College & Workforce Readiness

Only 16 States Still Share Common-Core Tests, Survey Finds

By Catherine Gewertz — March 07, 2019 1 min read
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The testing revolution sparked by the common core has all but evaporated in less than a decade, with only one-third of the states still using the federally funded assessments designed to measure those standards.

Education Week‘s fourth survey of state tests since 2014 shows that only 16 are still using the PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments in math and English/language arts in 2018-19.

When those tests were being designed in 2010 and 2011, 45 states reported plans to use them.

But by 2014, a year before the tests became available, only half the states were still on board. By 2016, that number had dropped to 21. And now it’s dwindled to one-third.

What Tests Does Each State Require?

To have most states sharing the same assessments would have marked an unprecedented shift in U.S. educational testing: States had never before banded together in such large numbers to use one set of academic standards and tests.

It was a grand experiment aimed at creating tests that better measured learning, and allowed parents and policymakers to compare student progress across the states.

But opposition to the length and cost of the tests led most states to go back to buying or crafting their own.

Political backlash against perceived federal involvement in what students learn was also a factor in that pullback, even though common-core advocates argued that federal funding of tests did not mean the government would shape the curriculum. Federal officials aren’t allowed to dictate what students learn.

Advocates argue that keeping even a dozen states in the shared-testing game—as is the case with the Smarter Balanced assessment, for instance—still represents an important evolution in a shared commitment to rigorous standards, tests, and comparability.

But the scale of that commitment on the testing front has dropped dramatically. Many states retained the underlying common-core standards, however, although some renamed or revised them.

Education Week‘s survey shows little recent change in two other testing trends. Requiring students to take a college-admissions exam, or to take a test to graduate from high school, are both about as popular in 2019 as they were in 2017.

A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2019 edition of Education Week as Only 16 States Still Share Common-Core Tests, Survey Finds


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