American Radio Works is producing a four-part series on NPR about Common Core. Here is one segment. The program suggests a new turn in the reformer narrative: The Common Core is wonderful but the high stakes tests are horrendous.


I don’t mean to be cynical but I understand the idea behind Common Core and all the moving parts attached to it. In the 1990s, it was referred to as “systemic school reform.” The idea was that all the parts of the education system had to work in tandem, not separately. The standards, the curriculum, the tests, teacher education, teacher evaluation, textbooks, and every other part of the education system had to be seen as a synergistic whole. When that happened, scores would go up, and the system would achieve maximum efficiency and equity.


That is why–try as we might–the Common Core standards will not stay separated from the Common Core testing. Arne Duncan gave out $360 million to create the tests, and he knew exactly what he was doing. He pretended that the tests would not influence curriculum or instruction, but that is a transparent fiction. Tests drive curriculum and instruction, not the reverse.