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a group of teachers in discussionIt’s no secret that Common Core has been a controversial topic since its inception, and many states have implemented interim assessment tests to help teachers gauge students’ weaknesses related to math and language arts before Common Core exam time arrives. According to a recent article on www.edsource.org some teachers have voiced their complaints about these interim assessments, claiming that the interim tests don’t give teachers enough information to help students. These same teachers believe that the tests don’t provide any useful or specific ways to improve results.

A panel of three California teachers, as well as a school district administrator, told the Assembly Education Committee at a meeting in Sacramento earlier this month that they and their colleagues were unable to get a clear picture of students’ progress (or lack thereof) based solely on information received via the interim assessments. The reports teachers received did not include any of the questions from the tests, the answers students gave, or the standards on which students were tested.

These reports are part of a statewide system that was launched three years ago to help students meet Common Core standards. The system, called the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), is supposed to help teachers find out what they could adjust in terms of teaching math, English and science. This fall, the reports are supposed to include exam questions, student answers and information about how the tests relate to Common Core standards. These changes were a long time coming, according to Assemblyman and chair of the Education Committee Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach).

“What took so long?” O’Donnell asked. O’Donnell pointed out that other organizations were able to provide teachers with the useful information they requested much sooner than the three years it took CAASPP.

O’Donnell, himself a former teacher, called the hearing to discuss Bill AB 1035. The bill’s purpose is to improve the interim assessments, as well as the reports that teachers receive. “This is something that should have been taken a look at much sooner,” O’Donnell added.

Tony Alpert, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s executive director, said there are many reasons why it could have taken so long for teachers’ complaints to be addressed and that the members of the consortium needed time to reach a consensus about what to do so solve the issue. California currently pays $9.95 million annually to be a member of the consortium, and according to Alpert the state will not pay more for the new features to be added to the interim reports.

O’Donnell and California’s teachers are hopeful that the new reports will provide information that teachers can use to improve student performance. In recent years, many districts have been forced to spend their own money to assist teachers in preparing students for Common Core exams. Fairway Technologies is the company that was hired to revise the test reports to make them more useful to teachers, and according to Alpert the consortium will aid the state of California in teaching districts and teachers how to utilize the new reports as soon as Fairway Technologies has finalized its plans, whenever that may be.

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