State schools Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery said she thinks the “confusion and tension” in Maryland around the Common Core State Standards stems from how local school systems will use data from tests aligned with the standards.
Maryland schools are transitioning to the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers assessment based on Common Core, a controversial set of education standards for English and math that Maryland, along with other states, chose to adopt.
The test is scheduled for full implementation next school year.
Data from the PARCC test eventually will play a role in teacher evaluations, which has drawn concern from some around the state.
Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr previously said that, while he plans to follow the law, he will guard the integrity of the county school system’s current method for evaluating teachers.
Lowery stressed that the state test data will account for only 20 percent of an evaluation.
“It is part of a story,” she said. “It’s a data point.”
The inclusion of test data in teacher evaluations creates a common factor that can be compared across schools and help districts identify best practices and know where to direct resources, she said.
The data can help ensure that two teachers teaching the same subject in different schools are held to the same rigorous standards, she said.
If a teacher doesn’t show growth in their students’ test data, he or she “would have to bomb” the other components to feel a negative effect, Lowery said.
“Teachers will be evaluated every year,” she said. “It’s just how we use the state assessment to inform that work.”
Concern also has arisen around the tests’ implementation.
The Washington Post reported Jan. 30 that 22 superintendents — out of 24 across Maryland — signed a statement expressing a need for more time to implement the new assessments along with other significant changes.
Lowery said the state has “already built in three years to get this right.”
The state won’t use the data until the 2016-17 school year for teacher evaluations, Lowery said.
Next school year, the test results will provide baseline data, she said.
After students take tests in the 2015-16 school year, she said, districts will have “a point A to point B” reference.
She said her understanding was that the statement signed by the superintendents had been an internal document, but that its release will help generate “realistic” and “open” discussions.
“We want to be fair, we want to be thoughtful, we want to be deliberative,” she said.
Kentucky recently decided to leave the consortium of states that developed the new test. Lowery said the state always had one foot in and one foot out.
“(Kentucky) stuck with what they knew,” she said.
Soon to completely replace the Maryland School Assessment, the PARCC test will monitor students’ performance under Common Core, which Lowery described as more rigorous and evidence-based.
The kids are “owning far more of their learning” and teachers are able to provide more individualized instruction under the new Common Core-based curriculum, she said.
“We take the guesswork out of student learning,” she said.
The new standards allow students the chance to exercise creativity to find the right answer, she said.
“That’s higher-order thinking,” she said. “They own that.”
Under the new standards, students also will get the prerequisites they need to better prepare them for college or a career, Lowery said.
“Common Core brings back a little bit of common sense,” she said.