NNSTOY Teachers Prefer Common Core Tests Over State Assessments
When the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) released findings of their study comparing Common Core assessments with new and existing state tests, they brought into the testing conversation the much-needed views of exceptional, practicing teachers. Their findings are enlightening, and they provide critical information to state and district leaders currently reviewing and revising testing plans.
In The Right Trajectory, NNSTOY teachers compare the New Jersey and Illinois state tests with the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and the Delaware and New Hampshire tests to the Smarter Balanced exams. Their results paint a compelling picture.
In every case, the teachers rated the Common Core tests as superior to the state tests. Specifically, they found that the new tests:
- Better reflect the range of knowledge students should master;
- Better reflect a full range of cognitive complexity in a balanced way;
- Better align with the kinds of instructional practices they believe should be used in the classroom, “thereby better supporting great teaching and learning”;
- Provide information relevant to a wide range of performers; and
- Are more rigorous and demanding, while being grade-level appropriate.
While we at the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF) are pleased with these findings, it is most interesting to understand the reasons why these teachers prefer the Common Core tests.
At the release of the report in Washington, D.C. last month, five of the teachers on the task force reviewing the tests spoke about how the tests are more meaningful and allow students to learn more deeply. Math teacher Barbara LaSaracina (2001 New Jersey Teacher of the Year) said that the Common Core tests ask students “to do multi-level critical thinking” not present on existing tests. LaSaracina’s message was particularly striking in view of her prior feelings. “I was not a fan of assessments,” LaSaracina told the audience, “because [I felt] they [took] time away from valuable learning.” Now she also appreciates the PARCC test because the information from the test comes back in a way that helps her to plan better and ensure everyone is learning at high levels.
LaSaracina went so far as to say that the closer reading required on the tests, particularly in the math section, is “changing the way students learn.” As a result, students are more challenged and more motivated by the tests. “We are absolutely going in the right direction here,” she said.
Media specialist and teacher Angie Miller (2011 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year), also a self-proclaimed testing skeptic, said that previous state tests taught students how to take tests, while the new assessments are about “real-world learning” and teaching students “how to think.”
That is something all educators should be able to support.