It’s not common for education policymakers to tell parents that they can give short shrift to their child’s scores on Common Core standardized tests (or on pretty much any test, for that matter), but that’s what the Vermont State Board of Education has just done.
Meeting earlier this week, the board, which includes the state’s education secretary, Rebecca Holcombe, approved a remarkable message for parents about scores on the 2015 Common Core tests known as SBAC, for the multi-state Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which created the exams.
The SBAC, along with tests created by another multi-state consortium, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, were designed to be more sophisticated and better able to evaluate what students have learned than earlier-generation standardized tests. But the exams are not the “game-changing” assessment instruments the Obama administration — which funded their creation — had predicted because of time and money constraints.
With the recent release of the 2015 scores from tests taken in the spring, Vermont’s State Board, of which Holcombe is a member, approved a memorandum telling parents and guardians not to worry about the results because their meaning is at best limited. It says in part:
We call your attention to the box labeled “scale score and overall performance.” These levels give too simplistic and too negative a message to students and parents. The tests are at a very high level. In fact, no nation has ever achieved at such a level. Do not let the results wrongly discourage your child from pursuing his or her talents, ambitions, hopes or dreams.
These tests are based on a narrow definition of “college and career ready.” In truth, there are many different careers and colleges and there are just as many different definitions of essential skills. In fact, many (if not most) successful adults fail to score well on standardized tests. If your child’s scores show that they are not yet proficient, this does not mean that they are not doing well or will not do well in the future.
We also recommend that you not place a great deal of emphasis on the “claims” or sub-scores. There are just not enough test items to give you reliable information.
Here’s the full letter: