Dec 9th, 2010


By: David N Plank | 11:12 AM | Categories: Assessment & Accountability

Cross-posted from The Sacramento Bee. Published: Thursday, Decebmer 12, 2010

By David N. Plank and Scott Hill

On the football field, a talented quarterback often calls the option play, holding off on the decision to run or pass to the last possible moment. This gives him time to survey the field and choose the best option for moving the ball forward.

Policymakers have options, too. Given the chance, they can wait and watch before making a key decision. When it comes to testing in California's education system, this is a great time to call the option play.

Last summer California – along with 40 other states – adopted the Common Core Standards, academic goals for what students should learn and when they should learn it. These new standards are different but also better than what we have.

Read more:

See December 22nd response from Patricia Gandara.


Thanks, Rob. There are two issues in play in this debate. The first is strategic, and here we're in general agreement. CA needs to figure out the best way to press one or both of the consortia to address the critical assessment issues that we face, which include appropriate accommodations for ELS and a meaningful measure of readiness for students who do not plan to pursue four-year degrees as well as the Algebra I questions. One way to do this, as you suggest, is to dig in with one of the consortia and seek to influence their direction from the inside. The other, which Scott and I prefer, is to defer a choice and see which of the consortia moves to address CA's issues. Our reservations about the first approach are purely pragmatic: to exert influence from the inside CA would need to bring some real firepower into the conversation, and we're not convinced that our state is ready to do that. If we are, though, working from the inside is probably the stronger strategy. The second issue is substantive, and here we may disagree. The question is which of the consortia is better suited to address CA's issues, based on their initial proposals, and here we see PARCC's rejection of computer-adaptive assessments as a major blunder. We're doubtful that internal pressure will move them to reverse this choice, so from our point of view it makes sense for CA to wait and see whether SBAC is a viable alternative to PARCC.

Thanks David and Scott for raising this issue and I look forward to reading more from this blog. Figuring out where the state is heading on assessments will be a critical issue for Gov. elect Brown. But, I disagree with your proposed wait and see approach. It is hard to believe that either or both of the testing consortia would develop their assessments to specifically meet the needs of California if they were unsure whether California would commit to use their assessment in the long run. It is already too late for the state to become one of the “governing states” for either group. But by its sheer size California could influence the process. This will be especially important around the approach to math and when and how to test algebra. Waiting on the sidelines and hoping that they head in the right direction seems like a bad strategy. Instead, Gov. Brown should choose one of the two groups and get engaged. Of course this will require that the Gov. take two additional steps. First, he must figure out what he wants out of these assessments. And second, he must find and hire the staff that can help him meet those objectives. Rob Manwaring