The Stakes on “High-Stakes Tests” are Actually Pretty Low

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I think the stakes are either overstated or understated depending on which side of the argument you’re on. Both sides need to take a step back and just take a look at this map.

That’s Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, on whether “high stakes tests” aligned with the Common Core are actually high stakes for teachers and students An analysis from Hechinger found that “very few states will be using this spring’s scores for any student-related decisions” and  “the stakes for teachers are only slightly higher.”

In New Jersey, there are no stakes for students; high school students don’t even have to pass the PARCC in order to receive a high school diploma. Until this year, a passing grade on N.J.’s old state standardized test, the High School Proficiency Assessment, was a requirement for graduation. (If students failed the HSPA several times they were eligible for an alternative assessment.) But current D.O.E. regulations allow high school students to substitute PSAT’s, SAT’s, or ACT scores instead of PARCC scores. On SAT’s, students who score 400 and above on the math and verbal sections can submit those instead of PARCC scores. (This explains the 14.5% opt-out percentage among high school students, especially those who live in higher-income areas and routinely take college entrance exams.)

Stakes are also low for teachers. From the report:

 Of the 21 states that plan to use the tests as part of teacher evaluations in the future, many have already specified that the score will count for only a percentage of the evaluation. For example, Wyoming plans to use test scores as 20 percent of teacher evaluations starting in 2020.

In New Jersey, test scores will account for only 10% of teacher evaluations. The plan was for that percent to increase to 20% next year and top off at 30% the year after that. However, on Monday Senators Teresa Ruiz and Steve Sweeney suggested that N.J. stay with 10% next year.

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