More than 100 education researchers in California have joined in a call for an end to high-stakes testing, saying that there is no “compelling” evidence to support the idea that the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education for children or close the achievement gap, and that Common Core assessments lack “validity, reliability and fairness.”
The California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education, a statewide collaborative of university-based education researchers, recently released a research brief (see in full below below) describing concerns with the Common Core standards and the assessments being given to millions of students in California and other states around the country this spring.
The researchers, from public and private universities in California — including Stanford University, UCLA, and the University of California Berkeley — say that the Common Core standards themselves do not accomplish what supporters said they would and that linking them to high-stakes tests actually harms students. The brief says:
Although proponents argue that the CCSS promotes critical thinking skills and student-centered learning (instead of rote learning), research demonstrates that imposed standards, when linked with high-stakes testing, not only deprofessionalizes teaching and narrows the curriculum, but in so doing, also reduces the quality of education and student learning, engagement, and success. The impact is also on student psychological well-being: Without an understanding that the scores have not been proven to be valid or fair for determining proficiency or college readiness, students and their parents are likely to internalize failing labels with corresponding beliefs about academic potential.
More specific to California: a recent study on the effects of high-stakes testing, in particular of the CA High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), found no positive effects on student achievement and large negative effects on graduation rates. The authors estimated that graduation rates declined by 3.6 to 4.5 percentage points as a result of the state exit-exam policy, and also found that these negative effects were “concentrated among low-achieving students, minority students, and female students.”
The Common Core State Standards initiative has become a political issue, with Republican presidential candidates, including front-runner Donald Trump, repeatedly saying that if they become president, they will get rid of the Core. In fact, no president can do that with executive power. While the Obama administration supported the development of the Core and dangled federal dollars in front of states to “persuade” state legislatures to adopt the standards, 45 states and the District of Columbia each separately went ahead and approved the math and English standards (though some later decided to repeal or replace the standards). The administration provided two multi-state consortia with some $360 million in federal funds to develop new Core-aligned standards tests, which states could choose to join. The federal government can’t directly dictate to a state what standards and curriculum it must use.