New learning standards could cause nosedive in Wash. test scores

Jun 26, 2013

Seattle families should expect steep drops in student test scores as public schools adopt new national learning standards, according to a report to be presented Wednesday evening to the Seattle School Board.

Starting next year, students in Washington, 44 other states, and the District of Columbia will be held to new, tougher standards known as Common Core. That could cause some sticker shock once test scores start rolling in a year later.

A new analysis from the publisher Scholastic says Seattle schools should prepare for a 10- to 33 percent drop in student proficiency, and that as many as half of tested students could come in below standards. The estimates come from comparing scores from the current state tests with the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is thought to employ a similar level of rigor to the coming Common Core tests.

Districts are preparing

Seattle Public Schools Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction Shauna Heath said the district is working to meet the challenge.

“Districts have to mitigate for that. We have to build more instructional capacity for teachers and provide them with professional development on how to make these shifts, so that the students can meet this level of rigor that the Common Core is expecting,” Heath said.

Heath said she will likely ask the district for between $2 and $.5 million to make the transition.

Sam Howe of Scholastic Inc., who authored the new report, said the expected drop in scores will actually be comparatively small here. He said Washington already has more rigorous tests than about three-fourths of the country.

Besides tougher tests, advocates say the new standards encourage critical thinking and the application and integration of knowledge over rote memorization. They would also level the playing field across states, holding all covered students to the same standards.

But the Common Core remains controversial. Critics have raised alarms about federal interference, over reliance on tests and lax protections for student privacy.

A PSA on Common Core, from the Council of Great City Schools