Former US Education Department Official: State Legislatures ‘Forced’ Colleges to Use Common Core Test

Colleges in six states will use the Smarter Balanced Common Core-aligned test for placement to determine that students are “college-ready” and do not need to take remedial classes, but a former U.S. Education Department official told Breitbart News the decision to use the test was forced on the colleges by their state legislatures.

In April, the director of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), one of the two federally funded interstate test consortia that create tests aligned with the Common Core standards, announced that high school students taking the Smarter Balanced test in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington could enter colleges and register directly for credit-bearing courses. The SBAC tests will be used in these states as evidence that students are “college-ready” and do not need to take remedial courses. The Smarter Balanced scores are accepted as evidence, but not required.

“This is a game changer,” said SBAC Executive Director Tony Alpert. “In the past, most state tests had no linkage to higher ed. Smarter Balanced has worked with states and higher education to give meaning to high school exams. Now students who take Smarter Balanced assessments and attend 197 institutions will get assurances they are ready to begin college level classes.”

In an interview with Breitbart News, however, Ze’ev Wurman, former senior policy adviser with the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush, said state legislatures forced colleges to accept the SBAC for placement.

“This is not a decision most–or even all–colleges made after deliberation,” he said. “It was forced on colleges by a host of laws passed by state legislatures, independent of whether the actual SBAC content does, indeed, prepare students for non-remedial courses.”

Wurman continued:

California, for example, passed in 2013 a law forcing CSU and California Community Colleges (CCC) to accept SBAC testing for placement decisions. The colleges buckled and accepted this without even demanding to study the issue as they, properly, did in the early 2000s, when they augmented the state test with an extra dozen test items before agreeing to use it for placement purposes. University of California (UC) was the only one strong enough to tell the legislators to get off its back. What will that do to CSU graduation rates or the CSU brand only time will tell, but those won’t likely be good things.

Wurman further explained the relationship between the pro-Common Core special interest lobbies and state legislatures.

“So what we see is the coordinated push between Common Core peddlers and state legislatures to align everything with the Glorious Common Core, come hell or high water,” he said. “It doesn’t say anything about the quality of Smarter Balanced. In fact, it can’t say anything because the data from SBAC testing that follows students into college is not available for at least another two to three years.”

Wurman also emphasized that the SBAC tests are being used for placement–not acceptance to the colleges.

“Students will be accepted to colleges based on their record and only then–if their SBAC scores are high enough–they will avoid freshmen placement examinations and being placed in remedial courses if needed,” he noted.

The SBAC tests are administered in grades 3-8 and then in grade 11.

According to SBAC, the consortium “continues to work with higher education to increase the number of institutions using the Grade 11 assessment.”

On its website, SBAC has posted quotes from leaders of the states that will accept students’ SBAC scores for placement purposes.

“Smarter Balanced puts students in a better position to succeed and may give a student, who had not previously considered college, the incentive to pursue a degree,” said California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White, adding:

The tests will also be a valuable tool to help assess the academic areas where students may need additional tutoring and support, thereby giving them a head start on their path to earning a degree in a timely manner from the CSU. Successful students are integral to the continued success of California and our nation.

“Today’s announcement marks another important step toward giving Delaware students the best chance to succeed in continuing their education beyond high school,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D). He went on to assert:

Delaware’s colleges and universities are not only sending our high school juniors a clear signal that the Smarter Balanced Assessments are a valuable tool. They are also showing a commitment to preventing students from taking unnecessary remedial courses, which too often put students off track before they even start their college education.

Oregon Higher Education Coordination Commission Executive Director Ben Cannon said:

Oregon’s higher education course placement agreements are a strong step forward in high school to college alignment, signaling to high school students that their hard work on the Smarter Balanced assessments and rigorous coursework in the 12th grade provide concrete benefits once they get to campus.

Wurman has conducted an extensive study of Common Core and its proponents’ claims that the standards are aligned with college expectations and internationally benchmarked.

In a review written for Breitbart News in March, Wurman concluded, “Common Core standards were never validated before being published, and every serious piece of research that has analyzed them since found them lacking.”

“Parents are justified in their complaints about the strange and meaningless homework their children are bringing home, and they should distrust educators who uncritically praise them,” Wurman wrote. “More likely than not, those educators themselves have little experience and have been sold a bill of goods by Common Core’s Washington, D.C. promoters.”


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