Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a featured article today describing the individuals and process for scoring the Common Core assessment tests. It is a bit of a scary situation but one being defended by Pearson, the contractor for scoring the exam. Here is an excerpt:
“The new academic standards known as the Common Core emphasize critical thinking, complex problem-solving and writing skills, and put less stock in rote learning and memorization. So the standardized tests given in most states this year required fewer multiple choice questions and far more writing on topics like this one posed to elementary school students: Read a passage from a novel written in the first person, and a poem written in the third person, and describe how the poem might change if it were written in the first person.
But the results are not necessarily judged by teachers.
On Friday, in an unobtrusive office park northeast of downtown here [San Antonio] , about 100 temporary employees of the testing giant Pearson worked in diligent silence scoring thousands of short essays written by third- and fifth-grade students from across the country.
There was a onetime wedding planner, a retired medical technologist and a former Pearson saleswoman with a master’s degree in marital counseling. To get the job, like other scorers nationwide, they needed a four-year college degree with relevant coursework, but no teaching experience. They earned $12 to $14 an hour, with the possibility of small bonuses if they hit daily quality and volume targets.
Officials from Pearson and Parcc, a nonprofit consortium that has coordinated development of new Common Core tests, say strict training and scoring protocols are intended to ensure consistency, no matter who is marking the tests.
At times, the scoring process can evoke the way a restaurant chain monitors the work of its employees and the quality of its products.
“From the standpoint of comparing us to a Starbucks or McDonald’s, where you go into those places you know exactly what you’re going to get,” said Bob Sanders, vice president of content and scoring management at Pearson North America, when asked whether such an analogy was apt.
“McDonald’s has a process in place to make sure they put two patties on that Big Mac,” he continued. “We do that exact same thing. We have processes to oversee our processes, and to make sure they are being followed.”
About 12 million students nationwide from third grade through high school took the new tests this year. Parcc, formally known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, another test development group, along with contractors like Pearson, worked with current classroom teachers and state education officials to develop the questions and set detailed criteria for grading student responses. Some states, including New York, separately developed Common Core tests without either consortium’s involvement.
Pearson, which operates 21 scoring centers around the country, hired 14,500 temporary scorers throughout the scoring season, which began in April and will continue through July. About three-quarters of the scorers work from home. Pearson recruited them through its own website, personal referrals, job fairs, Internet job search engines, local newspaper classified ads and even Craigslist and Facebook. About half of those who go through training do not ultimately get the job.
Parcc said that more than three-quarters of the scorers have at least one year of teaching experience, but that it does not have data on how many are currently working as classroom teachers. Some are retired teachers with extensive classroom experience, but one scorer in San Antonio, for example, had one year of teaching experience, 45 years ago.”
Why in heaven’s name have we come to this point where we subject our children to such a flawed process in the name of accountability. Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education were the perpetrators of this travesty on our public education system with its strong-arm negotiations with state education officials during Race To The Top funding negotiations. The deal: Common Core or No Funds!