Testing Expert Calls for Moratorium on Common Core Testing

fred manhattan forum

Posted by Diane Ravitch

To view the December 11 Manhattan Forum

Fred Smith, who worked for many years in the research department of the New York CityBoard of Education (back when it had a research department, not a public relations department), offered the following testimony at public hearings in New York City on the Common Core testing (he was limited to only two minutes to speak):

My Two Minutes at the December 11, 2013 Forum in Manhattan – Spruce Street School

Chancellor Tisch, Commissioner King, thank you for visiting us.  I didn’t come here to discuss the merits of the Common Core, or rigorous standards, or high expectations, or equity for all children. I’m here to call for a moratorium on all New York State testing associated with the Common Core, because the tests themselves are indefensible.

The 2013 exams were developed by trying out items on samples of children in June 2012.  The State Education Department and its test publisher, Pearson, were well aware the stand-alone method they used to field test material for future exams was not viable, because children are not motivated to do well on items and field tests that they know don’t count—and in June, no less.

SED and Chancellor Tisch also knew the separate, stand-alone field testing approach had failed in 2009 when that year’s operational test results were so implausibly high the Chancellor could no longer sustain an obvious farce. That’s why she led us on the path to the Common Core.

So, it is outrageous to learn the 2013 tests were assembled by replicating the same discredited field testing approach that produced the 2009 fiasco.

Yet, the Chancellor and the Commissioner have described the April 2013 test results as the baseline against which students will be measured in relation to the Common Core Standards.lisa n, manhattan forum

That the 2013 tests were poorly developed is evidenced by the fact that less time was allocated to finishing the exams than had been allocated in 2012 (7% less for ELA; and 13% less time in math). And, correspondingly, my research finds a significantly higher percentage of students were unable to complete this year’s exams. 

How can tests that purport to tap critical thinking, deeper understanding and college readiness give students less time to complete?  How can the results of such ill-conceived exams possibly serve as a baseline? It’s simply irrational and points to defective testing.

To make matters worse, the upcoming 2014 statewide tests are built on the same unworkable stand-alone field testing framework—trying out items this past June. Saying that you now intend to embed more items on the 2015 exams, the preferred way to field test them, acknowledges but fails to address the deficiencies in the pivotal 2013 and 2014 exams.

And the State intends to give two more rounds of stand-alone field tests this spring.  If precedent holds, SED will not inform parents in advance that taking field tests is not mandatory.  Keeping parents in the dark prevents them from withholding consent should they decide they do not want their children to be unpaid subjects in commercial research that only begets unreliable exams.

The State has acted in bad faith by administering a dishonest testing program for over a decade. This shows no signs of common sense, manhattan forumchanging with the rush to make the flawed 2013 “core-aligned” exams the new baseline. Therefore, nothing short of a moratorium on these tests is acceptable.

~Fred Smith

Fred Smith – Retired from BOE – Worked in Test Department – Member of Change the Stakes