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Journalism: Missing Context In AP's Common Core Testing Story

Monday's AP story about the coming wave of states and districts administering the Common Core assessments this spring (Ohio Debuts New Digital Standardized Test This Week) has been making the rounds, as AP stories do. 

Written in conjunction with the kickoff of Common Core testing this week, the piece includes some useful baseline information, including that by the end of this year 12 million students in 29 states plus DC will have taken the new tests, most of them using computers (75 percent for PARCC and 80-90 percent for SBAC).

But that doesn't mean the story is accurate or fair in terms of how it's shaped -- at least, not according to me.  

There's nothing factually incorrect, far as I can tell (though the writers seem to have missed that Chicago officials are reconsidering their initial decision not to administer the assessment citywide). 

The main issue I have with the story is that it focuses so much on what's not working, or might not work, or has been controversial in some places -- and leaves out much of what's seeming to go well and so much of what we know about the Common Core testing process from last year's field testing.

By the time you get to the end of the article you might well anticipate that things were about to go very, very badly for this spring's assessments. 

But that's not really the case, far as I can tell -- and the AP reporters and editors who worked on the story should have know as much.

Last spring's field testing went pretty well, as I and others noted last year. (My story is here: Inside The Common Core Assessment “Field Test”). California field tested the SBAC process last year with 3.1 million students and the trial run was "a great success" according to the state department of education (California Successfully Concludes Field Test of News Assessments).

A few folks I asked about the AP piece seemed to agree. "I wouldn’t say that anything is wrong, per se," says Lucia Mar's Hillery Dixon, who runs the testing program in her California district. "But we don’t share all of those concerns in our district."  

And how's the testing gone so far in Ohio?

About the same as least year, it seems -- which is to say pretty well, over all.

According to Char Shryock, chair of the education leader cadre overseeing the Common Core assessment administration in Ohio, the first two days of PARCC testing have gone really well, thanks to last year's field test and a lot of work in between now and then. 

“We had a great first day in Bay Village yesterday,” she says about the district where she works.  “’Wow, that was pretty easy,’ the teachers told us. ‘That wasn't so bad,’ said the kids.” 

That could change any minute, of course -- and reporters are understandably primed to look for things going wrong -- but in the meantime it'd be interesting to see coverage that reflected more of what was actually happening than exceptions and what might happen.

Related posts: Common Core "Field Tests" Going Well In CA (So Far)Common Core Field Testing Begins NationwideA Peek Inside A "Field Test" Help DeskCommon Core Field TestingCan Education Coverage Find Its Balance, Please?

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