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Common Core: South Dakota Students Take Tests to Make Better Tests

Common Core wears me out. The 2014 Legislature has considered and killed five bills and three resolutions explicitly targeting Common Core for study, delay, or abolition.* Of three other bills discussing waiting periods and accountability for curriculum standards in general, the Legislature passed one.**

In other words, Rep. Jim Bolin and the folks he said he would lead in their crusade against Common Core did darn little to check what they see as an educational-industrial complex out to eat our children. Worse, they've wallowed in vague, misdirected apprehensions about Barack Obama and other blog-radio bogeymen and have missed a chance to make common cause with parents and teachers of all political stripes interested in making education work better.

But every now and then, I see some sign of hope from the Common Core Van Helsings. Just this morning, Mary Scheel Bussye offered this perfectly reasonable policy critique about Common Core wasting instructional time and exploiting children just to make bigger and better tests:

This spring South Dakota children will participate in the SBAC assessment field test. So what does that mean? We are told this is an opportunity. Who is this really an opportunity for? The children who will sit in front of a computer for 7 – 8.5 hours, with the computer choosing from 30,000 questions? Questions that teachers don’t even know. Schools have been taking away from instructional time to do practice tests to test their bandwidth and systems, and another 7 – 8.5 hours will be lost on a field test. Teachers, parents and schools will not receive results from this assessment. There are no results for anyone except SBAC. The actual assessments will not be available until spring 2015.

Most children want to do well. I don’t see the point of putting any child through the anxiety experienced with testing, just to serve the interests of a consortium that was given $160 million taxpayer money to develop an assessment.

Did anyone ask your permission to use your children in this manner? The children of South Dakota do not attend school to serve the needs of the taxpayer funded SD Department of Education, the US Department of Education or the wants of a taxpayer funded consortium.

I ask Governor Daugaard, the SD Dep’t. of Education, and school administrators to allow parents to opt their child out of the SBAC field test without repercussion for parent/guardian or child [Mary Scheel Buysse, "SBAC Field Test: South Dakota Students Assisting Taxpayer Funded Consortium," South Dakotans Against Common Core, 2014.03.09].

Hear, hear! I would love for Mary's message to catch fire with students, parents, and even school board members. I would love to see parents take their kids on vacation during the testing period or refuse to let their kids work for free to help someone else write better tests. I would love to see kids simply put down their pencils and read a good book. I would love to see legislators and voters have a serious conversation about resources and reforms (the two go together, and that's why it's hard to get that conversation in South Dakota) that would help teachers teach and students learn.

Comments like Scheel Buysse's above come closer to that practical conversation than most of what we've heard about Common Core during this session.

*See HB 1214, HB 1237, HB 1243, HCR 1008, HCR 1023, SB 62, SB 129, and SCR 2.

**See HB 1075, SB 64 (passed!), and SB 155.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.03.09

    It was only a year or two ago when outraged parents pulled their kids out of school so they wouldn't have to sing a song in praise of Obie,the great. Indoctrination,I think they called the child's participation.

  2. Donald Pay 2014.03.09

    I'm not a big fan of these standardized assessments. If they are used right, they can provide some useful information, but I'm not sure whatever information these tests might eventually provide is worth the money. Still, the money has been sunk already, and we might as well see if this test is any better or any worse than any other of the standardized tests out there.

    Taking away instructional time is a problem. As long as this test will substitute for other tests, I have no problem with it.

    I find the faux hysteria a bit hard to swallow. Any of these tests have to be fine-tuned, and the only way to do that is to administer them.

    I checked the SBAC and it seems anyone with concerns or questions can check it out. Here is the link:

    I guess any student can opt out, but I would question why. Some kids have test anxiety, whether that is from a standardized test or a French quiz. As with other triggers of anxiety, the best way to get over that is to face the anxiety repeatedly until it becomes just another boring thing to do. Taking tests over and over helps a person become desensitized to the anxiety. For better or worse, kids are going to be taking these sorts of tests all the time, up through graduate record exams. Best they get used to them.

  3. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.09

    I don't disagree with Don entirely. He's right about test anxiety. However . . .

    The testing company should be paying test takers, ie-the school district, to take the tests. That's what they did before testing became big bucks business.

    Companies doing other kinds of testing pay their guinea pigs. When General Mills needs taste testers for a new or reformulated food, they frequently recruit nonprofits or churches. I've participated. GMills requests a minimum number of tasters, and pays a sum of money to the organization that provided the bodies.

    It should be no different for testing. The company makes a sizable contribution to the school completing the tests. Given that it's a special activity, perhaps it could happen on a Saturday, like other events.

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