The undersigned groups, representing AASA, NAESP, NASSP, and NSBA, release the following statement:
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have started to move our nation’s schools in a more positive direction as it relates to ensuring all students are striving toward high, rigorous learning goals. Overall, local school board members, superintendents, principals, and teachers believe in the CCSS and their ability to lead to deeper levels of learning for our nation’s students. In fact, the majority of respondents of a recent NAESP survey of 916 elementary and middle-level principals from 14 early adopter states—states that both adopted CCSS into policy before other states and also enacted ambitious efforts to heighten awareness and implementation of the standards—believe that the CCSS will increase students’ skill mastery across subjects, and provide a curriculum frame for deeper conceptual understanding of math and English language arts. Undoubtedly, the corresponding online assessments, currently under construction, stand to play a very important role in the education arena, but only if we get it right. With more federal involvement and less state leadership, we are concerned that the momentum of the online assessments could derail the good work already in place through the CCSS and deny the assessments the opportunity to provide the same academic benefits. It is imperative that all educators and education stakeholders who support the new standards initiative have the time necessary to get it right and make it work in schools. We should move with all deliberate speed; in this case, “deliberate” is more important than “speed.”
While assessment has an important role to play as one of multiple measures for evaluating student learning and achievement, the continued reliance on one-time testing diverts attention away from content and the substance of what is being taught. This is especially problematic when the one-time tests are brand-new, recently aligned with new standards, and schools have had insufficient time to prepare teachers to meaningfully incorporate the standards and aligned assessments into their teaching. Principals report that, despite having received some related professional development over the past two years, they largely lack preparation to lead and sustain the CCSS. School district leaders and principals need more time and adequate professional development to manage the change process in schools; evaluate teachers’ use of the new standards during instruction; align schools’ instructional focus; make key decisions on the best types of professional development to support teachers; and develop extended learning opportunities to sufficiently address CCSS implementation. Further, they need sufficient allocation of financial resources to implement this array of school-based activities.
The momentum toward online assessments and the pressure to meet another arbitrary target (implementation in the 2014-2015 school year) should not get ahead of the very real obstacles states and districts face in aligning the curriculum with the new standards and implementing the tests. It is imperative that we all consider the implications for bandwidth, infrastructure, and professional development as it relates to online assessment. We must make adequate time for a thoughtful conversation about how assessments can be used to provide instructionally useful information to schools in a timely manner. This conversation must address the additional time that is needed to allow states and districts to properly address data collection issues, which have dogged states since the inception of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) more than a decade ago. Educators also need time to adjust to the seismic shift in practices and expectations of CCSS and the related assessments. And the conversation must address granting our schools and districts the time to identify, acquire, and implement the essential technology infrastructure and equipment that is sorely needed, especially at the elementary level, to support the delivery of new online assessments. Finally, school districts need time to educate the community, including media, about the reasons CCSS are important; to inform them about the changes in content and instruction the CCSS will bring about; and to manage expectations when early results on new assessments will likely be lower because of higher standards, new instruction and curriculum for teachers and students. Getting this transition right can mean the difference between getting and keeping public and educator support for the Common Core or a loss in confidence in the standards and even the public schools, especially if as expected the first-year scores will disappoint.