Georgia’s announcement last week that it plans to opt out of the Common Core Standards assessments raises doubts as to whether the more rigorous standards can be measured effectively. The state cited costs and technology capacity as the main reasons it turned down the tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
“Assessing our students’ academic performance remains a critical need to ensure that young Georgians can compete on equal footing with their peers throughout the country,” Governor Nathan Deal said. “Georgia can create an equally rigorous measurement without the high costs associated with this particular test. Just as we do in all other branches of state government, we can create better value for taxpayers while maintaining the same level of quality.”
Georgia’s decision comes at a time when the debate over the quality of Common Core Standards has caused ideological battles between Republicans and Democrats.
Several state GOP legislators have called for the repeal of Common Core Standards, though legislative efforts have failed. Democrats, on the other hand, see Republican efforts as a way to undermine student achievement and enrichment through the new standards.
Either way, Georgia has opened the discussion about the cost effectiveness of the program.
Matt Cordoza, spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), argued that the two tests offered by PARCC, English language arts and math, costs more than the total budget for all the combined tests that Georgia implements.
Cordoza could not exactly quantify the costs figures for each Georgia tests per pupil, but said that they determined that the state could design similar assessments for roughly $8 to $9 per test per pupil at a total cost of about $18 for both the ELA and math test.
For comparison, PARCC is offering its computer-based assessment for $29.50. That $10 difference led GaDOE officials to halt a buy-in to the tests.
Cordoza also mentioned that technology issues would affect the way the state could deliver the assessments. He said that PARCC told states they are required to have a 2 to1 ratio of students per computer. Georgia has an average of 2.7 to 1.
Though that figure does not run across the board with all school districts, there are some urban and rural districts that lack the hardware capacity to accommodate all students within a timely fashion.
Beyond costs and technology, Georgia still wants to ensure that the state has complete control over Common Core, right down to the tests. If changes need to be made either to the standards or the tests, the state wants to be able to have the flexibility to do so.
Cordoza said that GaDOE officials believe the state can best match the nationally-standardized PARCC tests in alignment and rigor.
Most states have to roll out assessments by the 2014-2015 school year. Cordoza said that as of now, the state is still on track to have the tests by then.
Georgia, like many other states, just completed its first year implementing Common Core. For testing, the state used its Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) and End-of-Course (EOC) tests to measure students against the new standards. Cordoza said these tests can be used in the future.
“In theory we can always use those tests as long as they are aligned and the rigor is elevated,” he said.
However, teachers and policy analysts worry that Georgia’s state officials will put students at a disadvantage by not accepting the PARCC tests so the state can accurately gauge student progress against national figures.
“It’s almost impossible to compare how students across states measure up,” said Claire Suggs, senior education policy analyst for the nonpartisan Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. “If everyone is not reaching the same standards, we won’t have that comparison and be able to gauge how Georgia students are doing against other students.”
Suggs referenced an Education Next article where researchers evaluated proficiency standards between state assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Georgia landed dead last, scoring in the D and F range for math and reading proficiency.
Suggs noted in her assessment of Georgia’s education budget over the last 10 years that the state has cut funding from its allocation formula for districts every year since 2002 at a total of $7.6 billion. For the last five years, it has cut roughly $1 billion each fiscal year. Those cuts, Suggs says, keeps school districts from closing achievement gaps.
Surprisingly, Georgia has had influence over Common Core from the beginning. Former GOP governor Sonny Perdue — who was succeeded by Nathan Deal — helped spearhead the standards as a part of the National Governors Association. State Superintendent John Barge represented Georgia in the state consortium that developed the standards and tests.
To be sure, Cordoza says that the state board of education readily accepts Common Core curriculum, just not the tests themselves.
If the individual assessment proves successful, Georgia will be a benchmark for other states who are beginning to reassess the potential of Common Core.
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
I imagine common core testing would cost significantly more than any other standardized test if it is really developed to encompass and effectively assess student knowledge of the necessary subjects. But I've read that preliminary tests administered in other states are frustrating students and teachers.
Less accountability and individualism. Easier to conform and indoctrinate a group than individuals. What is the difference between common core and no child left behind? Not much, except for the money flying out the window, instead of what individual developmental skills each child has. Common Core is more of a tool for making society a Collective Secular people than what is best for the children that need the help the most. Just look at the Elitists and Progressives writing the path. They haven't the least clue about needs, every day American's, or what is best for our Youths.
Common core leads to an entire society that doesn't know the same things, with no diversity of thought and spoon fed info that will do nothing for a student who is more interested in other areas beyond math and science. Education is about my child becoming a thinking, competent adult, not learning how to be a good citizen or spit out the proper answers to pointless questions like Pavlov's dogs. Besides, it will NEVER improve education for the individual until they learn to focus on individual interests and mentor the student in following their interests, because the only time someone truly learns anything is when they choose to, no matter how many individuals they try to mold with the cookie cutter... IMO, of course...
Sounds like the modern equivalent of SRA tests back in the 60's and 70's. There were little little, if any national standards then. Didn't seem to be a problem - our scientists and engineers invented the transistor (50's), Telestar (early 60's - first telecommunication satelite) and put a man on the Moon (late 60's). Get back to the basics and stop forcing the public schools to be parents!
Once upon a time, schools acted with a high degree of independence from federal government intrusion into education, and students had the opportunity to get an excellent education (if they so chose). With the advent of political correctness, and one-size-fits-all requirements, the quality of education has plummeted. Teachers now largely "teach to a test", and are prevented by various state and federal laws from addressing individual student needs, outside of programs for students at the extreme ends of the spectrum- "educationally challenged" on one end, gifted on the other. One of the best school systems in the country is found in Gwinnett County, Georgia where (compared to other areas) each school is allowed a great deal of autonomy and educators can focus more on the needs of their student populations.
the article they provide about Georgia's lax proficiency standards ( http://educationnext.org/despite-common-core-states-still-lack-common-standards/)
is fascinating. Tenessee made a 180 degree turnaround in just a few years...Georgia should look to Tenessee's efforts to make their assessments more productively challenging.
I'd really like to know how a student, who's taking these tests, feels. Except if he/shes anything like me the quote would probably be, 'i hate taking tests'
When I was in high school, a number of students, including myself, had a problem with the budget situation in the ISD (which was not just a student thing, either) and we were frustrated because we thought the school board didn't really care to listen to what we had to say. Now that I am an adult, I see clearly why student opinion wasn't considered. Students tend to only look at things as students. Very few students critically think about anything.
If a student has the critical thinking skills to analyze standardized tests versus state tests, s/he is more than likely keeping satisfactory academic progress. I'm not an education expert, but I'd guess it's the students who are less able to make that comparison that educators are worried about helping in the first place.
I can see where you're coming from, Shawn. I was home-schooled for my K-12 education, so I was allowed to have a bit more input in the educational process. By the time I started studying journalism in college, I was used to putting a lot of thought into my education and having a degree of control over it -- so it baffled me to see that a lot of my fellow students do not have a concrete plan for college or for life after college.