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How the Common Core will change state tests
by Maisie McAdoo | December 20, 2012 New York Teacher issue
The Common Core Learning Standards, adopted by 46 states, are being introduced to New York City teachers this year as a set of “instructional shifts” that call for using more nonfiction text in lessons, requiring evidence-based arguments and deepening the focus on key math concepts — all aims that educators would embrace.
But ultimately, they culminate in a test — two tests, to be exact. And with the inclusion of Common Core-aligned questions, both the English language arts and math state exams are going to be harder than last year — by a whole lot, if early examples are any guide.
Both state Commissioner John King and city Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky have been out in public managing expectations — that is, preparing people for the distinct possibility that test scores will go down sharply this year.
In an address at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education on Nov. 29, Commissioner King warned, “We will see, we expect, lower absolute achievement at the end of this year than we did last year.”
Polakow-Suransky warned a group of education researchers recently that in Kentucky, the first state to give a Common Core test, passing rates dropped by 33 to 45 percent. In New York State, he said, educators should expect “much harder” reading passages, three- or four-step math problems, and “much more difficult” open-ended questions.
Unlike Kentucky, New York State is not administering totally changed tests this year. The state is in the midst of a three-year transition to Common Core-based assessments. Tests this April will still be constructed by Pearson, the same contractor as last year. But they will include more Common Core-aligned questions. How many more the state isn’t saying.
Then in 2013–14 Common Core Learning Standards will start to appear in Regents exams. In 2014–15, the state will use totally new Common Core tests that are being developed by a multistate consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and the transition will be complete.
So, how much harder? You be the judge. Here are four examples from the New York State Common Core sample questions list.
For all the published sample questions go to New York State Common Core Sample Questions on the State Education Department website.