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A Number of Common Core Test Graders Have No Teaching Experience

Common Core-aligned standardized tests are often being scored by test graders without backgrounds in teaching and the process that they’re managed under has been compared to churning out fast food.  

Some onlookers are criticizing assessment methods for the tests used in states throughout the country. A recent New York Times article highlights grading practices for Common Core standardized testing grading policies from education industry giant Pearson.  

With a focus on problem solving and critical thinking skills, Common Core tests typically require a lot of writing, and a keen eye is necessary to effectively grade them. With the stakes high, Pearson says the company ensures rigorous quality control, and doesn’t dodge the fast-food comparison. 

“From the standpoint of comparing us to a Starbucks or McDonald’s, where you go into those places you know exactly what you’re going to get,” said vice president of content and scoring management at Pearson North America Bob Sanders on the analogy. “McDonald’s has a process in place to make sure they put two patties on that Big Mac…We do that exact same thing. We have processes to oversee our processes, and to make sure they are being followed.”

The piece describes test graders that range from former sales representative to a former wedding planner, all with bachelors degrees and some background in their subject are via past college courses. Valerie Gomm, a test grader in San Antonio, describe the process as difficult, and said that "you go into analyzing every trait."

Graders study examples of teacher-scored exams during training, and Pearson says quality is maintained by using tests that have already been scored, and resubmitting them into the computer queue of the grader to see if the new grade line up with the old. If a test grader doesn’t match the previous score they gave after a few supervisor checkups, then they lose the job. 

Even with this monitoring, educators are criticizing the practice. 

“Even as teachers, we’re still learning what the Common Core state standards are asking,” said Lindsey Siemens, a special-education teacher at Chicago’s Edgebrook Elementary School. “So to take somebody who is not in the field and ask them to assess student progress or success seems a little iffy.”

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Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

6/29/15

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