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CERA Conference and Common Core in Reflection

After attending the CERA (California Educational Research Association) conference, which focused on the Common Core, this past Thursday and Friday, I noticed a significant shift from 6 months ago in educators’ perspectives.  The Common Core standards adoption is disrupting districts' current instructional models, and any disruption gives us the opportunity to seize the moment and make improvements.

In the past, when I presented to educators on computer adaptive assessments and the common core, the fear and anxiety level was much higher.  Now that people know more about the SBAC, PARCC, and Common Core, school districts are settling in and have plans in place--or, at least, tentative plans.  

The CERA conference was primarily attended by testing directors and administrators with a more technical background.  However, in my presentation session, I noted that many of these individuals laughed when I made a comment about superintendents tending not to understand the larger Common Core issues and pushing for "test-prep" decisions.  Preparation for the SBAC or PARCC assessments can now be broken down into the following categories:

- Curriculum preparation
- District-wide, large-scale Internet and hardware preparation and load testing
- Digital fluency for the specific measure (SBAC or PARCC)

The big positive here is that digital fluency can be achieved by exposing students to the actual practice test for the SBAC or by participating in the field pilot.  Educators are now understanding that they don't have to start buying third-party tests that simulate the items used on the SBAC.  Instead, if the goal is to increase personalized learning within a district, adopt assessments that are diagnostic and help inform instruction.  Computer adaptive diagnostic assessments are the wave of the future, so consider this route.  

As a test developer, I've had customers ask if LGL will start using technology-enhanced (TE) items like the ones on the SBAC practice site in our DORA and ADAM diagnostic assessments.  My response is “not right away,” because doing so would introduce error into our current assessments.  Those items posted on the SBAC are not yet field-tested and most are actually designed with significant flaws right now.  Even the SBAC developers acknowledge that the technology-enhanced items aren't ready yet; that is why they are field testing the items.  Also, if there is concern about digital fluency, it can be achieved in 2 to 3 practice sessions.  Students are smart.  Once the interface of your state assessment, whether SBAC or PARCC, is solidified, show the students how the scroll bars, animations, sliders, etc. work and they will get it.  

In my session, I focused on expanding our discussion of "Curriculum Preparation" to include understanding one’s assessment framework and setting curricular goals at the district and site levels.  I have noticed that one important piece is missing:  adopting an assessment framework to reach curricular goals.  While the Smarter Balanced and PARRC assessments are still being vetted, it appears that aggregate scores will show an increasing percentage of students who will fall "below" and "far below" standards.  Are districts prepared to respond to the question "why is this student not meeting his or her Common Core standards?”  I think this is a question that still needs to be answered.  It is easy to think about concrete actions such as hardware prep, Internet access 

Tags: common core, sbac, parcc

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