Common Core and Widening Achievement Gaps

Posted by Hechinger Report on June 15, 2015

Coming soon: A larger gap in achievement scores

The Common Core was rolled out with promises of closing learning and achievement gaps, but in the short term, gaps will almost certainly grow wider, writes Tara García Mathewson for The Hechinger Report. The gap in scores between disadvantaged students and peers has already ballooned in Illinois, New York, and Kentucky, all of which launched early versions of aligned exams. In Illinois, the achievement gap increased 94 percent the first year. In Kentucky, a 16-point proficiency gap among third-graders increased to 21 points. These early tests weren’t taken on computers, so schools across the country are scrambling to prepare disadvantaged students who have less experience with online formats. Test-makers argue that in the long run, Common Core tests will help level the playing field, since their computer-based format incorporates new tools. For non-native English speakers and those with special needs, new features can help them display knowledge they’ve always had but were unable to demonstrate. Still, skeptics remain. Harvard’s Daniel Koretz has studied the introduction of new tests in various states and found score gaps shrink on tests used for high-stakes purposes much more than on other exams. Because aligned tests will eventually factor into staffing decisions in many states, and in some cases, graduation requirements, they’ll be just as susceptible to score inflation.

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