Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Minnesota Warns Parents To Prepare For Lower Scores On New Common Core Tests

    Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

    The Common Core English language arts standards emphasize writing sooner: Kindergarteners are expected to begin forming words once they learn the alphabet.

    Minnesota schools sent a letter home to parents last week explaining why aligning academic standards to the Common Core may mean lower scores initially on standardized tests, reports Tim Post for Minnesota Public Radio:

    In a May 30 letter to parents, state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius wrote that because Minnesota schools began using more rigorous standards to teach English arts last fall, schools also gave students more challenging tests to measure their progress towards meeting higher expectations.

    As a result, Cassellius wrote, ”we may see what looks like a drop in reading test scores when they are reported this summer.” However, she said it would not be appropriate to compare a student’s test scores with a previous year’s as they measure different sets of expectations. …

    The new tests are considered more difficult because they’re designed to prevent students from making educated guesses from the wording of questions. Instead, they require students to fully read and understand the passages in the test.

    Given how closely parents monitor their children’s performance on standardized tests, Cassellius thought it would be appropriate to warn them of the expected dip in reading and writing scores when the results are released in coming months.

    Post writes Minnesota is taking cues from Kentucky, the first state to align its assessment with the new academic standards. The number of students scoring “proficient” in reading dipped after state education officials unrolled new Common Core-aligned standardized tests last year.

    We’ve written before about key changes of the new English language arts standards, which emphasize writing sooner and require students read more informational text.

    Indiana teachers started making the transition to Common Core two years ago, but it’s unlikely state tests will change until the 2015-16 school year because lawmakers want a chance to review the new standards first. The pause proposal that passed the General Assembly this spring keeps Indiana’s current assessment, the ISTEP, in place until the State Board of Education has reaffirmed its support of the Common Core or adopted other college- and career-ready standards.

    Minnesota Math Lesson?

    Minnesota is only testing the Common Core in English language arts. The state is sticking with its current math standards, writes Post:

    While Minnesota moves forward with the new national standards for reading and writing, state officials opted out of the math standards. Nationally, some mathematicians have criticized the Common Core for delaying coverage of certain topics, such as algebra, and said the math standards don’t match up to those of high-performing countries such as Singapore.

    The writers of the standards have defended them by arguing, for example, that algebraic concepts are covered extensively before high school, even if the standards don’t include a formal algebra course by eighth grade. They’ve also pointed to research suggesting they are similar to standards elsewhere in the world. …

    Cassellius said Minnesota’s math standards are more challenging than those in the Common Core — and that the homegrown standards require deeper knowledge of math concepts, and mandates that students master them earlier than the national standards require. For instance, Minnesota students are required to finish Algebra I by 8th grade and Algebra II by 10th grade, something the Common Core doesn’t mandate. It can mean more time in the classroom to achieve that mastery. Some students, however, may need more time in the classroom to meet the new state standards.

    We’ve written before that pushback against the Common Core started with changes in elementary math instruction. You can read more about that debate here.


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