It’s parent teacher conference time and teachers are working to explain Common Core to parents. This includes testing results and progress in the curriculum up to this point in the year.
The states that have started to implement Common Core Assessments, such as New York, Minnesota, and Kentucky, have experienced dramatic drops in proficiency rates. New York, for example, went from a statewide reading proficiency rate of 55.1% in 2012 to a statewide proficiency rate of 31.3% in 2013 following the implementation of the Common Core Assessments.
To make matters worse, most parents and community members are confused about the Common Core Standards and their purpose in education. The 45th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll on the Public’s Attitudes Towards Public Schools revealed that 62% of Americans have never even heard of the new standards. Even worse, most of those who have heard of the standards harbor a number of misconceptions about them. According to the Gallup poll, the most common misconceptions are the following: thinking Common Core Standards are federally mandated, thinking they are a “mash-up” of all the states’ standards, and thinking that the standards are telling educators how to teach. This leaves teachers and administrators to explain decreasing achievement rates to many parents who don’t fully understand the process. This can be a difficult and emotional situation for both educators and parents.
Handling this situation effectively and calmly requires two things: 1) a clear understanding of why the scores have decreased; and 2) specific strategies to explain the Common Core assessment shifts to the community.
Why Scores Have Decreased
Scores have decreased because of test-format transfer. Any time the format of a test changes, scores tend to decrease across the board. The new Common Core Assessments are administered via computer, a format change for many states, which contributes to decreased achievement scores. Digital assessments are increasing in popularity, and it’s unlikely that this trend will reverse itself. Using other digital assessment in the classroom all year can minimize the effects of test-format transfer on students. but for this year, the new format is likely having an impact on the Common Core Assessment results.
Scores have also decreased because Common Core Standards and Common Core Assessments are more rigorous than most existing state achievement exams. Nationally speaking, the Common Core Standards are more difficult than many pre-existing state standard documents. Reading-level requirements are more rigorous for most states, and some math content is introduced at earlier grade levels.