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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Common core changes testing landscape

No doubt, Common Core is changing the ways public schools operate. One of those changes is the approach many states take for testing, specifically for the exit exams students must pass to graduate.

Under federal rules, states adopting Common Core must use the accompanying tests for school, district and state-level accountability as well as for teacher evaluations. But the decision to use them as high-stakes tests for individual students remains with each state.

Twenty-five states have some form of exit exam, according to Education Week. That's more than 34 million students -- 69 percent of all students in the U.S. -- who take the tests in order to graduate high school.

In Arkansas right now, our students must pass a high-stakes end-of-course exam -- Algebra I -- before they can graduate. Starting in 2014-2015, the state will add a high-stakes English II (sophomore English) end-of-course exam to that requirement.

Some states, however, require students to pass a single exam that covers the basic subjects taught in high school.

With the Common Core, students are tested throughout the year in English and math courses as well as at the end of them. This allows teachers to ensure students are mastering material along the way (or to re-teach when necessary) as well as to measure final mastery.

That's why many states are considering dropping their own versions of exit exams. According to an article in Education Week earlier this month, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island already plan to do so.

In addition to reducing test loads for students, this approach should be good news for states' testing budgets. Common Core states are already aligned with one of two testing consortia, allowing for much greater efficiency in the development and grading of exams.

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