The more I learn about Common Core’s curriculum and teaching methods, the less I have to like. Those concerns can be easily dismissed, though, if Common Core produces improved student performance. Unfortunately, the students in California are guinea pigs in a new system of learning and the folks who run the lab do not want anyone to know whether Common Core is working.

That is the conclusion I have reached after learning that the California Dept. of Education recently eliminated the old testing and ordered school districts to use the so-called “Smarter Balanced” testing to determine Common Core’s progress.

The problem is that testing a new program using a new test measures nothing. The only way to find out whether Common Core works is to test students using the old test. But that has officially and conveniently been nixed by the folks in Sacramento.

Nice. Only in the government can you implement a new, untested program and then prevent the one method of accountability.

But wait, there’s more! I spoke to a representative in the Dept. of Ed’s Assessment office and was told that although the state has mandated Smarter Balanced testing, they did not order districts to stop using the old STAR testing. So, a school district that is truly interested in measuring progress and doing the right thing for our students will implement both tests.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the N-MUSD to do this.

During my research, I found this question in the FAQ section of the Dept. of Ed’s website:

“WHAT RESULTS CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE SMARTER BALANCED TESTS?”

The following excerpt is one of four bulleted responses to that question. Please note the second sentence, which I have highlighted:

“Parents will receive a report of their child’s scores. But no student, parent or teacher should be discouraged by these scores, which will not be used to determine whether a student moves on to the next grade.  Rather, the scores will represent an opportunity to focus on the needs of students and support teachers and schools in their work to achieve college and career readiness.”

It’s as though they are anticipating disaster and are preparing us for the inevitable failure of the program. But there is another issue with this same sentence in this response, that is, why aren’t these scores being used to determine whether a student moves on to the next grade? There are too many kids in our district who are being promoted before they are ready – I heard it from multiple teachers during my campaign – and if this test won’t help prevent them from being set up to fail, it is not being properly utilized.

I believe more than ever that these testing changes have been set up to prevent a true assessment of Common  Core’s value.

The N-MUSD has been trumpeting the fact that they have come up with their own Common Core curriculum. If they are so proud of it, they should not be afraid to test it against the old assessment model. It’s the ONLY way to determine whether CC works.

In my research, I also came across the 2014 STAR testing results for our schools. The good news is that the Newport Schools did well. No surprise there. But Costa Mesa’s Westside elementary schools, not so much.

There are five categories of STAR results: Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic, and Far Below Basic.  For any parent, Proficient should be the lowest level they would want their child to achieve because Basic is nothing to write (or e-mail) home about. The official definition of Basic is:

“Basic: This level represents a limited performance. Students demonstrate a partial and rudimentary understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.”

“Limited performance.” Yikes. So here is the Reader’s Digest version of the 2014 California Standards Test results for English-Language Arts in the four Westside CM schools on which I’ve been focusing for years. Shown are the grade followed by the percentage of students in that grade who scored Basic or worse. EX: 2/41 = Second grade/41% of the students scored Basic or worse.

Wilson:  2/66   3/69   4/45   5/56   6/61

Pomona: 2/48  3/55  4/52  5/78  6/74

Whittier: 2/67  3/64  4/62  5/56  6/52

Rea: 2/63  3/75  4/49  5/63  6/69

Plus some bonus schools:

College Park: 2/43  3/72  4/43  5/50  6/69

Estancia:  9/50  10/55  11/59

Adams: 2/41 3/60 4/62 5/38 6/43

And, just for fun…

Harbor View Elementary: 2/11  3/21  4/12  5/10  6/8

If you’re upset by these results, or if you aren’t, and want to let the school board know, there are three ways:

E-MAIL:

Martha Fluor: mfluor@nmusd.u
Judy Franco: jfranco@nmusd.us
Walt Davenport: wdavenport@nmusd.us
Vicki Snell: vsnell@nmusd.us
Charlene Metoyer: cmetoyer@nmusd.us
Dana Black: dblack@nmusd.us
Karen Yelsey: kyelsey@nmusd.us

PHONE:

Martha Fluor home tel. no.: 949-251-9170

Judy Franco Home tel. no.: 949-675-2603

Walt Davenport home tel. no.: 949-645-0875

Vicki Snell cell no.: 714-904-1253

Charlene Metoyer cell no.: 714-313-7257

Dana Black cell no.: 714-390-8247 

Karen Yelsey Home tel. no.: 949-640-9591

IN-PERSON

School board meetings are held every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 2985 Bear St., Costa Mesa

The school board will not use the old test because they do not care about accountability in this or just about anything else they do. They rubber stamp everything and do not care about the kids on Costa Mesa’s Westside.

Thanks for reading.

Steve Smith

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