud enough to force the legislature into overthrowing a stable system the teachers are now integrated into.
In amongst the debates flying across the nation about the validity of or unconstitutional reach of Common Core, North Dakota remains a fervent fan even in the face of a few upset parents. To their educators throughout the state, the changes have all been for the better, and they have never been more ready to implement the new standardized testing than now. So long as the standards do what they promise and North Dakota adheres to them, their future looks much brighter due to the greater educational challenge.

New York’s adaptation of Common Core

Adopted July 19, 2010, New York brought in the Common Core standards in a very similar fashion to the rest of the US. Though initially planned to be put into practice by the 2013-14 school year, it has since faced an extension as educators and parents continue to vehemently express their concerns. However, such a move is leaving the state without a way to hold their teachers accountable for poor performance.

More Time

Though everything was supposed to be ready to go by the end of 2013, New York’s Board of Regents, the group responsible for overseeing all educational activity of the state, managed to delay the implementation by five more years, promising even the class of 2022 that they won’t be held to the standards. On top of this, they also granted teachers a two years’ reprieve from any type of consequences stemming from the new standardized test being given.

According to the group, they have heard concerns from both teachers and parents and feel everyone still requires more time to adjust accordingly. Many see this as an understandable reaction since just last year the new statewide exam was given, resulting in plummeting test scores. Many immediately blamed those in charge of the state’s educational system, citing that they failed to prepare classrooms enough for the change.

More Money

Of course, this change doesn’t come cheaply. In fact, this new course comes with a price tag of $525 million that will be used to train teachers to implement the standards. The Governor was less than pleased to hear this, especially since the teachers wouldn’t be held accountable for two years. In retaliation, he called for a serious re-examination of the ability of the Board of Regents to perform correctly, citing the two year grace period as yet another way for them to block the implementation of any kind of teacher evaluation system. One, he says, that is desperately needed.

However, not everyone is upset. The many legislators on both sides of the fence that were pushing for a delay understandably fully support this decision. It’s a step in the right direction to these supporters, giving parents, students and teachers what they’ve needed to ease most of the concerns.
In New York, the question isn’t about whether to get rid of Common Core, it’s about whether or not it will ever be implemented. Already the official switchover date has been pushed back nearly a decade in addition to postponing the general exam’s ability to prove or disprove a teacher’s abilities. No matter the outcome, the schools now have plenty of time to figure out and implement the Common Core standards that are so much tougher than New York’s previous requirements.

South Carolina’s Controversial Common Core

Though adopted July 14, 2010 during the first wave of Common Core introduction, South Carolina has always treated the movement with outright hostility. Never a state to stay calm, such seemingly blatant disregard for the state’s solidarity in educational standards has kept the state on edge for the better part of four years. Almost inevitably, though, the standards were dropped, however whether this was a wise decision is still being debated just as intensely.

State Pride

In a sentence that sums up South Carolina’s mentality, Governor Nikki Haley called for Core repeal by stating, “We don’t ever want to educate South Carolina children like they educate California children.” This is in regard to the ideal that the Core would unite the states so that every child everywhere would receive the same level of education. So, for instance, if a teen moved during high school, they would have no problem picking up where they left off.

Unfortunately, the message was taken to mean government takeover more so than college readiness. To further slander the Core, opponents sought out difficult and confusing math problems as testaments to what a poor decision adoption of the standards was. When teachers were asked about it, they were quick to point out that no state or classroom was ever forced to use specific problems, meaning the “evidence” was entirely misleading.

Core Cancellation

Deceptive though it was, it opened the floodgates of contempt, resulting in an official repeal signed in 2014 to go active for the 2015-16 school year. Interestingly enough, this bill also came with stipulations to prevent educators from simply re-adopting chunks of the Common Core and renaming it. Under this new bill, an Education Oversight Committee must sign off on all standards before they can go into effect. Though this certainly seems hypocritical in light of South Carolina’s detestation of any kind of federal control, it is in place due to reports coming from Indiana. There, opponents are accusing the state of simply changing the name but not the Core.

Teacher Worry

As the new school year without the Core looms ahead, educators are working hard to develop South Carolina standards for where they want their state’s children to be. Ironically, opponents of the Core have turned out to be unhappy with the new standards, seeing them as so difficult that they set their children up to fail. The Board of Education backs this belief by confirming that they are indeed more challenging. Teachers also support the difficulty increase, citing the fact that parents now can’t expect their children to learn how they learned. The world has changed and so have its demands upon graduation. The educators believe in their students and understand that in order to truly prepare them for graduation, the standards need to be made just a little harder.

Uniquely Intense Debate for Common Core Standards in New Hampshire

Though a small state, New Hampshire has been embroiled in the Common Core debate so uniquely intense on the east coast since it adopted them July 13, 2010. From that day, it has met with nothing but a storm of conflict ripping through the states closest to DC. While it’s fought off a lot of naysayers over the past few years with some compromises, it nonetheless has had to put its foot down legally to keep the Core in place.

Veto Power

Earlier this year, Governor Maggie Hassan used her power to completely veto a bill that would have prohibited every school in New Hampshire from implementing the new standards. Named Bill 101, Hassan vehemently argued that such a bill would completely undercut the state’s aim to bring their students successfully into a 21st century work force. To her, the Core represents an innovative push into the future through modernized education akin to the standards upheld in Europe and Asia.

This is in retaliation to the growing voice of opposition that appeared around 2013. Those against it paint it as a federal scheme to undermine state control of education with the temptation of desperately needed federal money as the means to get states to sign on to an otherwise optional program. Instead of debasing the voices, Hassan appealed to them directly, asking them to not focus on the Core so much as the continued authority of the local districts over how the standards are implemented and taught.

Opting Out & Flexibility

Joining many other states to do so, New Hampshire, once a staunch voice against the practice, backtracked its ideals, passing Bill 603. This now allows parents to opt their children out of the standardized testing that accompanies Common Core. Like many states, though the new curriculum holds promise, the standardized testing does not. Seen as a long time hindrance to actual education, more and more parents are quick to save their children from the joke of standardized testing they once had to endure.

To combat this, New Hampshire then agreed to work to give their schools more freedom in regards to assessing student progress. While schools do need assessments to adhere to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the reluctance of parents to use Smarter Balance as the means by which their children are judged has forced the state’s hand. To go beyond the Common Core standardized test, New Hampshire is looking at both the SAT and ACT, two national tests that are actually used by the nation’s colleges to judge aptitude. With the Core aiming to make the children better ready for college, it would make sense that then applying that to tests that matter for their future careers should be the standard they seek to reach.

Economic Growth Hopes from Common Core in Maine

Unlike most of the other early adopters, Maine held out officially taking in Common Core until April 4, 2011. Even though a year later in enactment, opposition still arose in 2013 with the nationalization of concerns regarding the Core. While just as noisome as across the rest of the US, Maine is standing its ground against the onslaught of bills seeking to repeal the applied standards.

2014 Ballot

Adopted and implemented during the 2011 year, Maine became one of over 40 other states to agree to adhere to the Common Core standards initiative. While there were about two years of silence from the public, it was the Maine Equal Rights Center that spoke out first. In August of 2013, they declared that they would launch a petition campaign to repeal the curriculum. If it managed to collect enough signatures, 58,000, an option to fully repeal the standards would enter onto the November 2014 ballot. That many signatures would have also made it the first petition of its kind in the US. Though seemingly backed by a large amount of people, there were not enough to make it a reality, leaving the group defunct currently.

Former Governor Support

Not a few months later, former Governor, John McKernan Jr., went on record during a heavily attended conference of education to state that he very much supported the Common Core. In front of over 300 Maine educators, he declared his belief that the standards would have a positive impact on the educational lives of Maine’s students, allowing them a fighting chance at attending the best colleges around the world.

One of his main arguments was the benefit the Core could potentially have on the Maine economy. During 2013, there was a reported huge skills gap with many employers in every sector decrying the lack of skilled workers. By improving public schools, he argued, the economy would see the growth it was asking for.

Science Veto

It should be noted that Common Core only ever sought to upgrade English Language Arts and math. However, recent developments have introduced a science section. Unfortunately, current Governor Paul LePage gave his veto to a bill that would have required the implementation of Common Core science, citing budget restrictions in an already financially burdened time. While a fan of educational growth, LePage couldn’t justify forcing every school in Maine to rewrite their science curriculums.

Interestingly enough, many were disappointed. While English and math were certainly offensive enough to garner such statewide hatred, science certainly brought the two conflicting sides together, seeing this subjects as a way to foster job growth in Maine. Even still, current leaders are quick to point out that in about a year or two they plan on officially bringing in the science aspect of Common Core. Resources are stretched thin, and they need a bit more time.

Unique Consequences of Common Core in South Dakota

Of all the states to adopt Common Core, South Dakota has seen some of the most unique arguments of all the 45 states involved. Adopted November 29, 2010, the state senate has seen its fair share of bills trying to repeal the adoption altogether. As it becomes clearer that the state is going to stick with its decision to go with the Core, opponents are citing everything they can as reasons to prevent fixing it and promote flunking it.

Native American Suicide Rate

Above all the other arguments, tying the Common Core standards to increased Native American suicide rates is by far the most unique to South Dakota. Nowhere else has this argument come about. According to Republican Elizabeth May, the standards are stressing out an already taxed population of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She firmly argues that the curriculum puts way too much pressure on the students, resulting in many not even attending school in addition to teachers quitting under the increased pressure to perform.

Parent Fighting Testing

This recent school year saw the first influx of parents fighting to keep their kids from taking the standardized test, Smarter Balanced. Back in 2014, the state actually wrote a bill that would allow parents to opt their children out of the test. Unfortunately, it was defeated 8-7 in the House Education Committee. It appeared again in early 2015 and still met with defeat.

While the parents didn’t have legal support by the state to opt their children out of the test, many did it anyway. Be it because they were tired of all of the testing or through fear of federal takeover, a small percentage of South Dakotan parents kept their children home from school the days of the test. While they only represented a tenth of a percent in regards to the total population of the state, it nonetheless confused policy makers on how to react. Though there is no legal support for opting out, there’s nothing that tells schools or officials what to do when parents decide to go this route.

Common Core Survival

In amidst this hodgepodge of debate, legislation stands strong in support of their scholastic change. Earlier this year, House Bill 1223 journeyed through the House in an attempt to repeal the Common Core. Bolstered by the budget spent on it and the years teachers spent preparing, lawmakers basically forced it out of circulation by giving it a recommendation of “do not pass”. In reaction to this, they passed a statement declaring that they would defeat any other such bills trying to worm their way through the system. Opponents decried a lack of time to hear arguments against the standards, but the committee presiding the two hour event that featured parents, teachers and officials snapped back, telling them everyone had their chance and the hearing rules were followed.

Implementation of Common Core in Ohio

On June 18, 2010, Ohio officially adopted the Common Core standards. Like all states, no one really cared about its passage until 2013 turned it into a controversy. Supported by teachers, unions, the PTA and even Governor John Kasich, the rigorous standards appeared a great option until the controversy swept in. Since then, it’s been a back and forth with politics driving the wedge between opponents and proponents even deeper.

2010-11

In this early period, Ohio both adopted the standards and was awarded one of the Race to the Top educational grants. One year later, they joined the developmental effort to create standardized tests that matched the Core’s curriculum, an initiative led by PARCC and Smarter Balanced. It was a relatively slow time in terms of debate.

2013

Then, from seemingly out of nowhere, the opposition grew fast and strong. Often cited as being fueled by conservatives as well as other states successfully stopping their own implementations of Common Core, bills began appearing calling for the total repeal of the standards. Even though the entire education committee stood behind the Core because it introduced the most rigorous standards Ohio had ever seen, opponents seemed to be crawling at their chance to pass legislation that would stop it. Many even admit to having never even heard about the standards until implementation really kicked into gear to prep for testing in 2014.

2015

Though naysayers continued throughout 2014 to shut down the Core, Ohio stood strong, continuing forward until this year’s first round of official testing. Much like anything new, though, it met with plenty of bugs that left the school’s less than pleased. Including crashes and what was widely considered to be a waste of time, lawmakers have been quick to move toward scrapping PARCC altogether in favor of a multiple standardized testing system where each district gets to choose their own test.

In response to this, PARCC Chairman Char Shylock is continuing to fight hard for the test they’ve worked so hard to build, citing that new things are always hard. They will have issues. However, the company is responding to and fixing everything reported to them, exemplifying this by a reported 85% drop in calls to their help center following the first trial.

Even still, both Republicans and Democrats in Ohio are actually agreeing. Both sides support a multi-test system. In their eyes, it’s the only way for school districts to assign tests that accurately measure their students’ improvements over the course of the kids’ educational careers.

While the debates still rage on, it’s no longer about repealing Common Core so much as it is about how best to mold it to fit the needs of the students in Ohio. With total implementation finally over, the hardest part now is deciding how to turn it into state standards that everyone can be happy with.

Success with New Standards in Nevada

Unlike the majority of the states, Common Core is firmly supported by virtually all of Nevada. Adopted June 22, 2010, teachers, parents and even the legislature have stood behind it, proudly announcing the success their students are reaping from the new standards. While dissent grew in the north, it was handled responsibly and respectfully, making Nevada one of the more mature states of this entire debate.

Small Discontent

In late 2013 and early 2014, it became clear that Northern Nevadans were growing increasingly upset with the Common Core. Instead of forcing them to comply or otherwise threatening to cut funding, the Nevada Board of Education, Washoe County School District and Education Alliance of Northern Nevada teamed up in an effort to educate the public about the Core standards. The Superintendent then announced a string of open forums where the entire community would be invited to partake in an honest discussion about what the Core is and what it is not.

Support and Mishaps

With the successful role out of the new standards came the inevitable turn to mandatory yearly testing that coincided with the new curriculum. Unfortunately, this met with a bit of a snag. On the first day of testing, computers around the state crashed, bringing the test to an indefinite halt. The Superintendent of Public Instruction was less than pleased with Measured Progress’ ability to deliver a system without bugs. As it turns out, the testing company didn’t have enough server power, resulting in a crash as soon as too many students logged in. Luckily, however, not every school was affected. Those that waited a little longer managed to get on and take the test without issue.

While the error was inevitably fixed and students were able to finally show what they learned, a proposal entered into the Nevada assembly. Its contents, written by Brent Jones, would have forced all Nevada schools to allow the parents the right to opt their kids out of any standardized test that paralleled the Common Core, claiming the Core to be an experiment on the children. While no one was allowed to testify for or against after his speech, the proposal failed.

In response to not being heard at the actual hearing, many educators took to the internet to share their first hand opinion of the common core. Hands down, they see it as one of the best things to happen to their poverty-stricken students. Instead of forcing the students to memorize without understanding, it gets them to figure out the answers on their own, coming to the same conclusions but with a complete grasp of the concepts. These teachers want nothing more than to see their bilingual students become the first in their families to attend and excel in college, achieving the American Dream that so many of us forget.