TJ BlissIt’s back to school for students and teachers. Seating assignments and lesson plans aren’t all that’s new. Dramatic changes are coming to texts and tests.

Beginning in 2014, 43 million K-12 public school students in 46 states will study to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The new – some say, revolutionary – approach to learning has fueled a debate among teachers, administrators, and parents, while raising concerns with publishers, too. How will states develop the new curriculum? Where will teachers turn for a new generation of instructional materials tools? What types of content will be in demand?

“In the past, publishers have catered to 50 different sets of standards. In the era of Common Core, some of this can be streamlined,” says TJ Bliss, Director of Assessment and Accountability for the Idaho Department of Education.  “But it’s not going to be enough though to put a sticker on the cover and say the contents are aligned to the Common Core. It’s about how content is organized, and what students are asked to do with that content.”

Under Common Core, texts and tests are closely linked. Later this week, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – one of two groups developing “next generation” assessments of student progress –  meets in conference at UCLA. For Bliss, who is SABC State Lead for Idaho, such gatherings facilitate collaboration that will ultimately yield real benefits in classrooms across the country.

“It’s a very exciting time in the world of testing, and a chance to make these tests more fair and more valid. We want to allow students to show what they know and what they’re able to do in real ways,” said Bliss. “The opportunities that we’ve had to collaborate with other states is fantastic. It’s unprecedented in testing that 26 states have come together to develop a single test.”

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