This is a good question, and one that Catherine Gewertz addresses in her blog at Education Week – What Do Kentucky Test Results Foreshadow for the Common Core.
In her blog she mentions:
…Those grade 3-8 results, though, probably offer the clearest view of what other states can anticipate when they administer tests that align well with the common standards. There, the percent of students scoring proficient dropped by about one third, as Andrew reports . . . . State officials took pains to explain that this is what happens when tougher standards and tougher tests hold our children to higher expectations. Kentucky’s hardly the only state using—or planning to use—this approach.
Catherine and the Kentucky state officials are right to focus their attention on the change in the assessment and the changes in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as the main sources for the drops in scores in KY. However, these are not the only important factors. Two other factors contribute to these results and it is these factors which provide the cause for hope that test scores will improve over time.
1. The newness of the curriculum may be a factor in lower scores. Teachers are less familiar with delivering instruction based on the CCSS content. Many of the lessons and units they delivered during this first year of implementation are new ones. Good teachers will modify their lessons and units to make them more effective based on student feedback that they received during the first implementation. I know as a teacher I did a better job the second year with a new curriculum or a new textbook. I learned which lessons worked and which didn’t and I learned where students were likely to have difficulty.
Over time teachers had honed their strategies for delivering instruction on the old curriculum aligned to the old standards and test scores improved. In the same way, as instruction becomes more attuned to the new curriculum, scores will continue to improve.
2. All tests are based on the notion of opportunity to learn. The Common Core standards tend to introduce topics earlier. Obviously, the best way to introduce a new curriculum is from the beginning. However, this is not often done and thus students are introduced in the middle of things. If students have not been instructed in everything aligned to CCSS that would tend to produce lower scores. This missing instruction may include topics from earlier grades in the CCSS. This problem will be mitigated the longer students have been exposed to curriculum aligned to Common Core standards.
So will the Common Core State Standards deliver lower test scores? Yes, but only for a while. Are there other factors that could contribute to lower test scores? What do you think? Drop a comment below.