Expensive, Problematic Common Core Tests

It’s been a bad month for the Common Core State Standards. Georgia and Oklahoma have decided not to adopt the standardized tests created through a consortium of states to match new curriculum standards. Instead, the two states will use their current tests, which are cheaper and easier to use, for the foreseeable future.

In the end, they said, using the new test was more trouble than it was worth. “If we move ahead with this, we are going to be asking the state to drink a milkshake using a cocktail straw,” Oklahoma Superintendent Janet Barresi told the Tulsa World.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Superintendent John Barge said the cost of the new tests, as high as $27 million, was slightly more than the state’s entire K-12 testing budget, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Meanwhile, a Washington Postanalysis of Maryland’s latest test scores shows a steep drop in math and reading as classrooms are transitioning to the Common Core curriculum but still using old tests. The drop doesn’t necessarily mean that the kids aren’t learning as much, but it does mean that the tests don’t match the teaching—precisely the opposite effect that educators want when they seek accountability in schools. These are growing pains.

“It means we are in transition,” said Maryland Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery.

No one doubted that the transition to Common Core would be painful, but do these developments signal bigger problems? Or do they simply mean the changeover will take a little longer? Why are the tests so expensive? Or are Georgia and Oklahoma just too cheap? Is there a risk that other cheap or otherwise squeamish states will follow their lead? Does Maryland’s explanation of the low test scores make sense? Overall, are these acceptable hiccups in an admittedly ambitious effort? Or are they signs of failure?