Common Core Assessments
“If teachers are the elevators and the curriculum is the floor plan, where do assessments fit in?” asked Mains. “In my construction analogy, the assessments are the HVAC system, which allows you to monitor your temperature as you go along and make adjustments. Some of those tests are state-made and others will be teacher or school-made. If it gets too cold in a room, the thermostat knows to kick on the heat. Assessments allow us to monitor how well a student is learning and make adjustments along the way to our instruction. Even before the Common Core, educators were using assessments. They are a natural part of the instructional cycle, but now more assessments will be aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).”
The CCLS tell educators what students need to know and do. Assessments tell educators how close they are to meeting their targets with each and every student. Assessments help measure the success of not only our students, but also our teachers, principals, schools and programs.
Last spring, the state administered tests that were Common Core-aligned, even though many districts were not yet providing Common Core aligned instruction. That led to lower scores for many students.
“It’s like the drywall arrived before we had completed the wiring. The state was very specific in telling parents that the test results were not a measure of how smart your child is or how well they did in school, only how far away they might be from meeting the new, higher standards,” said Mains. “However, having seen last year’s test questions, we are better able to structure our own district’s performance tasks to help our students be successful at meeting the new standards.”
Mains has also heard many people complain that the Common Core has brought more testing for students.
“That is not correct,” Mains stated. “We are administering the same assessments that we have in years past. We only new tests we will add this year are math screening tests, which we should have had all along, but didn’t. Those aren’t relate to the CCLS,” Mains said. “Districts could choose to include pre-tests as part of the new standards, but Jamestown chose not to do so.”
Mains reinforced that the improvement process will take several years. He expects that as JPS gets better at delivering the new curriculum, scores will gradually rise.
“In my experience, almost everyone wants schools to be better, but almost no one wants them to be different,” Mains said. “But, it needs to be different. Despite our improvements, we do not yet have enough students graduating ready for a much more challenging world. We are in the midst of constructing something that when finished, I believe it will stand as tall and as majestic as the Chrysler Building. When that time comes, we can all feel very proud of what we have done. Working together will result in a much stronger and successful school system. That system will send our students out into the world ready for college, ready for a career, ready for life.”