This Tennessee math teacher writes in a letter to his legislators about the improvement in this new generation of Common Core assessments that have the potential to get beyond testing strategies and give teachers useful insights into what their students have actually learned. We’ll see these same benefits in NH.
Here’s an excerpt:
For the past two years I taught Algebra I, which has a traditional multiple choice End of Course assessment. And although it’s easy to determine whether or not students get the right answers, these types of assessments make it much more difficult to understand whether or not students truly understand the concepts involved.
Every multiple choice assessments has tricks that allow students to often get the answer without truly understanding the content. So while my test data often said that my students were proficient in their understanding (I was a level 4 teacher my first year and a level 3 my second year) I often found myself wondering if they’d really learned the content or if they’d just learned how to “trick” the test.
After this year I will no longer have to wonder. Along with full adoption of common core, we will see full adoption of the PARCC assessments. Instead of full multiple choice, these tests will require students to complete an open response assessment that not only requires them to show their work but also requires them to display their thinking.
I’ve seen myself how assessments like these will push students like never before, which will push teachers in turn to raise the rigor of their teaching. To prepare for full implementation next year I decided to introduce several elements of common core and PARCC to my classroom this year. It’s been a struggle at times, but my students can now explain to me not only what they are doing on any given problem but also the principles at play behind them. There’s no getting away from it. They have to be able to show that they truly understand the content through their calculations and most importantly, their words. Proficiency will not be possible without students putting their critical thinking skills on display.