Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Common Core is NOT the same as Standardized Testing

I have read a couple articles of late that have kind of pissed me off.  Mainly because they perpetuate the ideas that 1) The Common Core State Standards are handed down from the Federal Government, and 2) that the CCSS are the driving force behind Standardized Testing.  While there are connections, both claims are a complete disservice to the purpose behind and the reason for The Common Core State Standards. And they completely ignore the fact that Standardized Testing is actually controlled by testing companies and publishing companies.

I've already posted on this before - "What People Think Is Common Core ISN'T" and "Common Core, It's NOT the Devil" so I apologize now for being repetitive. One article I read last night, entitled "What's the largest number you can represent with 3 digits? Nope. It's not 999."  is a great article. I agree with everything the author said and applaud his sticking by his daughter, the second teacher, and the fact that he forced the standardized testing company to change their answers.  Awesome.  Then I saw the last line: "don't let common core stand in the way of  your own children's education".  Sigh.  IT"S NOT THE COMMON CORE that's doing this - it's publishing companies, it's testing companies, it's misunderstanding and lack of training of teachers.

As I've written before, the Common Core actually represents problem solving, critical thinking, perseverance, multiple solutions (as this author was demonstrating his daughter was showing), communication, multiple pathways.  It's all about unique minds and coming to mathematical understanding from different perspectives.  Read the standards.  Especially the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  What the above article was demonstrating was the fact that the teacher was NOT following Common Core Practices, whether through ignorance or more likely, through the pressure of textbooks publishers and standardized testing companies to "standardized" the Common Core, and thus in fact become something completely different than what the Common Core represents. Let's go back to my two previous postings....what people think is Common Core ISN'T - it comes back to our testing culture and a need to standardize so we can "assess" students quickly, and in the process, take out all the problem-solving, uniqueness, critical thinking that is the essence of the common core.

Here are some facts about the Common Core:

  1. State education chiefs and governors in 48 states came together to develop the Common Core, a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Today, 42 states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted and are working to implement the standards, which are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.
  2. States led the development of the Common Core State Standards. In 2009, state leaders, including governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, came together and decided to develop common, college- and career-ready standards in mathematics and English language arts. They worked through their membership organizations – the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) –  to accomplish this. The development process included defining expectations for what every child should know and be able to do when they graduate from high school and then creating content standards for grades K-12 aligned with these expectations. States relied on workgroups of educators, representatives of higher education and other experts to write the standards with significant input from the public in 2009 and 2010. States then appointed a validation committee to review the final standards. The federal government was not involved in the development of the standards. The final standards were published in June 2010 and available for each state to review, consider and voluntarily adopt. 
  3. Adoption of the standards is voluntary. It is up to each state and territory to decide if they choose to adopt the Common Core State Standards as their state educational standards in English language arts and mathematics. States can tailor the standards to address their needs. Here is a map showing the states that have adopted the standards.
The standards are voluntary, with the idea that if all states had the same standards it would be easier for students to be compared state-to-state and to ensure that all students, no matter where they live, were getting an equal and rigorous education. Notice - nothing about the Federal Government.  The Federal Government did encourage adoption and funding with Race-to-the-Top money if states adopted the Common Core, but not required. And NCLB did require standardized testing of all students, which is the 'standardization' push of the Common Core Standards, which are difficult to assess in a standardized test.  Standardized tests are NOT Common Core.

Standardized testing - states realized they needed to assess and that they needed some help with
standardized testing aligned to The Common Core. States got together to create consortiums, such as PARCC and Smarter Balance Assessments.  These were led by Pearson (PARCC) and a "public agency" (Smarter Balance Assessment) and state leaders who opted to join the consortiums.  These assessments are voluntary and there have been issues with both. There are currently only 15 states still in Smarter Balance and only 11 left in PARCC.  Many states have dropped out. 

With the adoption of ESSA, where states have more control over assessments, there is going to be a change in which standardized tests are used to assess students. But they are not "Common Core".  ACT, SAT, NAEP - the most commonly used now, are definitely NOT Common Core. In fact - true assessment of Common Core should not be standardized, especially when keeping the mathematical practices in check.  There-in lies the problem. We are trying to standardized standards that are meant to help students become problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and communicators. You can't demonstrate that on multiple-choice tests where one correct answer is the norm.  So - rather than blaming Common Core, blame the 'standardized' way of thinking that forces teachers to teach to a standardized test, accept only "one" answer, or force ways of thinking on students when they should be encouraging uniqueness and multiple pathways. In order to change the way students learn, we need to change the way we assess or we are always going to be forcing students into one or two ways of thinking so they can 'pass the test'. 


mrabourn said...

I see that in your Casio blog that you prefer the Prizm over TI products. I think one of Casio's main problems is lack of books on the subject. There must be at least a dozen on the TI products but I can't find one (other than the user guide) for the Casio Prizm. Maybe you should write one?

Karen Greenhaus said...

Marabourn, I appreciate the suggestion....might be in the works. Though Casio actually does have a whole series of books and webinars and an online course already. The books are on all their calculators, and then there is a Fostering Series specific to prizm, though their other graphing calculators can do all the same stuff with the exception of picture plots.

Here are some links to the resources:
1). http://www.casioeducation.com/educators/activities
2) http://www.casioeducation.com/prizm
3). http://www.casioeducation.com/lesson_library
4). http://www.casioeducation.com/products/Calculators_%26_Dictionaries/Software_%26_Additional_Products/ED-TXTBK-FOSTERSTEM
5). http://www.casihttp://www.casioeducation.com/educators/webinarsoeducation.com/educators/online_training

Karen Greenhaus said...

Mrabourn - Sorry about the name misspelling...my iPad auto correcte!

mrabourn said...

Thank you so much! I am interested in moving over to the Casio since TI seems to see the NSpire as their future and I am not a fan. The only thing that worries me is that the Prizm came out in 2011 and I think they will have a new, improved model soon so I hate to buy one right now.

Karen Greenhaus said...


Like you- NOT a fan of the Nspire. I even tried to learn by taking a course and just found it cumbersome, clunky and so difficult to remember what to do. I do think you are spot on that TI is not going to support anything beyond the Nspire, mainly because they aren't investing in their education dept anymore since it's really just a 'bonus' division to their chip industry. There are a lot of lay offs happening at TI.

As to Casio - I do know they are continuing to expand their Prizm capabilities, though I don't know if and when a new model is coming out. The R&D at Casio is constantly trying to update and meet the demands, so I know there are definitely operating system updates. What you might do in the meantime is to download the free 90-day trial emulator software, take the free online course where you can learn the Prizm, and at the end of the course, you actually get a free single-user emulator license. So you would have the Prizm on your computer for use until such time as they bring out a new model.

Here's a link to the free download: (you want the Fx-CG model) - https://edu.casio.com/freetrial/en/freetrial_list.php You will want to create an account so that you can download the emulator.

The free Prizm online course is here: http://www.casioeducation.com/educators/online_training It's self-paced.

mrabourn said...

Thank you, Karen. You have been a great help to me. I contacted Nathan Austin, market development director for Casio, and he said that a new Classpad was on its way soon but nothing new with the Prizm other than an update to the OS. Do you use and like the Classpad? Any reason to look at that rather than the Prizm? I don’t like its large size much and it appears to have tons of menus to dig through much like the Nspire.

Also, have you used Desmos, the online graphing app? I really like it although it only has a subset of graphing calculator capabilities. I wonder with the iPad and computer apps if the calculator industry will survive. Perhaps, as long as standardized testing services limit what you can use.


Karen Greenhaus said...


The ClassPad is basically a mini-computer, with touch screen (stylus) and drop down menus. It actually used more than the Prizm in most other countries. In the U.S. it has not been approved for use on the SAT or ACT and other national tests yet. I am not sure what or where you teach (or if you teach?!) but if you are currently in US, I would say the Prizm should fit most of your needs at this point.

I have used Desmos, though I do need to explore it more. But you are right - it currently only has a subset of graphing capabilities. The calculator industry will definitely have to change and become more of a web-based industry, though in all honesty, calculators will be around for another 5-10 years due to educational funding issues/equity & access. While 1:1 and BYOD seem like they are prevalent when you hear the news, the reality is that most students do NOT have access to tablets/laptops/smartphones in schools. I do a lot of research on this, and currently about 67% of students do not have regular access to any mobile device - due to lack of resources (i.e. sharing a laptop cart among 15 classrooms or one computer lab that serves all subjects and teachers). If we want to in the short-term address technology access for students, calculators like the Prizm that provide dynamic mathematics visualization and exploration are the more affordable and efficient way to get technology into the hands of students. Unless somehow K12 funding gets a huge windfall (hahahaha), I'd rather have students using hand-held technology every day than waiting around for the laptop or iPad cart to come 1-twice a month.

I do wish Sketchpad was still promoted - McGraw-Hill has developed a web-based application for Sketchpad (that works much like Geogebra - where the desktop allows you to create and the web-based allows you to easily share and publish within webpages or articles). So much better than Geogebra, and goes beyond basic graphing to dynamic. But alas...they won't sell it/release it.

Anyway - I am rambling!


mrabourn said...

You have probably run into this too, but I am surprised at the number of math teachers who do not want ANY technology being used in their classrooms! It has been an uphill battle to get them onboard whereas science teachers tend to gravitate to technology and incorporate it without much difficulty. USUALLY, this attitude parallels the teacher's belief system, either that math is done for math's sake (the technology BAD group) or kids need to see all of the applications there are to what they are learning in math.

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