A Sneak Peak at Common Core Test Questions

Education Week just published an article that discusses the Common Core Standards and the possible associated tests and test questions. Read the post to get a little insight as to the future plans to implement the common curriculum. (You may need to set up an account at Ed Week – but it’s free and their articles are always excellent.)

Consortia Provide Preview of Common Assessments

Some excerpts:

Two large groups of states are using federal Race to the Top money to create new suites of exams for the Common Core State Standards. Those consortia have recently begun work with private vendors to develop items—questions and tasks—for the tests. But each group has produced a range of sample test items to help those vendors get an idea of what the states want, and experts say they offer valuable insight into the tests that are expected to emerge in 2014-15.

“What we are starting to see here are tests that really get at a deeper understanding on the part of students, not just superficial knowledge,” said Robert L. Linn, an assessment expert and professor emeritus of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder who reviewed a sampling of the consortia’s materials. “But unless students are really prepared for them, it’s going to be a huge challenge.”

One selected-response item asks 5th graders to read an article about how scientists track bird migration and to identify the two paragraphs that contain the author’s opinions on the topic. The question taps key skills required in the common standards, such as comprehending “content rich” nonfiction and citing textual evidence for an argument.

A constructed-response item for 11th graders asks them to read excerpts from an 1872 speech by women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony and the “Second Treatise of Civil Government” by English philosopher John Locke, published in 1690. They must identify the ideas common to both pieces and discuss how Locke’s ideas support Anthony’s arguments, citing evidence from each to support their interpretations.

One of the aspects of the consortia’s work that represents perhaps the greatest departure from current state testing practice is the inclusion of performance tasks, which engage students in more complex, prolonged exercises.

A sample math performance task by Smarter Balanced asks 6th graders to figure out what they need to build a community garden to a given set of specifications for $450.

During two test sessions totaling up to two hours, students would have to calculate many figures, including the perimeter, surface areas, and volume of each section of the garden, and make a sketch based on their calculations. They must figure out how much soil is needed and how many tomato and carrot plants to buy, given their cost, the garden’s size, and each plant’s need for space. Finally, they must show how their project will stay within its allotted budget.


Teachers and parents, please read the entire article at Education Week and let us have your thoughts.

We would also like to hear whether teachers think that the newly implemented (and very expensive) Success For All program aligns with what you read about the Common Core Standards.  Their website states that they are a “Common Core Aligned Endorsing Partner”.  Dr. Atkinson has certainly put a lot of faith in the program. In fact, “Success For All” was the topic of her dissertation 14 years ago.

To see Georgia’s plan for the Common Core State Curriculum, click here and to read up on Pearson’s approach to teaching Common Core curriculum standards, click here.

To view the webpage on the Core Standards at DeKalb School System’s website, click here.

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24 Responses to A Sneak Peak at Common Core Test Questions

  1. pattiebaker says:

    As a parent with just initial info regarding the “common core” changes, I am pleased to see examples of these deeper-thought questions that move beyond drill-and-kill. As an avid urban agriculture volunteer, I am especially thrilled to see a community garden question, knowing that a class of 6th graders at Peachtree Charter Middle School actually built an 80′ garden for just $300 last spring (from which over 100 pounds of food was donated to those in need this summer). I hope more kids get hands-on experiences like that to make all subject areas come alive in tangible ways. Here’s a recap of that experience, which may provide some ideas for other schools (and may actually boost test scores): http://www.foodshedplanet.com/2012/05/real-work-to-grow-real-food-that-makes.html

  2. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Still waiting for the DCSS to tell us parents how the CCS will change the way and the what of learning in our schools. I am concerned that we spend so little time on actual mastery of subjects. Education now seems to be all about catching up and not so much about real learning.

    A common complaint I hear from teachers is there is too much content, not enough time.

    I still don’t know the how and the what of the new standards and how DCSS will implement, what is different? All I have heard is there will be more emphasis on writing and critical thinking. What are the changes? How are the teachers being measured? Kids?

  3. You know, at this point, I wonder if teachers should just stop worrying about what they think the administration wants them to do and just dig down into their own skills and teach. You know what you’re doing and if you wait on direction, you may lose a lot of ground – with students who don’t have time to lose.

    There’s a new post at Education Week titled, “Making the Leap to Socratic Seminars” By Elizabeth Ely. It’s kind of interesting in the way that this professional teacher took her class in her own hands and taught them in a new way that worked for them.

  4. RealWorldEducation says:

    Teachers would love to be able to just teach. But they are constantly judged based on whether they are teaching in the “best” way, using the “approved” method, and can be penalized for going off topic, or off the curriculum map, or outside the schedule. The county would prefer that teachers stick to the same scheduled lessons in every classroom each day, although it is not yet mandatory that teachers perform in lock step, or use scripted lessons, it is highly encouraged. Beyond scheduling, methods are also proscribed or prescribed. The Socratic Method, or lecture is a big no-no, for example, and a teacher using it would be dinged on an observation or evaluation, as the focus is not on student centered small group active learning. What works for a specific class is fine to use as long as it fits the approved models. If it doesnt, and you get results, thats great, but you will still be dinged for not following the methods you were told were appropriate.

    Most aren’t waiting for feedback, they are desperate to find ways to secretly teach in the moments when no one is looking over their shoulder.

  5. dekalbteacher says:

    Another thing worth noting is that the Georgia curriculum includes mandatory reading materials that the schools do not own. We have no funds to buy these titles, but we have been admonished not to teach anything that is not approved!!

  6. dekalbteach says:

    Good point dekalbteacher! Dr. Beasley had to dance around that point during the CCGPS training at the end of July- DCSS is so kind as to list the books tied to the lessons, but there is no guarantee that those books are in the library, book room, etc…they have not been ordered. SFA schools are also now responsible for writing lesson plans for this scripted program, although the school-based SFA trainers are trying to convince us it’s not “scripted”. So, a template is being created, where you have to type in all the information from the SFA lessons each day (basically word for word from the manual), that’s after determining the CCGPS standards the lesson correlates to because neither SFA, nor DCSS, has thought to do that. With all the money being spent on SFA both at the county and the schoolhouse (using Title 1 funds to pay for two SFA staff members that only train teachers & look at data), you’d think a document could be created that does the CCGPS correlations.

  7. another comment says:

    It is truely incredible how scared all you teachers down here are afraid of seeing the common core. It is really the same curriculium that has been the basis of New York State’s Regent’s curriculum for the last 40+ years. It is not that bad. It is what I grew up with. Stop short changing the students. If you are so afraid of having a national standards based upon the top states, then it is time for you to get out of this field.

  8. RealWorldEducation says:

    Scripted lessons are the most demoralizing “reform” yet. We say we want qualified teacher who know their content, but we hand them a script which was written by someone without training in the content area, and then penalize the teacher if he student results are not stellar when the teacher had no control even over how they taught. How can we tie standardized tests results to teachers if lessons are scripted? At that point we should use those scores only to evaluate the script and script writers.

  9. Dekalbite2 says:

    ” How can we tie standardized tests results to teachers if lessons are scripted? At that point we should use those scores only to evaluate the script and script writers.”

    The responsibility for student achievement MUST be placed on the Superintendent who chooses the scripted learning program and requires teachers to use it and the Board of Education who approves the expenditure of tax dollars to fund it. Student achievement begins and ends with the upper management of any school system. Until they are held directly responsible for student achievement, they have no incentive to change.

  10. no name says:

    another comment @ August 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM wrote “It is truely incredible how scared all you teachers down here are afraid of seeing the common core.”

    The problem is not the common core; the problem is that DCS is not giving teachers the resources they need to meet the common core standards. DCS teachers are bitching about common core is that they recognize that they are being setup to fail!

    For example, Atkinson and March are requiring DCS Title-I schools to do “Success for All”…. but “Success for All” is NOT rigorous enough to meet common core standards. 5th Grade teachers tell me that they have to waste valuable class time using 2nd grade reading materials. They have no idea how their kids are going to pass 5th grade level tests when the SFA program wastes their time using lower grade level materials.

    Come to think of it, that is the easiest way to get “Success for All” — dumb down the materials to the lowest common denominator…. instant “success” for all.

    To put this in New York State terms, do you think you could be successful teaching NY State Regents Biology classes if you were forced to follow scripts put together by that Kansas school board that banned discussion of evolution?

  11. booksrkool says:

    @ another comment 10:23 pm
    Would the great people of New York state part with some money so that we can get all the tools that will make CC (Common Core) a success? We also need money for the technology needed in order to implement the CC assessment. In case some of you didn’t know…the assessment will be computerized. Not that it’s a bad thing but where’s the money to fund it since DCSS can’t even buy the reading materials for the units!

  12. Long Time Teacher says:

    Scripted lessons….The day my school does that is the day I leave…..All great or good teachers will transfer or retire from these schools because a thinking person will not put up with it. Then the lowest performing schools will have the worst teachers and the children will again be the ones who lose. Thinking and teaching go together.

  13. Inatlanta says:

    Common Core has kindergarten students counting to 100 within the first 6 weeks of school. Writing/recognizing/drawing sets and numbers to 20 by the first six weeks. Explain how teachers are to do this with student classrooms counts up to 30, and no paras or substitutes to help?

  14. Nikole says:

    @ another comment–Actually, the developers of CC used much of the GPS standards as a template. The actual content of the standards has not changed much, and in first grade, I actually have seen a couple of things that I taught in the past removed.

    @Dekalb teach—I too went to the summer session on Common Core and at that time, no one knew what SFA schools would be expected to do in terms of common core. What I do know, is that SFA IS NOT aligned to the deeper thinking ideas in common core. At least not for first graders.

  15. RealWorldEducation says:

    Scripted lessons sell the theory that if you take the teacher out of the equation, underperforming students will magically reach grade level. Because a script magically erases poverty, lack of prekindergarten access, hunger, language barriers, lack of reading material in the home, health care access, etc. I’m sure they have research which shows this. I agree that handing good teachers scripted lessons only makes them flee to places where they are allowed to use the skills they have gained throug education and experience. Would you want to work in a situation in which you are forced to keep to a script then told your career is based on the results?

  16. @RealWorldEducation

    Well said! America’s Choice, for the most part, was a scripted lesson.

  17. Teacher K says:

    SFA is not even close to being aligned to the Common Core for Kindergarten. The Kindergarten teachers in the mandated training sessions described the 4.5 hour all day SFA program as Pre-K revisited. We were told again and again that the students need to play and explore. SFA is focused on Cooperative Learning and students helping each other learn concepts. It’s very clear to me that anyone who endorses this program has no respect for the abilities of teachers and in fact would prefer that teachers who want to teach disappear.

  18. RealWorldEducation says:

    They will. They will disappear to schools where their experience and education is valued. If these programs were so great, why aren’t they rolled out in all schools? Why is AC, SFA, etc. only rolled out in Title 1 settings? 1) They aren’t Success for All..they are Success for All Education Corporations. 2) They do not get students to grade level and beyond or parents in high SES areas would be all over em wanting these programs in their schools. 3) The end result is to under serve the neediest students, insult high performing teachers, making more of them flee high poverty schools, and make money for corporations such as AC/Pearson and SFA.

    Make the SFA/AC folks teach their lessons to students in the targeted schools, then compare their results to other teachers in that school on the CRCT/EOCT, etc. We test and comparison shop for our phones more than we do with the education we give our neediest students.

    Lower pay + scripted lessons = fewer great teachers in our classrooms= lower performing students.

    Noone will ever say, “I remember my 5th grade scripted curriculum…my teacher did an awesome job of reading from that script every day…that script, it really changed my life and inspired me to become the person I am today.”

  19. This was one of the very issues that was a central part of my campaign.In my opinion, the average parent simply does not understand the damage that this type of teaching method has.
    Nor do they understand the long term affect it has on generations of students going forward. The other point of my argument was and continues to be the lack of resources needed for Teachers to do their jobs effectively. The current way DeKalb County School System is operating, the chance of success is minimal, and the chance of failure is huge. There are several factors all negative in future success under our current path and leadership.

    1. The average parent is from a younger generation who benefited from this type (scripted) of teaching practice themselves.
    2. The average parent does not understand how scripted /rote learning does not enhance students critical thinking skills.
    3. The School system does not want the parent/community to understand the generational effects that scripted learning will have over time.
    4. The necessary funding, tools , and resources are not being supplied, but rather being cut drastically on an already taxed system.
    5. The programs as currently outlined will not be equitably distributed to every student in DeKalb County causing further division in our educational standards.

    KEY challenges-
    How does one educate the public about the dangers of allowing this type of practice to continue?
    Educators truly understand what scripted /rote teaching is- How does one ask an educator to ignore the mandate to follow it? Where does the funding come from to ensure that every student school, and teacher have a fair and equitable chance of success- and most important. What happens to the children?

    RealWorldEducation has so many valid points- and as we all know the bottom line is not what’s in the best interest of the child but rather what we can get with minimal pay and effort for a half assed product. In this case the “product” is the education and future of our children and our country.

    I was raised with the premise that if you did it right the first time there would be no need to have to go behind yourself later to fix it. The goal should be to get it right the first time. Scripting needs to go- teachers need to be able to hone their craft with NO FEAR of retribution. Reality? It isn’t profitable but at whose expense?

  20. Teacher/Parent says:

    Right now student’s are still being tested in schools for SFA. The actual program won’t be running for another 2 weeks. This also means the teachers haven’t seen the material except for 6 hours of training a month ago.

  21. Teacher/Parent says:


  22. Below is a link that was just introduced in Dr. Atkinson’s recent newsletter focusing on the the new Core Standards –

  23. Kenrus says:

    Regarding SFA – Right now my students DO NOT like reading the SFA way because all the joy has been taken out. They are struggling and bogged down with writing meaningful sentences, answering Write-on questions, and completing Adventures in Writing. I don[t enjoy teaching SFA because I don’t feel as if I’m teaching…. I just talking. I’m giving them a brief introduction to a skill, giving them celebration points, and moving on. The lessons do not adequately prepare them for the SFA assessments, let alone Common Core assessments. After the first grading period all but 3 of the 21 students were failing reading. I explained to my principal that the lessons don’t allow time to teach the comprehension skills (cause and effect or main idea and supporting details, so I asked if I could supplement the lessons. She told me that I had to stick with the SFA script and teach those skills at another time. (What other time you ask????) I’m very frustrated with SFA and my students are even more frustrated. I do not see how this program is going to bring success to Dekalb students. Is anyone else out there feeling this way?? Please tell me I’m not alone…….

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