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How Common Core is Coming to Homeschoolers

0513SAT-6

Many homeschooling families believe that they can remain insulated from the effects of the unpopular Common Core curriculum by maintaining control of their curriculum in their home. In states like Ohio, parents have the freedom to choose the curriculum with little oversight from the state, so it’s natural to think that federal mandates will not affect home-educating families.

Unfortunately, Common Core, if it continues to be adopted by states across the country, can and will trickle down into private schools and homeschools. Those of us who have had the experience of sending our kids to college know the importance of standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, especially for homeschoolers who sometimes lack other academic credentials that colleges require. While smaller, private schools often offer more flexibility and take the time to evaluate the entire academic and extracurricular records of homeschoolers, larger schools — including many state universities — don’t look much further than an ACT/SAT score when making admissions decisions.

As it turns out, these tests are not only working closely with those designing and advocating the Common Core, but they are now redesigning their tests to align with it. Though many parents have rightly been concerned about the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests that will be used in many states to evaluate the Common Core, PARCC will likely have competition from ACT and SAT.

An article at The Atlantic last year described David Coleman as a “lead architect” of the Common Core. He’s also the new president of the College Board, the organization that designs and administers the SAT and AP (Advanced Placement) tests. The Atlantic reported that,

Coleman’s most radical idea is to redesign the SAT, transforming it from an aptitude test intended to control for varying levels of school quality, to a knowledge test aligned with the Common Core. He describes this change as a way to put applicants on an equal playing field, a message to “poor children and all children that their finest practice will be rewarded.”

A message? What does that mean? It’s not clear, but The Atlantic says that Coleman wants to transform education from the “top down,” shifting what is expected of students and increasing the number of students who apply for college.

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The ACT, which describes itself as “an active partner with the Common Core State Standards Initiative,” also has plans to revamp their tests. Earlier this month, ACT announced that they plan to “launch a 'next generation' assessment system spanning early elementary grades through high school.” The new system will attempt to address the “gap between the skills students are learning in school and the skills they will need to succeed in college and careers in the increasingly competitive global environment.”

“The new system—anchored by the organization’s flagship college and career readiness exam, the ACT®—will offer an integrated, multidimensional approach to college and career readiness that focuses on measuring achievements and behavior relative to goals.”

Achievements and behavior? Many parents will have concerns about such language.

And what about tracking?

To offer the latest technological capabilities and features, delivered digitally to millions of students across the U.S., ACT is partnering on this initiative with Pearson, the global leader in education technology and publishing... "The combined strength of ACT’s leadership in college and career readiness and educational assessment and Pearson’s technology expertise makes this new system a game changer for states as they work to prepare more students for college and careers,” said Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s commissioner of education.

If you’re concerned about your privacy under the watchful eye of the NSA, the massive education database should terrify you. A white paper on the Common Core by the Pioneer Project and American Principles Project reported:

The Administration’s 2009 Stimulus Bill created a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund,accessible only by states that agreed to build broad state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) to collect data on public-school students. To be eligible for Stimulus money, all fifty states agreed to build an SLDS. The Race to the Top competition then reinforced the SLDS requirement by granting extra points to states based on their SLDS commitments. The Department intends these SLDS to “capture,analyze, and use student data from preschool to high school, college, and the workforce.

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Some states require standardized achievement tests as a condition for homeschooling. Will all “standardized” tests eventually be aligned to Common Core? It’s difficult to know, but not an unimaginable scenario considering the amount of money generated by the testing industry, which is now connected to near-national standards. We do know that the SAT and ACT will likely continue to be the “gold standard” for college admissions.

New America Foundation reported that, “the SAT and ACT – along with their remedial placement cousins, ACCUPLACER and COMPASS – are likely to continue to serve as the de facto performance standard for college entry. These assessments are already accepted within higher education, for better or worse, while the Common Core will be greeted with scrutiny and suspicion at many institutions.”

If your homeschooled children plan to go to attend college some day, the way things currently stand, they will be tested on Common Core “achievements and behavior.” That means you may need to consider altering your curriculum to align with the standards. Many colleges actively seek out homeschooled students, but the gateway has often been a standardized test score. Families will now need to find ways to either “teach to the test” or — as they’ve most often done — continue to rely on a well-rounded education to provide adequate knowledge to pass the new standardized tests.