Sic’ ‘Em Saturday: When Your Faith Based School Uses CCSS Assessments

It's one thing when your student's school has no choice about aligning to Common Core, it's a whole other issue when the choice is made TO align on purpose.
It’s one thing when your student’s school has no choice about aligning to Common Core, it’s a whole other issue when the choice is made TO align on purpose.

A few months ago I was chatting via Facebook with a parent of 2 children enrolled in a particular faith-based school. She had contacted me to find out how to discover where the Common Core Standard ties were hiding. What tipped her off? Homework!

“Sara’s” Story:

To protect my long-distance, anti Common Core mom, I’ll refer to her as “Sara”. Sara lives on the other side of the USA from me. She’d read a post I’d written and felt confident I could help her out. Sara told me that previously her children had been in another school that wasn’t faith-based but full of Common Core. After much soul searching and discussion, Sara and her husband made the sacrifice to put both children in this highly recommended faith-based school. Their house of worship’s leadership team was the one suggesting the move.  By the time Sara messaged me, the children had been there about 6 months. Thankfully, both Sara and her husband had had “The Talk” with the kids. No, not the coming-of-age talk, but the Common Core talk. What to look for on the pages of their books or what assessments, etc. Thanks to great communication, the kids were able to tell their parents when things went ‘to pot’.

Sara was livid. Her husband was ready to tear those leaders apart. After asking a few questions Sara didn’t mind answering, it was discovered that not only had the worship leadership team given this school a great thumbs up, but the school, itself, had assured ALL the parents, including Sara and her husband ‘that ABSOLUTELY NO Common Core was in their school’. Now distraught, she asks me if I can find the connections. After getting the website of the school and looking through some of the related web pages, I found the connections. I’ll share in the action items how you, too can spot connections IF you suspect them.

Willfully Choosing Common Core:

By now, you’ve probably heard reasoning like this from parents around you:

“I might as well have them attend XYZ, they’re bound to have CCSS anyway.”

“So what, the school said…”

“I have to have my kids get CCSS, if I don’t they’ll not be ready for college!”

“If they don’t get CCSS, how can we score well on the assessment?”

If you’ve not heard these , count your blessings. I’ve heard not only these statements, but others that have caused me great sadness and puzzlement.

The reason I share these trains of thought with you is while these are from parents, I think the statements can help us to TRY to understand why an entire school, especially faith-based would exercise some of the very same attitudes.

Is it truly possible to have education anymore WITHOUT Common Core? While I cannot answer that question outright, I can tell you that I believe if we are very careful in our discernment, we can be CCSS free.

However, no matter where our students attend Pre K through 12th grades, as long as Common Core lurks in post-secondary schools and is being hidden in Workforce training, it’s going to be a work in progress. I’ll share a bit more in the action items below.

Faith-based, CCSS aligned assessments:

No, you didn’t misread the heading. There are, not only CCSS aligned assessments for faith-based schools, but there are entire companies which specialize in them!! ERB is where we begin.

1) ERB (Educational Records Bureau): According to their website, they are at least 85 years old. “ERB is a global not-for-profit educational membership organization of independent, public, faith-based, and boarding schools providing admission, achievement and instructional services for PreK – Grade 12” Their goal: support student learning. (more about their history,
http://erblearn.org/about)

ERB’s Assessments are many, each aligned to CC in some way. Let’s take a look. Now, remember, this is a company which serves all kinds of independent schools, public schools and/or charter schools. They also serve faith-based schools (read their website description again).

WrAP (writing assessment placement) and WPP:

ERB decided to use these 2 Common Core aligned assessments after working with WestEd. (‘WestEd is at the forefront of providing alignment services for states, districts, several non-profit organizations including ACT and College Board, and most recently, Smarter Balanced Consortium of the Common Core State Standards.’) Why? Because ERB believes the ‘rigor’ is what is worth going for in today’s education. To see exactly how the assessments are aligned with Common Core and what they mean for your schools: http://erblearn.org/news/wrap-wpp-ccss-alignment-study-1

Formative Item Bank Assessment:

ERB only provides an overview for this aligned assessment because you’ll have to talk to a company representative to see how to get it implemented in your schools. Here’s a bit about FIBA, “pre-made Benchmarks or Testlets that are developed with items that meet the content expectations and cognitive demands outlined in the Common Core frameworks. Powered by Measured Progress and eMetric”. Students in grades 3-8 will face over 6,000 reading and math items to be measured.

2) Prometric, part of ETS (Educational Testing Services):

Before looking into Prometric, you need to know that ETS was created back in 1947, as a result of 3 organizations joining forces. Two of which are the Carnegie Foundation for Education and the College Entrance Examination Board (in modern times it is known as College Board). So, not really a question of how aligned Prometric would be, but rather, where.

Prometric is another globally serving assessment service. Typically, their services are for higher education and/or professionals (like teachers), however, since the company is a partner of ERB, a subsidiary of a known pro CC group, we should look at them. While not every student will have to complete the biometric procedures used by Prometric, you really should watch this short video, called “What to Expect on Testing Day”. https://www.prometric.com/en-us/news-and-resources/pages/videos.aspx  (*Note: if you have older students, remember they are not free of CCSS or data mining either.)
You’ll want to view the short video “Setting the Standards” that’s on the same page. It details not just data mining/sharing, but what credentialed workers are needed. Be sure to watch this from the perspective of all that you’ve been able to learn about a CCSS aligned Workforce, Career Pathways education.

While I couldn’t find much of anything for a definitive statement on the Prometric website about Common Core, I was able to find a press release from ETS about a new CCSS assessment called Praxis which is administered at Prometric. Here’s an excerpt you really need to see, “We worked with committees of teacher educators to ensure that the new Praxis CORE series of exams reflects the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), in particular those standards that the educators deemed most important to success in a teacher preparation program,” said ETS Vice President and COO of Teacher Licensure & Certification Programs, George Powell. “The new tests are designed to help teacher educators choose the candidates most likely to flourish in programs geared to meet the intensified demand for teachers whose students will complete their K–12 education ready for college and for the workforce.” To access the entire press release: http://www.ets.org/newsroom/news_releases/praxis_core_academic

3) Certica Solutions:

This company uses assessments to aid school districts in being in a better position to receive more funding, more data, and better information about outcome-based CCSS aligned education. Founded in 2001 as the consulting firm for the U.S. Dept. of Education.

TestWiz: 

This is a student based assessment that allows the learner to be tracked by any number of school administrators. Used at a district wide level and shared with a variety of  ‘stakeholders’. Here’s an excerpt: “Users can create local assessments using their own items or items from NWEA’s (Northwest Evaluation Association’s Formative Assessment Item Bank, a high-quality, Common Core-aligned Item Bank.”

” NWEA’s Formative Assessment Item Bank, with over 81,000 items in Math, ELA Science and Social Studies, including over 53,800 Common Core-aligned items.” (more about the Formative Item Bank: http://www.certicasolutions.com/k12-assessment-creation_assessment-administration_assessment-reports/testwiz-item-banks_nwea_locals.asp)

There are others:

MAP (Measure of Academic Progress)/MPG(Measure of Primary Grades), from NWEA, offers you seamless assessment from K-12. (See: https://www.nwea.org/assessments/map/map-for-primary-grades/) Scroll all the way to the bottom.

ACIS (Associatin of Christian Schools International) has partnered with known pro CCSS publisher, supporter, and curricula provider McGraw Hill (see the website: http://www.acsiglobal.org/student-assessment)

Iowa Assessments are a division of Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, another known pro CCSS publisher and supporter. (See: http://riversidepublishing.com/products/ia/index.html)

Stanford 10 (see Pearson Publishing’s pdf on the alignment: http://images.pearsonclinical.com/images/PDF/Stanford_10_Alignment_to_Common_Core_Standards.pdf)

**Note: they are probably many other assessments available to the faith-based schools. I only have listed the most popular ones that I can find.

Action Items:

So, if you’re like Sara’s family, what do you do?

1) Have the CCSS talk

2) Notice publishers names on any textbook, website, homework, or take home paper. Keep the list. Make notes, then share the list…far and wide.

3) If your faith-based school is part of a larger group, find out what organizations the school answers to, is a member of, or pays fees to.

4) If  those larger organizations have a Common Core statement, position paper, or disclaimer, ask to see it.

5) Ask for a list of the textbooks to be used during courses of study and what assessments are being used.

To avoid becoming slammed with CCSS in your faith-based school:

1) Use action item 3, 4, and 5 from above BEFORE you sign the contract or admission papers.

2) Talk with the governing body of the faith-based school, listen for any buzzwords known to be used by those supportive of the CCSS. For example, “globally competitive in the 21st Century”; ‘skilled workforce’.

3) Learn the names of the publishers who are supportive of CCSS by accessing websites or using the database available on the Homeschool Road Map’s Common Core Project (many faith-based schools use the same resources for assessments/curricula as home educators)

For both sets of parents:

1) Ask to see demonstrated ANY on-line assessments to be used. Take notes, names of those providers.

2) If any school personnel is not willing to be open with you as a discerning parent, ask someone else. If the entire staff seem closed off or clueless, be prepared and share with them facts, evidence as to WHY they need to know.

3) Determine to be choosy if you feel the school is in any way being pushy, after all, most faith-based schools can be quite expensive.

As Sara told me before our chat ended, “We paid tons of money on the basis of what we were told about the school being CC free! I wracked myself with guilt over not getting them out of the public school sooner and now to know I’ve paid to have them exposed, I feel horrible.”

Whatever action you take, don’t take alone. Find a friendly fellow anti CCSS warrior and take them with you! There’s safety in numbers, my friends.

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9 thoughts on “Sic’ ‘Em Saturday: When Your Faith Based School Uses CCSS Assessments

  1. My favorite what publishers are CC is hsroadmap.com. The person who put it together has anyone and everyone listed. Homeschoolers mainly use it as a tool for curriculum but everyone needs to be informed.

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  2. I am interested in your views on what standards you recommend as guidelines for what should be taught at each grade level if a parent doesn’t want to follow the common core? Thanks for your assistance.

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    1. Thank you for your question. I fully support standards in education that are:
      1) legally created
      2) properly vetted
      3) honor appropriate mental and physical stages in each student’s life
      4) give the teacher the freedom to teach how the teacher needs to best educate the students
      4) that don’t over assess or hold entire districts at ransom (so to speak)
      5) if a family chooses to home educate, I believe and fully support their right to do so, with as few impeding parameters as possible (look at the stats for success)
      6) I support standards that are outcome based are a disaster. Global, collective good is also something that can and has been achieved WITHOUT the current agenda in education.

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