Opinion: High Standards and Better Tests Help Students Improve

A new opinion piece by Scott Sargrad and Coleton Whitaker of the Center for American Progress highlights the fact that states that have maintained high standards and better assessments, like Smarter Balanced, have showed gains in the second year of score reporting.

And most impressively, third-grade scores across the board are up. Those students have learned under higher standards since entering school.

Below is an excerpt from the opinion piece. You can read the full version at Inside Sources.

School girl in red glasses sitting at table

Since the 2015-2016 school year marked the second year of new tests aligned with the Common Core, policymakers and advocates can finally start to compare test scores over time and see how student achievement has changed under the standards. As it turns out, achievement is up in nearly every state that has released scores.

In fact, in 27 of the 28 states that have released scores from this spring and where the data are comparable to last year, student performance is up — and some of the biggest increases are for third-grade students, who have learned to higher standards for their whole time in school.

Take California, for example, where statewide English language arts proficiency is up 5 percentage points from last year, and math is up by 4 percentage points. Or New York, where overall English language arts scores increased by nearly 7 percentage points between 2015 and 2016 — with scores for third- and fourth- graders increasing by 11 and 8 points, respectively. Math scores in New York increased as well.

Or South Dakota, where students in every grade but 11th improved in both English language arts and math by between 2 and 7 percentage points.

At the same time these states are making improvements in teaching and learning and helping students reach higher standards, they’re also making improvements in testing to reduce pressure on tests, shorten testing time and make sure that tests have value for students and parents. As a result, more students are taking the tests and fewer are opting out.