On October 30, the Brown Center for Education Policy at Brookings hosted an event to release a new report, Standardized Testing and the Common Core Standards: You Get What You Pay For?, authored by Brown Center Fellow Matt Chingos. In the report, Chingos investigates how states can best "assess whether students are learning the material contained in the Common Core" standards, with a focus specifically on the costs of assessment options. The report concludes that "two facts are clear: taxpayers get more bang for their buck when states collaborate, and students cannot afford for policymakers to compromise on assessment quality."
The focus of the event was the assessment choices that states must make in the coming months as they begin to fully implement Common Core State Standards.
The first question for states, said Chingos, is "can we spend more to get this test or is this going to be more than we can spend either fiscally or politically?" The panel agreed that this was a very politicized issue but that the United States should be taking steps to increase the quality of standardized assessment tests.
Paul Pastorek, former superintendent of education for Louisiana, stated "when you’re putting high stakes on our country’s future … you need to give teachers more tools so that they can do a better job."
Brown Center Senior Fellow Tom Loveless was hopeful about the success of the Common Core, noting that "the idea is that curriculum and instruction will change for the better with the implementation of the Common Core."
Eric Smith, Florida's former commissioner of education, cited the U.S.'s dismal international education ranking and thus the need for the Common Core and adherence to these tests. "The need, I think, is obvious to all," he said.
The panelists also discussed the necessity for more student career and college preparedness. Loveless pointed out the hole in data on the issue: "If you think we know nothing about curriculum, we know less about professional development."
Pastorek, speaking from business perspective, advocated for higher quality instruction and tests: "[we must improve] the system so we can get better quality students going to colleges … so that young adults will have high quality jobs." According to Pastorek, lack of quality education has created a dearth of individuals ready to enter high-level jobs in America.
Finally, one of the greatest benefits of the Common Core standards and the implementation of new standardized testing is the comparability that will ensue. As Eric Smith said, "The issue of comparability between states is a key issue … the comparability across states and internationally."
Ultimately, the panelists looked ahead to the Common Core's potential benefits and the hope that the political drama that has surrounded the issue will not halt progress.
Full event audio and full event video are available.
Colleen Lineweaver contributed to this post.