FairTest released the following fact sheet about the Common
Core tests:

Common Core Assessment Myths and Realities:
Moratorium Needed From More Tests, Costs, Stress

Under No Child Left
Behind (NCLB), each state set its own learning standards and
developed tests to measure them. But NCLB’s failure to spur overall
test score gains or close racial gaps led “reformers” to push for
national, or “common,” standards. With millions in federal Race to
the Top money and NCLB “waivers” as incentives, all but a few
states agreed to adopt Common Core standards. Two multi-state
consortia — the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and
the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers
(PARCC) — won federal grants to develop Common Core tests, which
are due to be rolled out in 2014-15.

Here are the realities behind major Common Core myths.

Myth: Common Core tests will be much
better than current exams, with many items measuring higher-order
Reality: New tests will largely
consist of the same old, multiple-choice
Proponents initially hyped new
assessments that they said would measure – and help teachers
promote – critical thinking. In fact, the exams will
remain predominantly
multiple choice
. Heavy reliance on such items continues
to promote rote teaching and learning. Assessments will generally
include just one session of short performance tasks per subject.
Some short-answer and “essay” questions will appear, just as on
many current state tests. Common Core math items are often simple
computation tasks buried in complex and sometimes confusing “word
(PARCC, 2012; SBAC, 2012). The
prominent Gordon
of measurement and education experts
concluded Common Core tests are currently “far from what is
ultimately needed for either accountability or classroom
instructional improvement purposes” (Gordon Commission, 2013).

Myth: Adoption
of Common Core exams will end NCLB testing

Reality: Under
Common Core, there will be many more tests and the same
NCLB triggered a testing tsunami
(Guisbond, et al., 2012); the Common Core will flood classrooms
with even more tests. Both consortia keep mandatory annual
English/language arts (ELA) and math testing in grades 3-8 and once
in high school, as with NCLB. However, the tests will be longer
than current state exams. PARCC will test
reading and math in three high school grades instead of
one; SBAC moves
reading and math tests from 10th grade to 11th. In PARCC states,
high schoolers will also take a speaking and listening test. PARCC
also offers “formative” tests for kindergarten through second
grade. Both consortia produce and encourage additional interim
testing two to three times a year (PARCC, 2012; SBAC, 2012). As
with NCLB, Common Core tests will be used improperly to make
high-stakes decisions, including high
school graduation
(Gewertz, 2012), teacher
evaluation, and school accountability.

Myth: New multi-state assessments will
save taxpayers money.
Reality: Test costs
will increase for most states. Schools will spend even more for
computer infrastructure upgrades.
have been a big concern, especially for the five states that
dropped out of a testing consortium as of August 2013. PARCC
acknowledges that half its member states will spend more than they
do for current tests. Georgia pulled out when PARCC announced costs
of new, computer-delivered summative math and ELA tests alone
totaled $2.5 million more than its existing state assessment
budget. States
lack resources
to upgrade equipment, bandwidth and
provide technical support, a cost likely to exceed that of the
tests themselves (Herbert, 2012). One analysis indicates that Race
to the Top would provide districts with less than ten cents on the
dollar to defray these expenses plus mandated
teacher evaluations
(Mitchell, 2012).

Myth: New assessment consortia will
replace error-prone test manufacturers.

Reality: The same, incompetent, profit-driven
companies will make new exams and prep
The same old firms, including
Pearson, Educational Testing Service and CTB/McGraw-Hill, are
producing the tests. These firms have long histories of mistakes
and incompetence. The multi-national Pearson,
for example, has been responsible for poor-quality items, scoring
errors, computer system crashes and missed deadlines (Strauss,
2013). Despite these failures, Pearson
shared $23 million in contracts
to design the first
18,000 PARCC test items (Gewertz, 2012).

Myth: More rigor means more, or
better, learning.
Reality: Harder tests
do not make kids smarter.
In New York,
teachers witnessed students
brought to tears
(Hernandez & Baker, 2013),
faced with confusing instructions and unfamiliar material on Common
Core tests. New York tests gave fifth graders questions written at
an 8th grade level (Ravitch, 2013). New York and Kentucky showed
dramatic drops in proficiency and wider achievement gaps. Poor
results hammer students’ self-confidence and disengage them from
learning. They also bolster misperceptions about public school
failure, place urban schools in the cross hairs and lend ammunition
to privatization schemes. If a child struggles to clear the high
bar at five feet, she will not become a “world class” jumper
because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled “jump
higher,” or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach.

Myth: Common
Core assessments are designed to meet the needs of all

Reality: The
new tests put students with disabilities and English language
learners at risk.
for English
language learners
(Maxwell, 2013) have raised
concerns about a lack of appropriate accommodations. A U.S.
Education Department’s technical review assessed the consortia’s
efforts in July 2013 and issued a stern warning, saying that
attempts to accommodate students with disabilities and
ELLs need
more attention
(Gewertz, 2013).

Myth: Common
Core “proficiency” is an objective measure of college- and

Reality: Proficiency
levels on Common Core tests are subjective, like all performance
Recent disclosures demonstrate
that New York State set
passing scores arbitrarily
(Burris, 2013). There is
no evidence that these standards or tests are linked to the skills
and knowledge students need for their wide range of college and
career choices (Ravitch, 2013). In addition, school officials have
often yielded to the temptation to cheat and manipulate test
results to bolster the credibility of their favored
reforms. Examples include
Atlanta, New York, Washington, DC, Indiana, Florida, and more
(FairTest, 2012).

Myth: States
have to implement the Common Core assessments; they have no other

Reality: Yes
they do. Activists should call for an indefinite moratorium on
Common Core tests to allow time for implementation of truly better
High-quality assessment
improves teaching and learning and provides useful information
about schools. Examples of better assessments include
well-designed formative
(FairTest, 2006), performance
that are part of the curriculum (New
York Performance Standards Consortium), and portfolios
or Learning
(FairTest, 2007) of actual student
work. Schools
can be evaluated
using multiple sources of evidence
that includes limited, low-stakes testing, school quality reviews,
and samples of ongoing student work (Neill, 2010). It’s time to
step back and reconsider what kinds of assessments will help our
students and teachers succeed in school and life.


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