I am sitting in a workshop listening to an expert from our State Office of Education talk about the implementation of the Common Core Standards. She is doing a fine job and I appreciate the information and materials she is providing the principals today. We are sitting in a high school auditorium, the temperature is hovering around 55 degrees and people are really spread-out. This may account for the lack of dialogue taking place…it is quiet in here. The reason I bring this up is that we just went over the assessment implementation timeline and not one person commented on how this will affect teachers. I am perplexed!

Teachers will begin implementing the core standards next year. They are being told it is more complex, more rigorous, and that it does not align to our current end-of-level assessments. They are also being told that the SBAC and PARC consortiums are building amazing formative, benchmark, and end-of-level assessments…that will not be ready for trial until 2014-15! I am sure this all makes sense to someone…but I doubt they actually work in a school. So…if I understand this right, all we are asking teachers to do is to teach and formatively assess a new core (a more complex and rigorous core), monitor student performance relative to that core, yet wait three to four years for the assessments to arrive? Teachers must also remember that their school’s AYP status will be determined by their student’s performance on end-of-level tests based on the State Core they are no longer teaching. Simple!

It may surprise you to find that my frustration has nothing to do with the fact that teachers will be teaching one core while being held accountable to another. Ultimately, the job of a teacher is not to prepare students for an end-of-level test, it is to teach and monitor student performance relative to the core standards. My frustration is with the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to develop assessments that won’t even be available until 2014-15. It begs the questions…why are we investing millions of taxpayer dollars to develop formative assessments when these assessments should be created by teachers and district curriculum people? Every district I visit or talk to seems to have a math and language arts coordinator building formative assessments for their district around the new Common Core standards. Why aren’t we leveraging this work that is being repeated in almost every part of the country? I am also concerned that when formative assessments are created by “experts” outside the classroom, you minimize the role of the teacher in the assessment process.

The hurry up and wait for SBAC and PARC to create a bounty of assessments feels dangerous. Dangerous because teachers need the assessments today! Dangerous because the technological infrastructure needed to support the complex adaptive assessments promised by the two consortiums is beyond the capacity of most schools. Dangerous because teachers need core-focused formative assessments that are quick and effective…complexity is not required. Dangerous because the assessments are being created far from the classroom.

Sometimes the solution to a complex problem isn’t big, it isn’t expensive and it comes from practitioners….not the so called experts. Teachers don’t need to wait until 2014-15 to get access to quality, teacher created, core-focused formative assessments…a solution already exists….MasteryConnect. MasteryConnect has created the formative assessment super highway that allows teachers to solve the assessment problem themselves, and lets teachers build any type of formative assessment they can think of (rubric-based, writing assessments, multiple choice, etc.). With teachers all over the country sharing core-focused formative assessments and tracking student mastery relative to the core, teachers have created their own solution. While others wait three years for PARC and SBAC to deliver prepackaged assessments and item banks to the masses, teachers using MasteryConnect will be far ahead of the pack.

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