Attention, parents! Indiana is piloting new Common Core field tests this spring. If there is a Common Core pause going on in Indiana, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) isn’t on board. On February 3, 2014, the IDOE sent out an email to school superintendents informing schools about the test:
The U.S. Department of Education requires states to administer assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards by the spring of 2015. The Indiana Education Roundtable and Indiana State Board of Education are expected to adopt a new set of college- and career-ready standards on or before July 1, 2014. These new Indiana standards will be used to create college- and career-ready assessments for administration during the spring of 2015.
As part of the transition to college- and career-ready assessments, the Indiana Department of Education has a responsibility to provide students and educators with access to assessments that include technology-enhanced items and measure college- and career-ready standards. Therefore, the Indiana Department of Education will require the online administration of items from CTB’s CoreLink item bank in May of 2014 to students in grades 3-8.
CoreLink items are aligned to Indiana’s current standards [the Common Core], and administering CoreLink items will enable schools to gauge their progress toward preparing students to be college and career ready.
Let’s break this down:
- The US Department of Education requires us to have college and career ready assessments in 2015.
- The “new” standards, adopted by the State Board of Education, will be used to create the 2015 assessments.
- This year the state must pilot an assessment like the one we will use next year to meet the federal requirement of college and career ready assessments.
- The pilot test will be Common Core aligned.
- Next year we will have Common Core assessments.
The IDOE is defining “a college and career ready assessment” as a Common Core aligned assessment, like PARCC or Smarter Balanced. State law requires that standards must be aligned with assessments. If we are having a Common Core aligned test in 2015, we are having CommonCore aligned standards in 2015.
This is probably the reason the “new” drafts still reflect almost 100% of the Common Core content. You can’t assess students over standards they haven’t learned; standards must match assessments. We are not developing standards that are “uncommonly high, written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers; we are writing standards that are aligned with Common Core assessments, as required by the federal government.
Corelink is owned by McGraw Hill/CTB which also holds the Indiana contract for ISTEP. The Corelink website describes the assessment as:
“CoreLink™ Services is a cost-effective, comprehensive solution to help you ease the transition to Common Core State Standards(CCSS). It includes a new item bank that aligns to the Common Core and a wide array of professional development and psychometric services to help you build a bridge from your existing standards to the Common Core.” [emphasis mine]
Coincidentally, McGraw Hill is also contracted to provide test-items for the PARCC and Smarter Balance consortiums. No differentiating distinction has been made between the bank of test items they refer to in their advertising for Corelinks and those for the testing consortiums. On the surface, it seems Indiana is piloting a version of PARCC, with test items that have the same content and student expectations.
Unbeknown to many, the IDOE is continuing with the transition plan to the PARCC assessment, which was prohibited by HB1427. Even State Board of Education members were unaware of the plans to continue with the field test. According to the minutes from the October 2, 2013 State Board of Education meeting, questions were asked when board members discussed details of the new test:
“Ms. Whicker asked Superintendent Ritz about CoreLinks, what it was and when it was decided. Whicker explained that she didn’t know the Board had decided anything and thought it was still up to the Board to decide.”
“Mr. Elsener asked if this was a bridge to PARCC; to which Superintendent Ritz agreed.”
Omission of the fact that we are still preparing for a Common Core aligned assessment that our standards must, by law, be aligned to, creates a sense of distrust in what is being hailed as the most transparent process in the country to develop standards. It’s a short sighted play by those at the IDOE and unnecessary to keep the NCLB waiver. If we develop our own standards that are approved by our institutes of higher-ed as “college and career ready,” any assessments aligned to those standards would be “college and career ready” as well.
Indiana can develop its own standards that aren’t aligned to Common Core and meet the waiver requirement for “college and career ready,” but that will only happen if the IDOE and CECI are willing. So far, it seems they prefer to be a good-little-state and follow the feds preference of Common Core.