High stakes tests should assess what the public
values from education, but they too often fall short
of measuring the many and varied student learning
outcomes that actually occur in classrooms. For example,
in 1997, I coauthored a pair of articles (Dickey &
Robyler, 1997, 1997–98) that documented how multiplechoice
items on national and international high-stakes
assessments are incapable of measuring the types of
learning afforded by using technology. As a result, critics
of technology integration would have and use data (albeit
invalid) to claim that technology does not contribute
to student achievement. Our argument was that the
tests would show no impact of technology on student
achievement scores because the items on those tests were
not designed to measure the contributions of technology
or the use of integrated curriculum. It is my hope and
belief that now, *finally*, the types of tests that measure
the complex learning that occurs when, for example,
technology is meaningfully infused or integrative
curriculum is implemented will soon be available and
used throughout the United States. The adoption of the
Common Core State Standards by nearly all states makes
this dream a reality.

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics
(CCSSM) are an evolutionary step that builds on the
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
1989 and 2000 standards. Adoption of the CCSSM by so
many states provides coherent and rigorous expectations
for the nation and also affords the possibility of creating
the high-quality tests needed to measure those standards.
By broadening the testing pool to 50 million learners for
two tests, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
(SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness
for College and Careers (PARCC) have the economies of scale required to create new tests that validly assess
the standards, which value conceptual understanding
and the various processes and proficiencies, known as
“practices,” critically important to learning mathematics.

The CCSSM for the middle grades build on a
foundation from earlier grades, informed by current
research on learning progressions in key concept areas
of mathematics. For example, fractions are addressed
in grades 3 through 5 using progressions that build
on and extend learning based on unit fractions and
number line representations (Wu, 2011). Fraction
learning serves as a foundation for the algebraic thinking
stream within grades 6–8 that includes the domains of
the Number System and of Expressions & Equations as
well as standards that address Ratios & Proportional
Relationships, Geometry, Functions, and Statistics &
Probability. Now grades 6–8 students and their teachers
can benefit from lessons that blend skill development
with essential understandings of concepts in ways that
address the practices inherent to mathematics (see, e.g.,
Bush, Karp, Popelka, & Bennett, 2012). Also, students
and teachers can be assured that the type of learning
that integrates mathematics with other subjects, such
as health education and cultural responsiveness, in the
case of the lesson by Bush and associates (2012), will also
be assessed through tests that align accurately to the
content and practices. The test items under development
by PARCC and SBAC, in many cases employing teachers
as item writers and reviewers, are constructed to
specifications that address student understanding and
the mathematical practices stated in the standards. The
released sample items, available at the consortia websites,
provide a glimpse of the high-quality tests that will be
implemented in 2014–2015.

Also important for the middle grades is that the
CCSSM address a breadth of mathematics content
through a unified set of standards, as opposed to the
common practice of accelerating high school courses
with their own separate standards (e.g., Algebra I) into
the middle grades under the pretext of somehow making
the curriculum more “rigorous.” The reality is that
addressing geometry, statistics, proportional reasoning,
and other subjects and concepts throughout the middle
grades with carefully designed learning trajectories
from elementary school through the middle grades and
into high school creates a mathematical curriculum
consistent with that of high-performing nations and
better serving the development of students’ mathematical
knowledge. Equally important is the reality that we now
have schools throughout the country staffed by teachers
who meet the Association for Middle Level Education,
NCTM, and National Council for the Accreditation of
Teacher Education licensure standards, ensuring their
qualifications to enact the CCSSM in the middle grades
classroom.

While I have offered my reasons for viewing the
CCSSM as a dream come true, I acknowledge that
many educators have different views and consider this
movement to be more of a potential nightmare. Critics
from across the philosophical and political spectrum
express concerns and doubts about the standards; the
accountability system developing around them; and
the implications for students, teachers, and the entire
education enterprise. (Editor’s note: See, for example,
the commentary by Beane in this issue.) Some express
concerns about federally imposed standards threatening
the democratic, and traditionally local, authority for
curriculum decisions. For others, a top-down education
policy system imposed by leaders with no experience
in education has the potential of undermining public
education and assessing education and teacher quality
solely or too narrowly on test results.

I, too, harbor concerns with certain aspects of how
the standards are organized and how areas of emphasis
are determined, including the role of technology for
learning mathematics, but I remain hopeful that a
mechanism will be in place to do, as has been done
with the original NCTM standards, periodic revisions
based on what we learn during implementation. Despite
weaknesses and problems, I remain convinced that
shared standards for mathematics across states and high-quality tests available nationwide will provide students,
teachers, and parents with the type of mathematics
education system that contributes to the advancements
and competitiveness critical to our personal, professional,
and collective success.

####
References

Bush, S. B., Karp, K. S., Popelka, L., & Bennett, V. M. (2012). What’s
on your plate? Thinking proportionately. Mathematics Teaching
in the Middle School, 18(2), 100–107.

Common Core State Standards Initiative (2010). Common Core State
Standards for Mathematics. Washington, DC: National Governors
Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of
Chief State School Officers. Retrieved from http://www.
corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics

Dickey, E., & Robyler, M. D. (1997). Technology, NAEP, and TIMSS:
How does technology influence our national and international
report cards? (Part 1). Leading and Learning with Technology,
25(3), 55–57.

Dickey, E., & Robyler, M. D. (1997-98). Technology, NAEP, and
TIMSS: How does technology influence our national and
international report cards? (Part 2). Leading and Learning with
Technology, 25(4), 48–51.

Wu, H. (2011). Phoenix rising: Bringing the Common Core State
Mathematics Standards to life. American Educator, 35(3), 3–13.

*Previously published in* Middle School Journal*, January 2013*